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2013 Mayland Preview - Defense
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CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 18, 2013


CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Maryland Terrapin Defense


Maryland Terrapins

Preview 2013 - Defense


- 2013 Maryland Preview | 2013 Maryland Offense
- 2013 Maryland Defense | 2013 Maryland Depth Chart

What You Need To Know: Last year, the Terps had a first-year coordinator, Brian Stewart, and a veteran-laden D. This year, the script has been flipped, with Stewart beginning his second year at the helm of a defense that desperately needs some leadership and direction on the two-deep. Maryland must replace six starters, four of whom earned at least All-ACC honorable mention. DE Joe Vellano and LB Demetrius Hartsfield, in particular, have left behind gaping holes. Stewart’s unit is a little understaffed just about everywhere except cornerback, where Dexter McDougle and Jeremiah Johnson form a solid tandem. The defense looks as if it’ll be especially vulnerable early on in the front seven. Basically, this team will be stronger on the interior, with NT Darius Kilgo and inside linebackers Cole Farrand and L.A Goree, than it will be on the fringes. If opponents want to really test the Terps in 2013, they’re likely to do it outside of the tackles.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Cole Farrand, 78
Sacks: Darius Kilgo, Jeremiah Johnson, 1.5
Interceptions: Anthony Nixon, Matt Robinson, 1

Star of the defense: Junior LB Cole Farrand
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior DE Keith Bowers
Unsung star on the rise: Junior NT Darius Kilgo
Best pro prospect: Senior CB Dexter McDougle
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Farrand, 2) McDougle, 3) Junior CB Jeremiah Johnson
Strength of the defense: Stripping the ball, run defense, inside linebacker
Weakness of the defense: The ends, outside linebackers, inconsistent pass defense, picks, veteran leaders

Defensive Line

Maryland is rebuilding up front. Junior NT Darius Kilgo figures to serve as the unit’s foundation in 2013. In his first extensive action, he surprised the staff by nabbing a job in the middle and posting 40 tackles, five stops for loss and 1.5 sacks. For a 6-3, 300-pounder, he gets off the ball quickly, always looking to penetrate and knock the back off his course. The coaching staff has been outspoken throughout the offseason regarding Kilgo, predicting that its best D-linemen will scale new heights in his development this season.

The ends, on the other hand, have a ton to prove this year. Not only have all-stars Joe Vellano and A.J. Francis graduated, but Justin Anderson left the program in the spring for personal reasons. Fortunately, sophomore Quinton Jefferson is having a monster offseason, the kind that padlocks a starting job. The 6-4, 270-pounder played sparingly as a rookie, making 13 tackles in 10 games, and running out of gas late in the season. But he’s been a different player this year, stronger, leaner and more effective at getting into the backfield.

Locking down the other end job is 6-1, 270-pound junior Keith Bowers, who has lettered in each of his first two seasons. His production tailed off after starting 11 games as a rookie, making only 11 tackles and a sack off the bench. However, he has the quickness and get-off to remain entrenched atop the depth chart throughout the summer.

Providing veteran competition to Bowers will be fellow junior Andre Monroe. The 6-0, 280-pound hustler missed all of 2012 to a knee injury, but he showed plenty of potential as a rookie pass rusher in 2011. He started four games two seasons ago, making 18 tackles, 7.5 stops for loss and five sacks.

Watch Out For .... Monroe’s progress. He’s still not all the way back from the knee injury, and was limited during the spring. The Terrapins need No. 93 back to full strength so that he can bolster the line’s depth, while providing it with an infusion of speed around the edge.
Strength: Big bodies. Maryland has the big and physical frames that it needs in order to succeed out of a 3-4 alignment. Kilgo has anchor potential on the inside, and both of the projected starting ends are up to 270 pounds. The Terps should again be stout in the trenches against the run.
Weakness: The ends. Yeah, there’s potential now that the logjam up top has cleared, but the program had grown accustomed to the mayhem that Francis and especially Vellano were able to generate in recent years. The drop-off on the outside is inevitable, meaning the pass rush won’t be as consistent as it was in 2012.
Outlook: There’s cautious optimism as the Maryland D-line regroups in 2013. Kilgo has all-star potential, and the ends will play to the whistle. However, the Terps will be more vulnerable at the point of attack than they were a year ago. Fingers are crossed that Jefferson can build on his strong spring, and that Monroe can recapture his pre-injury form.
Rating: 6.5

