Temple braces for a stout Maryland defender

Defensive end Joe Vellano is expected to be a force when the Terps visit the Owls.
Defensive end Joe Vellano is expected to be a force when the Terps visit the Owls. (GREG FUME / U. of Maryland Athletics)
Posted: September 08, 2012

Temple always likes to establish its running game. But one Maryland player could disrupt those plans on Saturday.

"Joe Vellano is a tough, hard-nosed physical guy. I like him," Temple coach Steve Addazio said of Maryland's star defensive lineman. "I watched him on tape. He's really good."

Temple did a good job in containing the 6-foot-2, 285-pound Vellano a year ago in a 38-7 rout of Maryland at Byrd Stadium. A second-team all-American last season, Vellano was held to three tackles in that game.

But four of Temple's five starting offensive linemen from last season have moved on. And in a wrinkle for Saturday's game at Lincoln Financial Field, Vellano has moved from tackle to end this season.

He responded by recording 11 tackles - two for losses - and an interception in a 7-6 victory over William and Mary in Maryland's opener.

A third-year starter, Vellano never gives up on a play.

He learned that from his father, Paul, an all-American defensive lineman for the Terrapins in the early 1970s.

"My dad always preached that to me and my brother [Paul, a former defensive lineman at Rhode Island] growing up," Vellano said. "He would preach, 'Get to the ball! Get to the ball! Get to the ball! Turn and run!'

"We did a good job through the years doing that and kind of making hustle tackles."

His constant pursuit has paid off.

Vellano recovered a fumble and rumbled 29 yards for a touchdown in the 2011 season opener against Miami. He recorded 20 tackles in a game later that season against Georgia Tech.

The Rexford, N.Y., native's 94 tackles last season led all Atlantic Coast Conference defensive linemen. His average of 7.8 tackles per game ranked tops among all Football Bowl Subdivision defensive linemen.

"Playing the defensive line, a lot of people just think you go right, left, and straight ahead," Vellano said. "But you know there's a lot of technique in there, a lot of fine-tuning."

The fifth-year senior spends a lot of time viewing game film on his iPad. He studies everything from an opponent's first step on every play to fourth-quarter body language.

"The thing is you can catch a couple peeks on somebody here and there," Vellano said. "And if you are in the game in the heat of the battle, those guys are going to revert back to those tendencies.

"And every offense has its own thing. You kind of pick up things here and there."

Vellano knows that Temple likes to establish a running game. And he is prepared to stand in the Owls' way, especially after being embarrassed last season.

"Without a doubt," he said. "That was last year. There's no doubt that they came in tough. We are definitely going to go up there and play them tough."

Contact Keith Pompey at 215-854-2939 or kpompey@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @pompeysgridlock. Read his blog, "Owls Inq," at www.philly.com/owlsinq

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