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The Maryland linebacking corps underwent a total makeover this offseason, with new head coach Randy Edsall converting all-conference safety Kenny Tate to a STAR backer and shifting Demetrius Hartsfield to the inside. The attention paid to those moves, however, left the promotion of Darin Drakeford into the starting WILL position under the radar.
Drakeford will take over for Hartsfield, who has been the weak-side linebacker the past two seasons. The top reserve linebacker in 2010, Drakeford usually manned the strong side. In 12 games, he finished as the 10th-leading tackler with one sack, one forced fumble and 5.5 tackles for loss.
In addition to the linebacker carousel, there will also be a new defensive scheme in College Park.
"The defense is going to be a lot different [this year]," Drakeford said in an interview with ESPN's Heather Dinich earlier in the spring, acknowledging that there will be less blitzing and more coverage this season under Edsall and defensive coordinator Todd Bradford.
However, with Drakeford shifting positions, he will have a converse role
"Moving inside," Drakeford explained, "I think I'll be blitzing than [in] coverage this year."
Although a proven commodity in his third year, Drakeford and his fellow linebackers have a combined zero starts at their current positions.
Coming out of Theodore Roosevelt High School (Washington, D.C.), Drakeford was the 41st-ranked weak-side linebackers by Scout.com. As a senior, he recorded 124 tackles, 14 sacks and forced four fumbles, earning his second All-Met selection. The year previous he posted 94 tackles, 22 sacks and eight forced fumbles, deserving of All-DCIAA honors.
Drakeford bumped into a starting role was almost inevitable; his statistics were comparable to most starting linebackers on other teams. However, the team is lacking depth at each of the linebacker slots, especially with the graduation of two of the four leading tackles from last season, Alex Wujciak and Adrian Moten, and the transfer of Ryan Donohue.
Behind Drakeford on the depth chart is Lamonte Gaddis and Shaquan Virgil, who have a combined three games of experience under their belt. Gaddis was one of five true freshmen to see action on special teams in the team's final three games. Virgil, who transferred from Monmouth in the fall of 2009, was a reserve defensive back last year.
Edsall announced early in June that Garret Lederman, a linebacker from Briarcliff, N.Y. will walk on this summer. No official position has been indicated, though. He also said he would consider adding another.