Vellano emerging as defensive standout
Don Brown, Maryland’s defensive coordinator, recalls a preseason alumni function during which he showed tape of some of his best players. There were clips of middle linebacker Alex Wujciak’s greatest hits of 2009 and shots of strong-side linebacker Adrian Moten excelling during the same season. And then came footage of a somewhat diminutive defensive tackle making hits on warm spring days on a practice field.
“You had to show spring tape because that’s all you had,” Brown said of sophomore Joe Vellano. “But we knew in the spring that he was ready to go.”
Vellano, a 6-2, 285-pound tackle, has become the talk of the defense in recent months. After a breakthrough performance in spring practice – he was arguably the most impressive player on the team in the spring – Vellano had 10 tackles in his first career start against Navy, earning him ACC defensive lineman of the week honors.
“He had a heck of a game,” Coach Ralph Friedgen said. “It was how he has been playing.”
Despite his impressive practice performances, Vellano still had some nerves a few days before the Navy game. Friedgen called Vellano into his office to tell him, “Your greatest strengths are your effort, your leverage and your quickness. If you just do that, you don’t have to do anything more than what you have been doing. Then you’ll do very well.”
And Vellano did. After being injured the past two seasons, the third-year player – and son of two-time all-ACC selection Paul Vellano (1972-73) – has become one of the faces of the defense.
“The biggest thing,” Vellano said, “was having the game slow down for me.”
September 11, 2010; 4:09 PM ET
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