Spring Football Preview VI: Defensive Line

Spring football began March 4, and we're breaking down each position. Next up is the defensive line.

Given Maryland has changed to a 4-3 defensive scheme, the front four will be the defensive spot of most intrigue this month in spring camp.

Gone is defensive coordinator Brian Stewart and his 3-4 attack, while also gone are D-line stalwarts/all-Big Ten Andre Monroe, UMD’s all-time sack leader, and inside-stuffer-deluxe senior Darius Kilgo. The Terps also said goodbye to seniors Keith Bowers and Spencer Myers, while junior end Quinton Jefferson will be on the shelf this spring due to his knee injury last fall.

In the run-heavy Big Ten, the Terps saw the need for more help/bodies up front, so look for different fronts/blitzes up front, and more man coverage backside moving forward.

Meanwhile, in the new scheme outside linebackers Jesse Aniebonam, Yannick Ngakoue and Chandler Burkett have moved up to the new hybrid end spot, the "Bandit," while back to man the middle will be sophomore David Shaw and hopefully new faces at tackle in sophomores Kingsley Opara, Malik Jones and possibly versatile junior Roman Braglio, who has played everything from nose to end at UMD. With those senior losses go three of Maryland’s top nine tacklers, as well as 13 of their team 31 sacks.

The Terps also have some interior beef in former walk-ons Ty Tucker, Azubuike Ukandu and Ruben Franco, though Franco will be on the shelf following winter surgery.

But it is a big spring for redshirts like Opara, who has also been injured, and the long and athletic Jones, the former Baltimore Dunbar High School rush end. Meanwhile, the Terps liked Shaw’s (3 tackles, 1 sack) ability to plug the middle in his true freshman year, while redshirt freshman end Brett Kulka has caught Randy Edsall’s eye as well. He is long and athletic and has some "umph" to his game.

Jefferson’s return to health in the fall will be key, and he could play inside or out with his size and athleticism. The Terps also need incoming freshman and four-star signee Adam McLean to be ready come fall camp, coming off knee surgery this winter, as he is the only impact signee in the class, which badly needed to address the D-Line. Jefferson missed all but three games in 2014 and is another must to return to health.

But they have strength on the edges in fast-risers sophomore Ngakoue (first on the team with 13 TFLs in 2014) and the true freshman Aniebonam (14 tackles, 1 TFL), who can blow up backfields, especially Ngakoue.

If they can find a yeoman crew to stuff the middle until more relief arrives through recruiting, they have some building blocks to usher in the scheme change with. Ngakoue is a future pro, now they just need some more elite beef inside to complement him. But as for the top four right now, it would be Ngakoue, Shaw, Jones and Braglio to start spring camp. Jefferson will do some limited work this spring.

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