That all changed on Tuesday, when Maryland lost defensive tackle C.J. Feldheim to season-ending knee surgery on his ACL. The loss not only takes away the Terps' top lineman, but leaves the team thin in the way of replacements.
"Both (sophomore Randy Starks) and C.J. have played well the whole year," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "They have been good at establishing a new line of scrimmage ... even Notre Dame and Florida State had problems handling them. That helps free up E.J. and the linebackers to make plays."
Feldheim was rounding into one of Maryland's defensive stars. The 6-foot-3, 282-pound tackle allowed the Terps to control opposing running games while still showing an ability to get upfield on the pass rush."
"He's the guy who has been drawing two blockers from the other team and that opens up someone else to make the play," defensive back Madieu Williams said. "That is big. We are going to miss that."
Henderson, for example, has made 92 tackles in seven games. Feldheim and the rest of the defensive line have been able to keep blockers from hitting Maryland's middle linebacker, allowing him the opportunity to hit back.
Feldheim was seventh on the Terps' defensive list, with 36 tackles, including five for losses.
"C.J. was maturing as a player. He was consistent," Friedgen said. "He was playing in a tough spot to play. He played 80 percent of the plays and was getting hit on every one of them. That says a lot for the way he was playing."
William Shime (6-4, 285) will replace Feldheim, leaving few options in reserve. Any backups not only lack experience, they also fall off in size.
Maryland's defense can only hope that creativity breeds heroes the Terrapins' chase to defend its Atlantic Coast Conference title.
"It forces us to step up and accept challenges," Williams said. "This team has a lot of talented guys who can step up and take the challenge. We have strong character. If someone goes down, someone else has to step up. If we are serious about what we have to do - keep winning."