We break down each defensive position on Maryland’s football roster and discuss which ones are most intriguing as we head into Saturday’s Spring Game. Give it a read and leave your comments on which positon battles you’re looking forward to watching the most.
Maryland’s entire starting defensive line from a season ago is gone. The Terps will have a lot of new faces in the trenches with the losses of defensive end Keith Bowers, nose tackle Darius Kilgo, and defensive end Andre Monroe. One of the key contributors will likely be junior Roman Braglio. Braglio appeared in 13 games, and started one game (at Michigan) in 2014 as he proved to be a key cog in the second unit. The McDonogh product recorded 11 tackles and had 2.5 sacks on the season. Braglio is a very sound pass rusher that plays till the whistle blows, and isn’t afraid to chase a ball carrier downfield. In the Michigan game last season, Braglio was able to get quite a bit of penetration, and while he didn’t record any sacks, he made the Wolverines offensive line work to keep him out of the backfield.
Defensive tackle David Shaw has a lot of promise, and could be a starter by the time September rolls around. However, Shaw will miss the next four months with a patella injury. That would’ve been the player to keep an eye on. Sophomore Malik Jones and junior Azubuike Ukandu are two defensive linemen that are definitely worth keeping an eye on this Saturday. Ukandu saw some time last season when Shaw was injured, and recorded two tackles against Wisconsin on Oct. 25. He could definitely be a run-stuffer if he has the opportunity for ample snaps. With so many new faces on the defensive line, one of these guys is bound to have a standout performance in the Red-White game.
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As depleted as the defensive line is, the linebacker position is suffering a complete makeover. Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil, Cole Farrand, L.A. Goree, and Matt Robinson are all gone. Heading into 2015, Yannick Ngakoue will definitely be the top dog in terms of linebackers that can rush the passer. Ngakoue recorded 37 tackles (25 solo) and six sacks last season while playing significant snaps. The former Friendship Collegiate Academy star is versatile as he is able to put his hands in the dirt and rush the passer.
Sophomore Jermaine Carter is one player that could make a huge impact in 2015. Carter is projected to be the team’s starting middle linebacker, and is the type of guy that can be a leader on and off the field. The former Friendship Collegiate Academy star is the cousin NBA stars Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady, so he clearly has the chops for such a responsibility. Carter will have to settle into a traditional middle linebacker role as the Terps are moving to a 4-3 defense. He is a relative unknown to some Maryland fans, so that’s definitely the one player that has to keep making significant progress.
Ever since being forced into a starting role as a freshman, Will Likely has been among the most talented cornerbacks around. With Dexter McDougle and Jeremiah Johnson having moved on, it’s now Likely’s turn to lead the secondary. Opposite Likely will be safety-turned-cornerback Sean Davis. Davis played safety during his first two years and change in College Park, but did see a good amount of at corner last season due to injuries. Davis did have the second-most tackles on the team with 108. With Likely and Davis starting, look for Alvin Hill to be the nickel corner along with Daniel Ezeagwu and Josh Woods also competing for time at the position.
With Davis moving to corner, it’ll likely be a battle between graduate student A.J. Hendy and senior Zach Dancel for the safety spot opposite Anthony Nixon. That’s the battle that should have the attention of most Maryland fans. As many will remember, Hendy is famous for his pick-six interception return against West Virginia two years ago. If he can return to form, it should be quite an intriguing battle as the season approaches.