Bryce Young smiled when he approached fellow defenseman Curtis Corley in training before the Maryland men's lacrosse team's fourth game against Penn. Because Young had missed the first three games with an undisclosed injury, Corley asked whether he planned to return to face the Quakers.
Young, a senior leader on the No. 2 Terps' defense, told Corley, "We'll see." The next time Corley saw Young, the Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey, native was wearing full pads and said he would practice and make his season debut.
"I'm like, 'No way, this kid's actually practicing,'" Corley said. "It was fun. I was like, 'All right, good, you're back.'"
Now healthy, Young is set to appear in his fourth game this season when the Terps face No. 6 Villanova on Saturday. Since returning, he's provided leadership to an inexperienced unit that lost All-Americans Tim Muller and Isaiah Davis-Allen to graduation.
The Wildcats, who stunned Maryland in overtime last season, are expected to test the Terps' defense.
"We've really got to communicate as well as we can," coach John Tillman said. "A big part of this week is we have to understand the personnel we're going against but we've got to be ready to play at a very fast tempo."
Even when he wasn't on the field, Young was among Maryland's most vocal defensive leaders. He positioned himself next to defensive coordinator Jesse Bernhardt on the sideline, screaming to let Maryland defenders know "who's hot and who's cold."
The unit responded by holding Navy to four goals in a season-opening win and Marist to seven on Feb. 13.
But Young's absence appeared costly in Maryland's 16-14 win against High Point on Feb. 17. The Panthers kept close late, and their 14 scores were the most the Terps had allowed since May 30, 2016.
Young's return helped the Terps contain the Quakers' attack. Corley said Young regularly yells instructions on the defensive end, helping Maryland get organized. He'll be among the first to notice if a defenseman is drifting wide, moving too close to the net inside or needs to prepare for a dodge or slide.
"It solidifies another guy down there who knows exactly what he's doing," Corley said. "He's a really great communicator. Having his voice out there, it really helps."
Young's effectiveness as a communicator stems from his preparation. He first reviews film to watch how the opposing offense plays and then focuses on the player he will primarily be defending, sometimes turning to video from his freshman season. Then, he works to defend each opponent's tendencies against Maryland's scout team.
Even with Young, Maryland's defense has been challenged. The Terps blew a 10-6 lead in an 11-10 loss to Albany last weekend.
Young and Corley anticipate the defense needs another game or two to mesh.
"We've had glimpses of greatness," Young said. "We have a lot of young guys which are asked to do a lot of things. They're starting to show up and fill those roles to the best of their ability as a young guy."