Well, we heard about it a few days ago – sophomore middle linebacker Avery Murray has left the team for personal reasons. This could honestly make a huge difference in how well the Terps’ defense plays this year and over the next few years.
This season, the Terps are obviously very happy with their starting situation at middle linebacker – senior Alex Wujciak is one of the best in the country. With Murray, coach Friedgen had both a viable option to back up Wujciak and someone that the program had hoped would start the next two seasons. Now, without Murray, the Terps are left with very few options up the middle.
There’s Ryan Donohue, the only other middle linebacker besides Wujciak on the roster who has had any playing time with Maryland. He played as a true freshman sparingly last year and performed very well in the spring game this year. Donohue has good size at 6’0″ and 230 pounds, and has unquestionable work ethic. Only a two-star recruit out of high school, he was never projected to be a starting ACC middle linebacker, but that’s the role he might find himself in next year.. He’s the favorite right now, and we’ll see how he responds.
There’s David Mackall, a true freshman who impressed over spring camp and has great raw ability. However, his skills favor the Sam (strong side) position over the Mike (middle). Mackall admits himself that he is not very good in pass coverage, and his strength comes in his ability to blitz and go to the ball. The Terps would hate to sacrifice the potential for him to be an All-ACC outside linebacker in order for him to be an average middle linebacker.
There’s Darin Drakeford, a sophomore who also performed well as a true freshman, like Donohue. Like Mackall, however, his skills seem more suited for an outside linebacker role. He’s very strong, though, and could be moved to the inside.
Bradley Johnson and Marcus Whitfield are two options that could come from the defensive line. However, neither of them really possess the pass coverage skills needed to play at middle linebacker.
Another thing to remember is that one of Maryland’s top 2010 recruits – middle linebacker Javarie Johnson – already left the program due to academic issues. So really the Terps’ two strongest options for middle linebacker beyond this year have left before the season started.
This is not to say I blame Murray in any way – he left for personal reasons, not academic, so it’s impossible to know what was going on – it just has the potential to really hurt the Terps this year and beyond.
To sum up? A backup middle linebacker transferring from the Terps has harmed the program significantly. Hopefully, in the future, coach Friedgen will recruit players who can stay in College Park for all four years.