Season recap: Desmond Kearse
When Don Brown was hired as Maryland's defensive coordinator after the 2008 season, a top priority on the recruiting trail for the former UMass coach was reestablishing a Terps presence in Florida.
Last month, Brown was making his rounds throughout the Sunshine State, which included a stop at Dunbar High in Fort Myers, Fla.
“Coach Brown was coming through and making contact,” said Dunbar coach Phil Vogt. “We asked him what [Maryland was] looking for. He said, ‘We want someone to come off the edge and rush the passer.’ And we said, ‘We have just the guy for you.’”
The pass rusher Vogt referred to was defensive end Desmond Kearse, a 6-foot-2, 181-pound senior who had scholarship offers from Florida Atlantic, Middle Tennessee State and Western Kentucky.
“We watched some film on him,” Vogt said, “and they immediately went full bore on him.” Kearse committed to the Terps on Jan. 19, roughly “a nanosecond” after UM coach Ralph Friedgen offered him a scholarship.
Kearse was called up to the Dunbar varsity as a freshman and emerged as a force off the edge over the next three seasons. As a junior, Kearse recorded 29 sacks. During his senior season, he collected 78 tackles and 17 sacks, leading the Tigers to a 7-3 record and the first round of the playoffs.
“The sacks are always what everybody likes to talk about,” Vogt said. “But he also blocked punts coming off the edge. When the ball is kicked off, that little light goes off and he’s a different kid entirely.”
Watching Kearse play elicits typical football clichés, Vogt said. People say Kearse has “a motor that doesn’t quit” and then offer observations like, “when the ball is snapped, he’s already gone.” Vogt, however, recalled one play from Kearse’s senior year that backed up the validity of both clichés.
“A team tried to run a toss on him,” Vogt said. “He stuffed the pulling guard, which makes the running back back up outside and turn around, and then [Desmond] runs him down from behind. From a football coach’s standpoint, you go, ‘Oh. Wow.’”
Kearse expects to play a strong safety-type position at Maryland. Other schools brainstormed different ways to take advantage of his pass-rushing talents, but the Terps want Kearse to just do what he does best.
“[He can be a] weakside edge rusher that sometimes drops in the flat,” Vogt said. “He can run. We played him at linebacker in some situations, so he’s not totally unfamiliar with that. If you ever see him in our defense, the defensive end is the most important position. We put our best players there and he fit in there.”