Terps Team Evaluations: Defense/ST

The Terps finished the regular season at 7-5 (3-5 ACC) and are likely bound for a bowl game in the coming month. Here's a wrap-up of each defensive unit and the special teams, and an evaluation of how each performed in 2013.

The Terps finished the regular season at 7-5 (3-5 ACC) and are likely bound for a bowl game in the coming month. Here's a wrap-up of each defensive unit and the special teams, and an evaluation of how each performed in 2013.

To see the offensive evaluations click HERE.

Team MVP: C.J. Brown
Offensive MVP: C.J. Brown
Defensive MVP: Marcus Whitfield
Coach of the Year: DC Brian Stewart
Rookie of the Year: Will Likely
Comeback Player of the Year: Andre Monroe

Defensive Line

Maryland's defense, and specifically its front seven, got after it in earnest this season, allowing just 366 yards per game and 5.0 yards per play, two averages that rank in the conference's top half. Though the likes of Florida State had its way up front, the Maryland defensive line played a major part in the team's success and was arguably the squad's most effective unit. Rotating through about six down defenders, the Terps' front three helped Maryland finish tops in the ACC in sacks (35) and tackles for loss (96) and sixth in rush defense (150.3 yards per game).

Sophomore defensive end Quinton Jefferson stepped right in for the departed Joe Vellano (New England Patriots) and effectively filled the void, racking up 44 tackles, 7.5 TFLs, three sacks and a forced fumble. A noted run stuffer, Jefferson had his best game during a Terps upset against Virginia Tech when he knifed into the backfield for two sacks and also recorded five tackles.

Next to Jefferson, junior nose tackle Darius Kilgo didn't have as big of a season numbers-wise as 2012, but he did ably assume A.J. Francis' old role. A plugger who routinely ate up blockers and allowed the linebackers to fill, Kilgo's value really can't be quantified, although he still had a solid campaign. Kilgo finished with 34 tackles, 5.5 TFLs, two sacks, a pair of pass breakups and a fumble recovery. He had a particularly good performance against West Virginia with three tackles, two TFLs and a sack, while he had a season-high eight stops against Connecticut. Kilgo didn't always perform up to his potential, such as during losses to Florida State and Syracuse, but he certainly wasn't a disappointment.

While junior defensive tackle/end Andre Monroe didn't start this year, he came on strong in his third season in College Park. A fireplug who at times was relentless, Monroe -- thanks to a two-sack effort against N.C. State during the regular season finale -- finished top 10 in the conference and No. 31 nationally with 8.5 sacks. Monroe's season highlight included a three-sack game against Virginia Tech, tied with Marcus Whitfield for a single-game season-high. But Monroe did more than just get to the quarterback. He also rolled up 14 TFLs, second on team, and forced two fumbles, proving to be a resilient run stopper.

Junior Keith Bowers was slotted to start at defensive end this season, but during the course of the fall he was shifted inside to nose tackle. Bowers was relatively quiet all season and never really stood out among the Terps' front three. He finished with 32 tackles but failed to record any TFLs, sacks, recoveries or forced fumbles. Bowers' signature game came against Virginia, when he tallied nine stops, though he tailed off during the latter half of the campaign.

The Terps also rotated through two other linemen, including graduate student Zeke Riser, who transferred from Houston, and sophomore Roman Braglio. Riser, who battled a foot injury early during the year, played in eight games and managed seven tackles and 1.5 TFLs. While the injury hampered him, Riser never really displayed the talent/potential some expected from him.

Braglio, meanwhile, had a couple moments he could build off of, namely a game against West Virginia where he recorded a sack. He ended up with six tackles, 3.5 TFLs and two sacks in 2013.


While the defensive line showed out this year, Maryland's linebacker corps performed up to par, despite injuries. There were a few weeks this group was critiqued for shoddy tackling, over-pursuing and failing to wrap up (see: FSU, Syracuse, etc.), but the majority of the time the linebackers kept UMD in games by holding opposing offenses at bay. The Terps allowed foes to convert just 34 percent of third downs, an average that ranked among the best in the conference.

Maryland's defensive MVP this year constantly disrupted opposing backfields, rattled quarterbacks and forced offenses to account for him. A fierce pass rusher, senior outside linebacker Marcus Whitfield finished among the top 25 sack masters in the country with nine takedowns and a team-high 14.5 TFLs. Whitfield also tied for the team lead with two forced fumbles, recovered a fumble, broke up six passes and even blocked a kick. Whitfield had a big three-sack game against UConn, but he was mainly lauded for his consistency throughout. While many of the team's other backers suffered injury setbacks or had a few off games, Whitfield brought his ‘A' game almost every week. In fact, he recorded at least one TFL in every outing save two.

