All three starters return from last year’s unit, which was one of the team’s main strengths as the defensive line spurred a defense that held opponents to just 3.7 yards per carry and produced 14.5 of Maryland’s 37 total sacks. Though there’s not a ton of depth, the five main trenchmen are a veteran, senior-laden group that ranked among the ACC’s best last season.
If they remain healthy, the Terps’ starting trio should hold their own in the Big Ten, though we do worry what would happen if there were a significant injury to one of the key components. Overall, they are good at stuffing the run, occupying linemen, and allowing the linebackers to fill and clean up. And last year they added some pass-rushing threats as well.
Senior defensive end Andre Monroe, in particular, took a major step forward in 2013, racking up 42 tackles, 9.5 sacks and 17 tackles for loss and was arguably the most important defender on the field. The diminutive Monroe’s ability to not only eat up blockers, but consistently generate pressure and plug gaps made it easier for the rest of the defense to perform. He's got a low center of gravity, quick feet and has improved his hands for better leverage. The 5-foot-11 (at best) Monroe had a career-high three sacks in an upset of Virginia Tech, and after the season he was given the James Tatum award as Maryland’s top lineman.
Lining up at the opposite end position is athletic junior edge rusher Quinton Jefferson, who is coming off a 47-tackle, 7.5 tackle-for-loss, three-sack campaign. The 6-3, 285-pound Pittsburgh native may be in for a Monroe-like breakout in 2014 as he showed some flashes last season, highlighted by a two-sack game against Virginia Tech and a forced-fumble-and-sack outing in the West Virginia shellacking. He is the best athlete among the bigs up front.
At the nose tackle spot, senior Darius Kilgo, who is expected to eventually win the starting job, had a solid 2013, though he didn’t seem to build off his sophomore season, when he showed plenty of promise as a 12-game starter. Even so, the 6-3, 320-pound Kilgo did well enough taking on multiple blockers and ended up recording 37 stops, 6.5 tackles for loss and a pair of sacks. He is also a member of Maryland’s leadership council and brings those intangible qualities to the table as leader of this unit.
Listed as a co-starter with Kilgo for now, senior Keith Bowers rotated in every game last year and actually started nine times. The 6-1, 285-pound Florida native had a big nine-tackle effort against Virginia and is expected to have more such performances in 2014. He's a solid athlete and pass rusher and penetrator, having played end earlier in his career. Bowers has his moments and should be a steady contributor up front in the rotation.
Another key rotational end is 6-3, 265-pound sophomore Roman Braglio, who appeared in 10 games and had one start. Braglio only had six total stops all of last year, but he made the most of them, racking up 3.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. Braglio should take another step forward in 2014 as Andre Monroe’s backup, and he has some of the best moves and quickness among the trenchmen.
Sophomore tackle Azubuike Ukandu may see some action this year as well, and freshman end Malik Jones could be part of the rotation too. Ukandu, a walk-on, looks the part and could eventually be a valuable contributor up front. Jones is 6-4, 265 and looks to have bulked up considerably after a year in the program. He is also a promising edge athlete with a large frame to continue to build on for the future.
Fall Camp Positional Preview: Defensive Line
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