Ahhh, training camp. Burning questions abound! Who will emerge as the fourth-string tailback? Who, dammit? WHO!?!?!? Who’s gonna be the backup punter? THIS AIN’T NO FU*KIN GAME, MAN!!!! YOU GOTTA LET ME KNOW!
Not to say that there aren’t legitimate battles going on (kicker comes to mind), but with all due respect to the Gary Douglases of the world, I’d like to focus on the players who are actually going to play. In the real games. Is that a weird thing for me to say? Sorry. I hope you’ll indulge this old codger’s cockamamie notions. I’m much obliged to you.
So with that in mind, I’d like to discuss Alex Wujciak, the long-haired linebacker with the onomatopoetic surname. I know I’m not exactly dropping a new name here, but when the bullets start flying in September, I think Wujciak will be the most important guy on the field for the Terps, on either side. Yeah, he was good last year, but he’s gonna have to be really good this year. Like All-America good. And you know what? I think he can do it.
A quick review. In his sophomore campaign last year, Wujciak made 133 tackles — good for second in the ACC and 13th in the nation (fifth among returning players). Maybe that’s why he’s on the watch lists for the 2009 Bednarik Award (nation’s top defensive player) and Nagurski Award (nation’s top linebacker). He’s fast, he’s strong, and he’s athletic. This season, he wants to attack more. New defensive coordinator Don “Attacking Style” Brown should be able to accommodate him.
But. And you knew there was a but coming. They lost four LBs after last season (Philistin, Fokou, Chase Bullock, and Rick “Douche” Costa). The only other guy on the unit with a start is Adrian Moten. And as you probably know, Wujciak had his knee scoped this offseason — nothing major, and he should return at full speed for the first game, but still, it was a surgical procedure, and it’s gonna raise some questions until we see him back 100%. (Have you seen that guy in the green jersey on Terrapins Rising who high-fives everybody and has hair like Troy Polamalu? That’s him.)
Perhaps this is why, despite Wujciak’s presence, the Terp LB unit is ranked seventh in the ACC by several sources. But this unit is still the most highly regarded on the Terps defense — the perception is that the secondary seems deep but not especially talented, and that the D-line is fairly, uh, green, to say the least. So as the middle linebacker and the unquestioned best player on that side of the ball for Maryland, Wujciak is going to have to make his own plays, make other peoples’ plays for them, and generally act as the quarterback of the defense, all while not letting the younger guys get too down on themselves if something goes wrong. Which it inevitably will.
So it’s a tall order for Wujciak. To reiterate, he was definitely good last season, but I never did a double take when I watched him. When E.J. Henderson was at Maryland, he seemed at times to be a one-man gang out there. Every so often he would elicit a “whoa, did you see THAT?!” as we watched him. I don’t get that feeling from Wujciak. In other words, he’s been solid, but unspectacular. I think he’ll need to raise that up and become truly dominant. And not “dominant for Maryland,” or “dominant through the rose-colored glasses of a Terp fan.” I mean dominant dominant. This is not to say that other players can’t step up. But if Wujciak doesn’t become a consensus, no-brainer top two or three defender in the ACC (or better), then I don’t see this unit having the spark it needs to be in the ACC’s upper echelon. And he seems to have a lot of factors lining up for him. We shall see.
(Photo credit: Lindyssports.com)