COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — As a second-generation member of the Maryland football team, Joe Vellano faces the difficult task of living up to the standard set by his very talented father.
Playing on the same defensive line as future NFL Hall of Fame defensive tackle Randy White, Paul Vellano was a two-time All-Atlantic Coast Conference tackle in the early 1970s. Joe plays the same position, and it appears the lessons he received from his dad are paying off handsomely.
Joe Vellano registered a whopping 20 tackles last Saturday in a 21-16 loss to Georgia Tech. No other defensive lineman in the Football Bowl Subdivision has had more than 15 this season, and Vellano’s effort enabled the Terrapins to hold the prolific Yellow Jackets to a season-low 386 yards in offense.
Paul Vellano was in Atlanta to watch the game. Afterward, he reminded his son that he once had 23 tackles in a game against Duke.
“But he was real happy,” Joe said Tuesday. “Since we were little kids playing football, his biggest thing was, ‘Run to the ball, run to the ball.’ I’ve been yelled at since Pop Warner to do that, so it’s kind of engrained now.”
The 6-foot-2, 285-pound Vellano stuffed Georgia Tech’s crafty triple-option before it had a chance to unfold.
“It was incredible,” Maryland tackle A.J. Francis said. “There were a lot of plays where I’d beat my block and try to run the ball down, and Joe would run right by me. I was like, ‘What the heck was that?’ and he’d make the tackle. I knew we were both making a lot of tackles, but 20 tackles? That’s insane.”
Maryland coach Randy Edsall said, “I’ve never seen a performance like that out of a defensive lineman against the triple option.”
Ever since he was a kid, Joe Vellano knew he was going to be a Terp. When former coach Ralph Friedgen offered him a scholarship, he committed the next day.
And now Vellano is making plays for Edsall, who loves the enthusiasm and talent of his junior co-captain.
“What makes Joe so good is just his intensity and love of the game,” Edsall said. “He loves to compete and loves to work. He’s got a motor that really runs. He’s also done a great job as a captain and a leader. We preach that you should play every play like it’s the last one you’re going to play — that’s Joe Vellano.”
Vellano is no muscle-headed football player. A member of the National Honor Society, he’s on course to graduate in December as a family science major. He got so far ahead in his studies that he’s taking only one course this semester: swimming pool management. That takes up an hour of his time on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“With his free time, it’s pretty much like he’s in the NFL right now,” Francis said. “He comes here and lifts, then goes to watch film.”
Next year, Vellano will take a few more courses to enhance his degree — and perhaps make himself more attractive to NFL scouts.
His immediate focus, however, is on making life miserable for No. 8 Clemson, Maryland’s opponent on Saturday. Unlike Georgia Tech, the Tigers (6-0, 3-0) will attempt to run right at Vellano and the Terps (2-3, 1-1).
“They’re going to hit you. They’re not trying trickery or any of that stuff,” Vellano said. “It’s no doubt they can put up points. They have a big offensive line. It’s kind of more of what we’re used to every week, so that’s a positive.”
Edsall, meanwhile, said he won’t announce his starting quarterback until just before Saturday’s kickoff. C.J. Brown replaced slumping Danny O’Brien against Georgia Tech and ran for 124 yards, and now it’s anyone’s guess who takes the first snap against Clemson.
“We’re very fortunate that we have two outstanding quarterbacks on our campus,” Edsall said. “It’s great to have that kind of depth at that position. What we’ll do is evaluate it, then come Saturday night make a determination. That might help us from the standpoint that Clemson might not know who to prepare for.”
The starting quarterback will operate behind an offensive line that is without guard Andrew Gonnella, who sustained a season-ending knee injury against Georgia Tech.
“I think it’s any athlete’s worst nightmare,” Gonnella said Tuesday. “You never think it will happen to you until it does.”
He will be replaced by sophomore Pete White.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)