Junior Cole Farrand, who was one of the team's best interior linebackers in 2012, once again stood stout this season. Though he missed two games and played through pain, Farrand still finished second on the squad with 84 tackles, to go along with 4.5 TFLs, 0.5 sacks and a forced fumble. Not much of a drop-back backer, Farrand did his best work in the box, where he met runners in the hole and wrapped in space. Though hurt, he had a Terps' single-game season-high 23 stops against Clemson in a resilient, gutsy performance. Farrand also had good showings against Virginia, N.C. State, Connecticut and Virginia Tech, during all of which he had at least eight tackles. Moreover, Farrand assumed a leadership role this year and became an emotional defensive captain, drawing praise from Edsall and Co.

Classmate L.A. Goree played relatively well this season, though he initially lost his starting job to former walk-on Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil. Much was expected out of the junior outside backer after he contributed in a valuable fill-in role in 2012, but there were times when Goree didn't fill or maintain the edge. Eventually, though, Goree regained his starting gig when Cudjoe-Virgil tore his pectoralis and became an able defender. In 11 games (he missed one game due to back spasms), Goree finished third on the squad with 71 tackles, 4.5 TFLs, a sack, a forced fumble and two breakups. Goree's best game came against Virginia, when he flew around the field and rolled up 16 tackles and two TFLs in a Terps victory.

Speaking of Cudjoe-Virgil, perhaps no Terps player took advantage of an opportunity like the junior Seton Hill transfer. In six games, Cudjoe-Virgil had just 18 tackles, but he made the most of them. He had a seven-stop, 2.5-sack game against Connecticut; an interception against West Virginia; and seven tackles and 0.5 sacks against Florida International. By midseason, before he suffered his season-ending pec injury, Cudjoe-Virgil was considered Maryland's second-most effective rush linebacker.

Despite missing two midseason games with a rotator-cuff issue, junior Matt Robinson had an all-around standout 2013. While he, like Goree, had a few tackling lapses, Robinson demonstrated his ability to cover, play in the box and tackle in space. After beating out Alex Twine for a starting inside backer job during the preseason, Robinson recorded 70 tackles, 10 TFLs, six pass breakups, two fumble recovers, a forced fumble and 0.5 sacks. He saved his best performance for last, racking up 16 tackles, 3.5 TFLs and a half-sack during the finale against N.C. State. Robinson also had two big TFLs in Maryland's upset against Virginia Tech.

Robinson's backup, the junior Twine, played a valuable secondary role as both a fill-in at linebacker and on special teams coverage. Showing plenty of mettle while delivering a few thumps, Twine had 47 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble this season. Twine's best game came in a loss to Boston College when he tallied 10 stops and 1.5 TFLs.

Redshirt freshman Abner Logan made a contribution during his second year on campus with 37 tackles, two TFLs and a fumble recovery in 11 games. Logan had two games in particular where he really showed his potential, a 15-tackle outing against Clemson and a 10-stop game against Syracuse. While UMD remains deep at linebacker next season, expect Logan to see even more time at one of the linebacker spots.

Highly-touted true freshman Yannick Ngakoue didn't start this season, but it'll be hard to keep him off the field as well. Playing mainly a pass-rush role, the outside linebacker had 4.5 TFLs, two sacks, a forced fumble and two breakups during limited action. During the Terps' loss to Clemson, Ngakoue had a career-high three tackles and a sack, while he picked up a half-sack during each of the season's last two games.

Another linebacker who showed signs this year was sophomore Shawn Petty. The former quarterback recorded 24 tackles, four TFLs, two breakups and a pair of sacks this year. Petty had a huge fourth-down sack against N.C. State during the regular season finale, putting a stamp on Maryland's victory.

Defensive Backs

For a team that lost its Nos. 1 and 2 cornerbacks early during the season, Maryland did not have a terrible year defending the pass. Some of the credit goes to the pass rush, certainly, but freshman corner Will Likely and senior Isaac Goins proved to be admirable replacements. As a whole, the unit -- which included sophomore safeties Sean Davis and Anthony Nixon -- finished sixth in the ACC at 215.8 passing yards allowed per game, while the secondary recorded nine of the team's 11 interceptions.

The senior Goins had a solid-if-not spectacular campaign, lapsing a few times but also doing fairly well in off-coverage. Teams with elite wideouts like Florida State gave him a rough time, though he did well to come up with a pick against Clemson and playing tight defense during the final third of the season. Goins finished the year with 54 tackles, two interceptions, 10 breakups, a sack and a fumble recovery.