Linebackers

The program is enduring some huge hits at linebacker, putting pressure on junior Cole Farrand to be the unit’s physical and emotional leader this season. With a chance to play an expanded role in the middle a year ago, he responded with 78 tackles, six stops for loss and a team-high three forced fumbles. Now at a beefed-up 6-3 and 245 pounds, he has the size and strength to shed blockers, diagnose the play and track down ballcarriers. Farrand is one of the defense’s smarter players, a heady defender who’ll have sights fixed on tallying 100 stops in his second year as a starter.

Next to Farrand on the interior will be junior L.A Goree, who moved from weakside prior to the start of last season. Versatile and heady, he has started 10 games over the last two years, making 46 tackles and three stops for loss in 2012. He’s a physically-gifted 6-2, 240-pounder coming off a solid spring.

In order to bolster the outside linebackers, junior Matt Robinson has been relocated from strong safety, this season’s version of Kenny Tate. At 6-4 and 230 pounds, he’s built for the job and has ample experience. The problem is that Robinson is rarely healthy. In fact, shoulder problems have limited him to just eight games and 62 tackles over the last two years.

Former defensive lineman Marcus Whitfield will get his first good shot to start on a full-time basis at the other outside position. Yeah, he started a pair of games last year, and made nine stops, but his experience on the field has been limited.

If Robinson’s labrum acts up, the coaching staff won’t hesitate to tap junior Alex Twine on the shoulder. In fact, he started the first five games of 2012, collecting 18 tackles and two stops for loss. He’s added weight since arriving, yet hasn’t lost much in terms of range. The staff has also been impressed by the play of junior Yannick Cudjoe-Virgil, a transfer from Seton Hill University. The 6-3, 240-pounder is strong, tough and one of the hardest working players on defense.

Watch Out For .... the health of Robinson’s labrum. The junior is a very talented open-field tackler, but no one will know it if he can’t stay off the trainer’s table. His history of shoulder problems is a major concern, especially for a player whose job description requires him to lower those shoulders and administer punishment.
Strength: Work ethic. The Terrapins will be led this year by a veteran crew that plays to the whistle and brings it every day of the week. This set of linebackers is tireless and blue-collar, a mindset that’s going to rub off on the younger players fighting for snaps.
Weakness: A leading man. Yeah, there are some hard-working defenders in this group, but no one who’ll stand out the way Tate, Demetrius Hartsfield and Darin Drakeford did over the last couple of years. The reality is that the Terps don’t do any one thing particularly great from the second level.
Outlook: Steady will work Boston College and Connecticut. However, it has a habit of getting exposed by the likes of Florida State and Clemson. Maryland is fortunate to not be rebuilding in the traditional sense, since all of the starters will be upperclassmen. But it doesn’t mean that the linebackers will be able to dictate the tone of games in 2013.
Rating: 6

Secondary

Repeating last season’s better-than-expected results in pass defense will be made possible by the returns of a swath of key contributors, like 5-11, 190-pound CB Dexter McDougle. The senior was Maryland’s most active defensive back in 2012, making 71 tackles and five pass breakups. He’s had a penchant for being around the ball a lot over the past two seasons, the product of good athleticism and even better ball skills. In the eyes of the staff, McDougle is like all of the Terps defensive backs; he’s had moments during his career, but now needs to step up his game in his final year.

The defense is fortunate to have another returning starter at the other cornerback spot, 6-0, 190-pound junior Jeremiah Johnson. He impressed in his first year on the job, making 43 tackles, five stops for loss, 1.5 sacks and a team-high eight pass breakups. He has great speed, soft hips and an insatiable desire to become a more complete cover guy.

