Answers provided by Maryland's Randy Edsall are typically detached, routine, predictable, just like those of about any other football coach in America. On Tuesday afternoon however, when Edsall was asked if freshman sensation Stefon Diggs was even better than expected, he lit up, offering a lively, expansive response.
"The athleticism, the dynamic plays, I kind of expected he could do those things," Edsall said. "But I didn't expect the experience, the knowledge of some of the things that you see that he's doing. I think it's rare."
Edsall isn't the only one noticing. On Monday, West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen compared Diggs to his own speedster Tavon Austin. Though Austin is a senior, the comparison is unavoidable. Both are multipurpose, long-distance scoring threats. Both play slot receiver. Both are from Maryland. Both wear jersey No. 1.
|Maryland at No. 8 West Virginia|
|When » Saturday, noon|
|Where » Mountaineer Field,|
|TV » FX|
"I guess they're clones," Holgorsen said.
On Saturday when Maryland (2-1) travels to No. 8 West Virginia (2-0), both coaches will have the tables turned as they must prepare to stop players similar to the ones they try to spring free.
"They can change the game real quickly," Edsall said.
Edsall is more concerned with Austin from scrimmage. He ranks No. 2 in the FBS in receptions per game. Austin has 21 catches for 166 yards and four rushes for 80 yards, averaging 154 all-purpose yards per game.
Diggs also is a threat from scrimmage with nine receptions for 146 yards. But Holgorsen's primary concern is in the return game where Diggs averages 13.8 yards on 11 punts and 24.6 on five kickoffs, averaging 147 all-purpose yards per game.
"It's about our coverage unit," Holgorsen said. "We've got to get people downfield and make tackles."
At 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, Diggs has a size edge on the 5-9, 171-pound Austin. But the Mountaineers don't hesitate to use Austin in the running game. The former running back at Dunbar of Baltimore has 41 carries in his college career, averaging 11.4 yards a rush. He ripped off an 80-yard run last year against Rutgers and went on a 70-yard sprint this year against Marshall.
"What I noticed about him is he makes a lot of defensive linemen stupid when they try to tackle him," Maryland defensive end A.J. Francis said.
Three games into his career, Diggs already has a signature play, his touchdown catch last week in a loss to Connecticut on a ball that was intended for Marcus Leak. When Perry Hills' pass went through the hands of the sophomore, Diggs was there for backup and caught it in stride, at knee level.
"There's a lot of guys that wouldn't have that instinct who have been playing for a long time," Edsall said. "You might not even see that in the NFL."
Another Diggs play clearly excited Edsall -- a punt return where three defenders were bearing down on him and Diggs made a spin move to free himself for a significant gain.
"When you have guys capable of making those plays, I think it helps everybody around him," Edsall said.
The coach included.