COLLEGE PARK, Md. – It’s only been a week or so since Nnamdi Egbuaba transitioned from linebacker to the BUCK position in Maryland’s defense, but the sophomore’s looked like he’s been playing the spot since he arrived in College Park two years ago. In fact, Egbuaba loves his new role so much he’s already given himself a new nickname and been told to have it tattooed on his bicep.
“I actually call myself ‘BUCK Now,’ now (laughs),” Egbuaba said. “But my mom would kill me if I got a tattoo, so that’s out. It’s an African culture thing, we’re not supposed to get tattoos. But it’s not a bad idea (laughs).”
In reality, it was a natural switch for the Nigerian native. The 6-foot, 230-pounder played a pseudo-BUCK role during his years at St. Frances Academy (Baltimore, Md.) and only transitioned to SAM linebacker after arriving at Maryland. In high school, Egbuaba basically lined up as a defensive end and told to “see ball, attack ball.”
“I just chased the ball all over the field, that was my role,” Egbuaba said. “So to be able to go back to that again, in a way, is a very good thing for me.
“When I got moved to SAM, it was complicated for me at first, but I started getting it after awhile. But every time the coaches asked me to blitz I just played so much faster. Then when Coach [D.J.] Durkin got here, he figured out my abilities, and thought I would probably do better at BUCK. That’s my natural spot, and I love the position.”
In many ways the BUCK is the most important defensive position on the field. It entails not only rushing the passer, but also setting the edge; picking up receivers/backs in coverage; and rotating between a stand-up backer and a 5-technique end.
Egbuaba, for his part, relishes the extra responsibilities.
“This defense was really made for the BUCK,” he said. “Most of the time we stand up, sometimes we play down and sometimes we drop back and cover. Then sometimes we’ll fake a blitz and then drop back and mirror the running back or a receiver. It’s a really big spot, because we basically have to do everything.”
On Aug. 19, Egbuaba was actually running with the starters as Jeese Aniebonam was out sick. Egbuaba held his own and drew praise from Durkin after practice.
“I was running a little bit with the 1s with Jesse out, but we actually have packages where we’ll both be on the field at the same time,” said Egbuaba, who appeared in six games on special teams last year. “It’s called the ‘Rabbit’ package, which we’ll use in third-down situations to get more of a pass rush. It’s pretty exciting when we use [that package] and we can really do some damage.”
The Baltimore resident said the Terps’ coaches, from Durkin on down to defensive coordinator Andy Buh, defensive line coach Mike London and linebackers coach Matt Barnes, have done well implementing the various packages and putting the players in position to succeed. He said the entire defense is amped and excited to show what it can do with its multiple looks.
“The defensive coaches are like gurus man,” Egbuaba said. “The things they know and the plays, when we run them, it’s like we get hyped before the offense even snaps the ball because we know the play’s going to work. They put us in the right positions to go make plays. As a defensive unit, they really have us all believing we can’t be stopped.”
Regardless of how many opportunities Egbuaba will personally have to make said plays remains to be seen. Although he was thrust into a starting role Aug. 19, Egbuaba figures to be third on the depth chart when the season opens, behind Aniebonam and Melvin Keihn. But Egbuaba isn’t complaining, and, truth be told, he’s happy to just be in College Park right now. The St. Frances product didn’t earn an offer until very late in the recruiting process, but when former head coach Randy Edsall extended the scholarsûhip, Egbuaba immediately jumped at the chance to play for his adopted hometown school.
“It’s one of the best things that’s ever happened to me,” Egbuaba said. “This place just fits me, and the diversity is great here. I’m from Nigeria and I meet other people from Nigeria and all over. I really fit in well here and couldn’t see myself anywhere else. I’m blessed to be here.”