Sophomore Anthony Nixon is well on his way to sealing up one of the safety jobs. As a rookie from Pittsburgh, he was highly active in the secondary, starting five games and making 41 tackles and his first pick. The 6-1, 205-pounder has good instincts and the size-speed combination to contribute in myriad ways out of the defensive backfield.

There’s far less certainty at the other safety spot, where 6-1, 185-pound sophomore Sean Davis and 6-1, 200-pound junior A.J. Hendy will continue their duel for snaps in the summer. Davis had 13 tackles off the bench, and is the slightly more explosive athlete. Hendy is a former blue-chip recruit, with excellent fundamentals. He’s trying to rebound from an injury-marred campaign in which he was limited to four tackles in eight games.

Senior Isaac Goins started a game at cornerback and a game at safety in his debut out of Contra Costa (Calif.) College. This fall, the versatile 6-0, 185-pounder is expected to be the first corner off the bench. After making 11 tackles and breaking up three passes, he has a better feel for the speed and physicality of ACC football.

Watch Out For .... the outcome of the safety competition between Hendy and Davis. It’s a tight one, too close for the coaches to call. They both bring something a little different to the field, which means there’s a good chance that both will get a lot of opportunities for reps in 2013.
Strength: The cornerbacks. Too many breakdowns a year ago? You bet. But the Terrapins do boast a couple of returning starters at corner, both of whom might be on the lip of the All-ACC cup. With even modest improvement in coverage, Maryland will be the envy of half of the programs in the conference.
Weakness: Ball skills. The Terps ranked 118th nationally, with only four interceptions, including two over the final 10 games. The defensive backfield lacked big plays and key stops throughout the 2012 season, consistently getting burned by some of the league’s better passers.
Outlook: The secondary will arguably be the defense’s strongest unit, but that doesn’t mean a whole lot. Sure, there’s potential, especially at cornerback, but there’s also the past that needs to be reckon with. As a whole, the 2012 pass defense numbers look okay. But against Geno Smith, Mike Glennon, Tajh Boyd, EJ Manuel and Bryn Renner, this is still the group that yielded 16 touchdown passes and picked off just one.
Rating: 7

Special Teams

After using a pair of rookie specialists in 2012, Maryland is rooting for more consistency on special teams in 2013. Sophomore Brad Craddock took over for injured Nick Ferrara, hitting 10-of-16 field goals, including a 52-yarder. The Australian native, with the strong leg, needs to stop hooking so many of his kicks.

Craddock can punt as well. But the job will likely go to sophomore Nathan Renfro. The highly-regarded recruit out of Tennessee averaged just 39.7 yards per punt, and needs to perform on a more consistent basis this fall.

The return game figures to be in the hands of sophomore Stefon Diggs, junior Deon Long and rookie William Likely. Diggs was dynamic in the return game last fall, averaging more than 10 yards on punts and taking back two kickoffs for touchdowns.

Watch Out For… Craddock to be more comfortable in his role. He’s relatively new to the sport, so last season’s experience is sure to help. Plus, he spent time in the offseason working with former Baltimore Ravens PK Matt Stover. And if Craddock fails to make progress, the Terps will consider using sophomore Brendan Magistro on chip shots.
Strength: Diggs. He’s Maryland’s best offense player … and its best special-teamer as well. The sophomore is just a dynamic all-around athlete, which is abundantly evident whenever he travels into open space. Diggs is too quick and too fast for most special teams defenders.
Weakness: Punting. Renfro needs to deliver more consistently for the Terrapins in order to positively impact field position in 2013. Not only did he average less than 40 yards an attempt, but so-so hang time led to a No. 95 national ranking punt return yardage defense.
Outlook: The special teams unit went young in 2012, and should be better for it this season. The key components, Craddock, Renfro and Diggs, all performed as freshmen a year ago. Diggs will be one of the ACC’s top return men, while Craddock is poised to build upon last fall’s erratic performance as the placekicker. Renfro holds the key to how high the group might scale this year.
Rating: 6.5
 
- 2013 Maryland Preview | 2013 Maryland Offense
- 2013 Maryland Defense | 2013 Maryland Depth Chart