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Oct. 13, 2011
By Bill Hass
GREENSBORO, N.C. (theACC.com) – Twenty tackles by a player in a college football game doesn’t happen often, and usually it’s done by a linebacker.
Occasionally a defensive back might come up with that many. But a defensive lineman – a tackle, to be specific? Just doesn’t happen.
Unless you're Joe Vellano of Maryland.
The fourth-year junior from Rexford, NY, was credited with 20 tackles, including 14 solo stops, in the Terps’ 21-16 loss to Georgia Tech last weekend. It was the most tackles by a defensive lineman since the NCAA began compiling single-game tackles in 2005.
The feat was accomplished on the road, meaning Georgia Tech’s statisticians were doing the counting. And they might have missed a couple.
“He had 22 tackles by our (coaches’) count,” said Yellow Jackets coach Paul Johnson, “and it was the best that I can ever remember against one of my teams at that position.”
Johnson said Vellano read his keys well and played at full throttle the whole game, playing as hard on his 81st snap as he did on the first.
“I mean, he was making plays on guys 20 yards down the field,” Johnson said. “He tackled the receiver once. He tackled the pitch sometimes. He was tackling the quarterback. He just plays hard. My hat's off to him. I told him after the game that was as good as anybody has played against one of my teams.”
Vellano has terrific bloodlines. His father, Paul, played at Maryland in the early 1970s and was a two-time All-ACC defensive lineman who earned some All-America recognition as a senior.
The younger Vellano took a redshirt season in 2008, played five games as a backup in 2009 and started all 13 games last season. When new coach Randy Edsall went to work watching tape of the players he inherited, Vellano stood out.
“The thing that impressed me was how hard he played,” Edsall said. “Joe has a motor, a really active, high-energy motor, and he plays very hard.”
Vellano has learned the techniques of defensive line coach Greg Gattuso and is extremely coachable, listening to tips that enable him to play half a step faster.
From the sidelines, Edsall knew Vellano had played well. Upon reviewing the tape, his impression was confirmed.
“It was just a tremendous performance by Joe, just was giving great effort on each and every play,” Edsall said. “He just did a great job of preparing during the week, did a great job of reading his keys, and really a lot of it just came down to hustling and running to the ball and basically doing his job.
“So now we can use that to teach our other kids about just taking care of your responsibilities and playing hard, and now we want to see him do that again this week. But I'm sure he'll draw a little bit more attention since he had that kind of performance.”
He certainly has drawn the attention of Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, whose unbeaten Tigers visit the Terps this week.
“It's a rare thing when you see a defensive tackle have 20 tackles,” Swinney said. “That's really amazing. That just kind of epitomizes the kind of player that he is. He's a high-motor, high-energy, aggressive, going-to-play-every-snap kind of guy.
“The kind of game he had last week is one that as a D-tackle you would dream about. But we'll have to play well up front, and our guys are getting better. I think that we probably played our best game Saturday up front, and hopefully we can continue that trend and make sure that we don't have too many just one-on-ones with (number) 72.”
CHASING RECORD DELAYED: One of the ACC’s oldest career records, 4,602 rushing yards by NC State’s Ted Brown from 1975-78, is safe for another year.
Montel Harris of Boston College will apply for a medical redshirt for a fifth season. Harris began this year 1,003 yards behind Brown, but a lingering knee injury limited him to two games. He added 136 yards to his total and now trails by 867 yards.
Eagles’ coach Frank Spaziani said Harris just wasn’t physically able to perform. He suffered the injury late last season and aggravated it against Wake Forest this year. It’s not an ACL tear but there are other problems in the knee and doctors have said it’s not going to get better this season.
Spaziani said he expects Harris to return to 2012.
“Speaking with Montel, that's his intention,” the coach said. “That's what he wants to do, and he wants to be part of the team and come back for another year. Once again, the main thing is for Montel to get healthy.”
The Eagles will also seek a fifth year for defensive tackle Kaleb Ramsey, also unable to play because of injury.
DEACONS START FAST: Now in its 59th year of ACC football, Wake Forest has started a season 3-0 in conference play for the first time ever.
“Well, honestly, it shocked me a little bit when I learned that,” said head coach Jim Grobe. “It seems kind of amazing that in 59 years you never started 3-0 in the league. But at the same time it's probably something you look back on down the road and feel good about.
“But right now we've got seven really good football teams (remaining) on our schedule. Of course, maybe the best one's coming in this week. I think Virginia Tech last week played great and had a great win against Miami. So what we're trying to do is just try to stay focused on the next game and not worry too much about what we just did.”
One thing nagging the Deacons is a hamstring injury to top running back Josh Harris that is limiting his practice time. He could be ready for Virginia Tech but Grobe is concerned that if he doesn’t practice, he might not play well.
BYE WEEK HELPS KICKER: Normally, after winning three straight games, the last thing a coach wants to see is a bye week. But Duke coach David Cutcliffe said it came at a good time and helped some injured players heal. One of those was kicker Will Snyderwine.
Cutcliffe said Snyderwine’s injuries have been to the peroneal tendons, which stabilize the foot and ankle.
"It's been pretty significant,” Cutcliffe said. “We've tried to give him three days rest, we tried to kick our back-ups and none of that worked successfully. So over the open date I was able to shut him down completely for eight days, and it looks like it's the magic. It's the best he's been. He's not a hundred percent, but he may be 95 percent, finally. We need that weapon. (And) he is a weapon."
Bill Hass is a long-time observer of ACC sports. His career at the Greensboro News & Record spanned 36 years, from 1969 until his retirement in March 2006. He is now writing "Bill Hass on the ACC" for theACC.com. His weekly columns will keep fans plugged in to the Atlantic Coast Conference.
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