The Maryland football team is losing a significant amount of talent from the 2016 roster.
Combine that with dwindling eligibility of other players and that’s a huge reason why D.J. Durkin brought in multiple defensive linemen in the 2017 class.
Sack leader Jesse Aniebonam will return for his senior season and will remain a force at the “BUCK” position as the team’s primary pass rusher.
However, defensive end Roman Braglio and defensive tackle Akubuike Ukandu are gone, so that leaves two starting spots up for grabs. Two very underrated pass rushers will likely fill those spots in Chandler Burkett and Kingsley Opara, who are both holdovers from the Randy Edsall era.
Opara had 41 tackles (11.5 for loss) and three sacks in 2016. On the other hand, Burkett burst onto the scene to record 35 tackles (27 solo), three sacks, and three defended passes.
Cavon Walker started next to Ukandu on the defensive line, so he’ll likely garner a high amount playing time along with Melvin Keihn and Brett Kulka.
Aside from Keihn, there’s no rotation defensive lineman that has more than one year of eligibility remaining. Keihn has two more years in College Park after recording 24 tackles (two for loss) in 2016.
With Keihn being the only Terp that saw significant snaps with multiple years of eligibility remaining, Durkin made the defensive line a huge priority in this class. Former Quince Orchard (Md.) star Adam McLean appeared in the season opener against Howard, but didn’t see the field other than that.
The replenishment began last April when four-star defensive tackle Cam Spence committed to Maryland. He was still technically enrolled at IMG Academy (Fla.) at the time, but he ultimately played his senior season at St. John’s College (D.C.).
According to 247Sports, Spence is rated as the No. 20 defensive tackle in the country.
In addition to Spence, the Terps also added an extremely talented pair of twin defensive tackles in Breyon and Brandon Gaddy. Breyon Gaddy has tabbed as the No. 21 defensive tackle and the 330th best player in the country.
Maryland also added Tyran Hunt, B’Ahmad Miller, and Lawtez Rogers at the defensive end position. That was after the program chased DeMatha five-star prospect Chase Young up until National Signing Day.
As we set the scene for Maryland’s future on the defensive line, there’s still some talented upperclassmen that will lead the Terps when the team opens up the 2017 season against Texas. Aniebonam, Burkett, Opara, and Walker all return for their senior seasons and they’re going to need that kind of talent against the Longhorns.
With that being said, there’s still going to be some freshmen that see the field.
It’s widely expected that McLean will finally make an impact at the collegiate level. Since the day that committed to the Terps, this is a guy that has the chops to be a star defensive lineman.
Injuries always play a huge role and if there’s any, somebody like Breyon Gaddy or Spence could see major playing time as well. If there’s one thing that was learned from Durkin’s first year, it’s that he isn’t afraid to play true freshmen at any position.
The college game has always been about thinking two to three years down the road.
Durkin has certainly done that with this class as he stocked up on talented defensive linemen. Given that two of those players are four-star prospects, that’s an even bigger factor.
When it was learned that Mike London was leaving for the head coaching gig at Howard, the commitments of a few prospects were called into question. However, Durkin was able to lure Kentucky’s Jimmy Brumbaugh to College Park to become the new defensive line coach and co-defensive coordinator.
Given Brumbaugh’s track record with putting players in the NFL, this group is in very capable hands.
The Maryland football program has been one of the better teams in the Big Ten in recent years in getting to the quarterback. This may be a young group, but there’s a lot of talent that will likely make a big impact for years to come.