Over the past year, Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil has used bull-rushes, swim moves or even just sprinted around the corner of offensive lines to get countless clean looks at quarterbacks.
But nearly all of those mad dashes toward the backfield have ended in the same fashion for the Terrapins football outside linebacker: with Cudjoe-Virgil slowing down to avoid contact with a yellow-clad signal caller. The transfer from Division II Seton Hill had to sit out of games last season per NCAA guidelines and was relegated to scout team duties in practice, where tackling a quarterback is prohibited.
So in Saturday’s open scrimmage, as the Terps quarterbacks shed the yellow jerseys and were labeled fair game, Cudjoe-Virgil took advantage. The redshirt junior had four sacks in the exhibition, three in a five-minute span, and was constantly bursting through the offensive line to sprint free in the backfield.
“It’s definitely a difference when the quarterback is live,” Cudjoe-Virgil said. “You can just go full speed and don’t have to worry about staying away from the quarterback, because you can’t hit the quarterback in practice. There’s definitely a difference.”
Going full speed isn’t something Cudjoe-Virgil has a problem with, coach Randy Edsall said. Cudjoe-Virgil’s performance Saturday spoke to his high motor, as he seemed to wear down the offensive tackles he was working against.
All Edsall had to do to appreciate Cudjoe-Virgil’s dominance was think back to last year, when Joe Vellano and Darin Drakeford tied for the team-high with six sacks on the season. Cudjoe-Virgil was two away from matching that total in Saturday’s first half alone.
“He’s been showing that kind of effort ever since he got here,” Edsall said after the scrimmage. “He’s a guy we’ve been thinking would be in the mix.”
Edsall and defensive coordinator Brian Stewart would be hard-pressed not to find playing time for Cudjoe-Virgil. He’s currently listed as a second-team outside linebacker behind senior Marcus Whitfield, but he thrived when taking first-team snaps on passing situation.
Cudjoe-Virgil held his own while defending the run, but he may find a niche as a third-down pass rusher with Whitfield entrenched as the starter.
“Anything that I can do can to contribute to my team winning,” Cudjoe-Virgil said. “Anything the coaches decide for me to do, I’ll do.”
Cudjoe-Virgil’s just happy to have the opportunity to be on the field. It’s been a self-described “long journey” to Division I football for the 6-foot-2, 240-pound linebacker, who grow up in Trinidad and spent two years at Seton Hill.
Now that he’s two weeks away from his Terps debut, Cudjoe-Virgil is anxious to prove he belongs in the ACC. And he’s itching to hit some more quarterbacks.
“I still feel like people probably underestimate me because we haven’t had our first game yet,” Cudjoe-Virgil said. “I’m just looking forward to our first game and looking forward to out first win.”