University of Maryland, College Park football coach Randy Edsall can tell everyone how highly he thinks of Our Lady of Good Counsel High School graduate Stefon Diggs — and, don’t worry, he will — but Edsall would rather let outsiders draw their own conclusions.
Edsall even challenged reporters to evaluate Diggs for themselves before Maryland opened fall practice.
“He’s gotten stronger,” Edsall said. “You can see it. Just look at his arms when he comes in today.”
Diggs complied, wearing a short-sleeve shirt and casually massaging his biceps while answering questions.
But whether Diggs is physically stronger isn’t the only proving ground for the star receiver this season. He’s also attempting to prove he’s become a stronger leader.
Last spring, Edsall named Diggs, a sophomore, to a 10-player leadership council comprised mostly of upperclassmen.
“He’s a great kid,” Edsall said. “I love being around him. I love how he works. I love his competitiveness. And I love that he likes to accept the challenge. I think, for him, being a leader is another thing that he could look at, say, ‘Hey, this is a challenge, and I’m going to meet the challenge. I’m going to exceed the expectations that people have for me.’ I think that’s the kind of kid he is.”
Diggs said he deferred to leaders such as Blake Countess (Michigan), Zach Dancel (Maryland). Vincent Croce (Virginia) and Louis Young (Georgia Tech) at Good Counsel. Diggs doesn’t even remember how captains worked his senior year.
But this summer, the Germantown resident said he benefited from having a leadership role thrust upon him.
“You’re going to be more cautious on what you do and what you say and how you carry yourself,” Diggs said. “You want to make better decisions. You don’t want to make bad decisions, because people watching you want to do the right thing.”
Once leading begins to come naturally to Diggs, he can focus on the field where he excels, setting an ACC freshman total-yardage record last season.
“He’s a lot smarter than people think,” wide receivers coach Lee Hull said. “He’s very knowledgeable of the game. He does things to set people up, sort of little subtle things. I think most fans just see the big runs and stuff, but they don’t see how he sets them up to get the big runs, the big plays.”
“He’s special. He’s got some special skills that you can’t teach.”
On the other hand, Diggs is working on the skills he can learn. He admits, in hindsight, he didn’t weight train as much as he should have in high school.
“When I saw a lot of people lifting weights, I saw a lot of people getting hurt,” Diggs said. “So I was a little scared of that, so I really just stuck to the track.”
Of course, as evidenced by the arms he showed off recently, Diggs put his all into fixing that, just as he’s put his all into becoming a better leader.
“You never worry about him in terms of his effort and everything that he’s going to do on the field,” Edsall said. “Now, I think with him becoming more of a leader, putting more responsibility on his plate, for him to do things for his teammates — I think those are things that are going to take him even further.”