But it was Likely who was Maryland's most impressive corner this season. Yes, the freshman made mistakes, allowed receivers to get behind him and drew a couple pass interference penalties for being too physical/aggressive, but he also showed exactly why the Terps brought him in. A true cover corner, Likely demonstrated the ability to shadow receivers in press, face-guard in zone and stick in wideouts' hip pockets. Moreover, he displayed solid run defense, despite his 5-foot-8 frame. For the season, Likely had 62 tackles, 4.5 TFLs, an interception and a team-high 11 breakups. Likely had a pick against Syracuse and recorded a couple key breakups/pass defenses in a victory against Virginia Tech.

Before the season, not many would have predicted Sean Davis would lead the team in tackles. But that's exactly what he did, racking up 92 stops, to go along with two interceptions and eight pass defenses. Though Davis had a few communication errors in coverage (that's going to happen with two new cornerbacks), he showed a true thumper's mentality near the line of scrimmage. He had five straight games at the end of the year with at least nine tackles and delivered a memorable hit on elite Boston College running back Andre Williams (Davis also picked off a pass against BC).

The second safety, Anthony Nixon, missed two games this season and didn't have quite the impact he had during his freshman year, when he secured a starting spot. Even so, Nixon still managed 54 tackles and three TFLs, although he did not record an interception. Nixon, like Davis, had some coverage issues, but he was usually solid at keeping receivers in front of him. However, we'd like to see him show the anticipation skills he demonstrated last year (jumping routes, etc.).

The team's third safety, junior A.J. Hendy, saw a significant number of snaps and responded with some resonating moments. He had a huge 28-yard interception return for a touchdown against WVU and came up with a couple key fumble recoveries as well. Hendy played well enough to be a starter on many teams and finished the year with 31 stops, a TFL, a pick and five breakups.

Junior Zach Dancel was the fourth safety, and after returning from a camp hamstring injury, was solid in extra-man nickel and dime packages. He came through with some big special teams hits as well this season.

Although he played just three games, cornerback Dexter McDougle still led the squad with three interceptions and had seven breakups during his final year. Putting a somewhat disappointing junior season behind him, McDougle proved to be the team's most reliable defensive back, and before going out he had an eight-tackle, two-pick game against Connecticut that earned him ACC Defensive Back of the Week honors.

Junior Jeremiah Johnson, meanwhile, was not able to build on a standout sophomore season when he went down with a Week 2 toe injury and didn't return until the season finale. Johnson managed just two tackles and a TFL before missing the next nine weeks.

When McDougle and Johnson went down, sophomore Alvin Hill earned some playing time. He rotated in on defense and special teams and managed 20 tackles this year.

Special Teams

Though it suffered through a few mistakes (i.e. fumbles, blown coverages, shanked punts), Maryland's special teams performed fairly well in 2013. The unit's standout, sophomore kicker Brad Craddock, bounced back from a much-maligned 2012. Craddock tied for fifth in the ACC by converting 82.6 percent of his field-goal tries, knocking in 19 of 23. He only nailed 1-of-3 beyond 50 yards, but he converted 4-of-5 from 40-49, 7-of-8 from 30-39 and hit all seven attempts inside 30 yards. He drilled a 50 yarder and a 40 yarder during a victory against UConn, and had a pair of 41 yard boots against Clemson. Craddock also nailed all his extra points and averaged 61.5 yards per kickoff.

Fellow booter Nate Renfro, though, did not have a great second season punting the ball. The sophomore averaged 40.9 yards per kick and had a net average right around 36 yards -- ranking among the bottom third in the ACC -- while having a couple punts go off the side of his foot. Renfro sent 10 of his 68 punts 50-plus yards and placed 17 of them inside opponents' 20-yard lines.

In the return game, Maryland finished in the ACC's top half for punt bringbacks. Led by UMD Rookie of the Year Will Likely, who averaged 12.8 yards per return and had Maryland's lone special teams touchdown, the Terps finished with a solid 10.7-yard average. Likely did have a few early-season issues with fair catches and muffs, but he showed plenty of flash once he got into the flow of the college game.

The Terps' kick-return unit performed even better, averaging just over 23 yards per, ranking third in the conference. Once again it was Likely who shined with his 27.0 return average on 24 chances. His long for the season was 51 yards. Stefon Diggs was the primary returner until he was injured, and the sophomore averaged 23.4 yards on 12 returns.

As far as coverage units are concerned, the Terps were one of the ACC's two best in covering punts. UMD allowed just 5.40 yards per bringback, and no returner had a longer runback than 28 yards.

Maryland's kick coverage was equally impressive, ranking fourth in the conference. Opponents averaged just 19.70 yards per return, though Maryland did allow one 88-yarder (it did not go for a touchdown). The Terps did not allow a single special-teams touchdown during the regular season.

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