The new 3-4, multiple attacking scheme under defensive coordinator Andy Buh (who replaced Scott Shafer in the spring), should bring excitement to Terps fans eager for more ‘attack’ mode on defense.
Leading the way will be junior BUCK end Jesse Aniebonam, who should cause some havoc in the backfield with his strength and explosion, and at the other end spot senior grinder Roman Braglio, the leader up front and ultimate grinder.
Inside, the Terps have a wealth of new, young options, prospects like freshman tackle Adam McLean, sophomore David Shaw, and converted linebacker Cavon Walker, who shined in the spring. Then there is junior Kingsley Opara (if he can stay healthy) and senior overachiever Azubuike Ukandu, among others. The key backups at end include sophomore Malik Jones, Oseh Saine, Chandler Burkett and Brett Kulka, while also emerging is sophomore and former Gilman/Virginia Tech end Melvin Keihn, who sat out last year under transfer rules.
The Terps have a lot of options to keep the line fresh, and hopefully opposing quarterbacks under duress.
The unit, although thin and re-tooling its depth, is led by junior middle linebacker and national honors candidate Jermaine Carter, who has paced the unit both on and off the field and was the top defensive performer in spring camp/all positions.
Perhaps the next in the Terps’ strong tradition of instinctive, hard-hitting MIKEs, Carter could be flanked by junior starter Jalen Brooks, who has enjoyed the best offseason physical transformation in the weight room under Rick Court, and spring revelation/former quarterback Shane Cockerille, who rose to No. 1 in April with his instincts and toughness.
There are other fast-risers including Nnamdi Egbuaba, who will push for a starting job, Tyler Burke and Brett Zanotto, all on a unit looking for youngsters to step in the depth breach, especially outside.
This Terp unit enjoyed the best summertime bump of all, landing former four-star Under Armour All-American and University of Florida sophomore corner J.C. Jackson last month via transfer. The uber-athletic three-way star, who did a season at Riverside (Calif.) CC last fall after some run-ins with the law, well Terps fans can pencil him in right away opposite pre-season honors/AA candidate senior corner Will Likely. It suddenly gives a once-shaky secondary a big boost.
Now, the safety spots (see new starters Josh Woods and Denzel Conyers), must step up in their first full seasons to make it work, but the backline just got taller, longer, and more athletic thanks to Jackson. He will have three years to play. He can also play on offense or defense, but may only be a one-year Terp, also soon to be in the NFL.
Meanwhile, the Terps welcome back seniors Alvin Hill, fully back from knee surgery, and Jarrett Ross, among others like sophomore potential star-on-the-rise Darnell Savage, as they look to revamp the unit’s overall depth more recruiting. Ross get better in the coverage piece in the spring after some struggles over the years.
Safety is thin and unproven still, and the spot to watch this fall.
Another unit that got more "special" this winter with the January arrival of another Aussie star, 28-year old freshman punter Wade Lees, the Terps special teams could hum in many areas this fall.
In addition to Lees, who can kick with both feet and is a strong directional kicker/pooch punter, the Terps return AA return ace Will Likely, among other possible weapons including J.C. Jackson, as well as junior place-kicker Adam Greene, who is primed to take over for Maryland’s last celebrated Aussie, graduated former Lou Groza Award winner Brad Craddock.
Also look for freshman Jake Funk to possibly get in the mix in the return game, not to mention the Jacobs brothers and DeAndre Lane.
Greene has a stronger, more explosive leg than Craddock, but needs more accuracy on his longer kicks. Lees, a Melbourne native, is in the 45-yard average and 4.5 hang-time range, after coming up in Australian Rules Football and kicking with both feet from a very early age.