Linebacker Yannick Ngakoue has been an impact player since arriving in College Park.
However, Ngakoue is really thriving in Maryland’s new 4-3 defense, which was put into motion after some movement on the coaching staff.
Brian Stewart unexpectedly left his defensive coordinator post back on Feb. 19, and ultimately landed at Nebraska as the Cornhuskers’ new defensive backs coach. With the move, coach Randy Edsall promoted inside linebackers coach Keith Dudzinski to defensive coordinator, which was a position familiar to Dudzinski as he was the defensive boss at UMass from 2004 to 2010.
Upon being promoted, Dudzinski announced his intentions to change Maryland’s defensive philosophy quite a bit. The Terrapins would be moving to a 4-3 defense in their second season in the Big Ten.
The Terps are completely making over their front seven as every starter in that group has graduated. That’s where Ngakoue comes into play.
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Saturday was the first time that Maryland’s 4-3 defense was put into place in a game-like atmosphere. Ngakoue lined up at defensive end, instead of his usual outside linebacker spot.
Ngakoue silenced any critics that he may have previously had, in terms of being able to adjust to a traditional 4-3 system.
Finding himself matched up against offensive tackle Mike Minter most of the afternoon, Ngakoue looked extremely impressive with his hand in the dirt. The Friendship Collegiate Academy product looked like a natural pass rusher, and was in quarterback Shane Cockerille’s face during a good amount of the spring game.
Much of Ngakoue’s success as a sophomore came out of the hybrid outside linebacker position, where he stood up a lot of the time, and was able to rush the quarterback. He did end up with 37 tackles (25 solo) and six sacks, which were second on the team to defensive end Andre Monroe (10). In very limited time as a freshman, Ngakoue managed to record a pair of sacks and had 10 tackles (six solo).
While he may be a bit undersized for a defensive end (6’2/250 lb.), he still possesses incredible speed off the edge. On a few occasions, Ngakoue got in Cockerille’s face, and made him deliver the football a lot sooner than he wanted to. On one play, Cockerille even ended up dumping the ball off to running back Jacquille Veii out of the backfield, which resulted in a loss of yardage.
Another reason Ngakoue is so effective is his natural athleticism at the line of scrimmage. He broke up two passes in 2014, but really showed how athletic he is on Saturday. Cockerille attempted to dump the ball off to Veii in the flat, but Ngakoue sniffed it out completely and knocked the ball to the turf.
Ngakoue just affects the game in so many different ways. so he could be one of Maryland’s biggest asset in 2015. The junior-to-be has managed to be a tremendous pass rusher in limited snaps through two seasons, and could be even more lethal as a pass rusher in a starting role this coming season.