What you need to know ... The
defense wasn't all that bad last season even though it didn't
stop any offense of substance cold. The front line will be the
main focus needing to be better against the run while trying to
come up with some sort of pass rush. Dre Moore has to grow into
a rock on the nose and Jeremy Navarre and star freshman Melvin
Alaeze must shine at end. There will be plenty of formations
moving back and forth from a 3-4 to a 4-3 using the hybrid LEO
position with Trey Covington and Jermaine Lemons needing to
shine. The linebacking corps will be better despite the return
of only one starter, while corner Josh Wilson is the rising star
of a good secondary.
Tackles: Josh Wilson, 73
Interceptions: Christian Varner, 3
Star of the defense: Senior CB Josh Wilson
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior NT
Unsung star on the rise: Freshman DE Melvin Alaeze (if
Best pro prospect: Wilson
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Wilson, 2)
DT Conrad Boiston, 3)
LB Wesley Jefferson
Strength of the defense: Linebacker, pass defense
Weakness of the defense:
Proven pass rush
The line didn't generate nearly enough pressure and got pushed around a
bit too much against the run. With the talent in the linebacking corps,
the Terps will likely play more 3-4 to generate a pass rush from
elsewhere. Dre Moore has to put together a full season and live up to
his all-star talents, while Conrad Bolston needs to keep progressing and
get some help around him. Right now, there's not a sure-thing pass
rusher to count on.
The key to the unit: Find more
athletes and hope a consistent pass rusher emerges.
Defensive Line Rating: 6.5
- DE Jeremy Navarre, Soph. - 25 tackles, 2.5 TFL
Navarre had a fantastic true freshman season after switching over from
fullback. He has to get stronger and could do more against the run, but
the bigger concern is his ability to get into the backfield. The Terps
need more of a pass rusher on the end, and Navarre has to prove he can
do it consistently.
- NT Dre Moore, Jr. - 28 tackles, 1 TFL
He has all the skills and potential to be a monster in the middle, and
now he has to put it all together with a consistent season. he's 6-4,
298 pounds and very quick. He's one of the team's fastest linemen with
the potential to be an all-star, but he has to show he can be strong
from start to finish.
- DT Conrad Bolston, Sr. - 38 tackles, 5 sacks, 5.5 TFL
The team's leading sacker last season with great pass rushing ability on
the inside, the 285-pound junior will be moved around between defensive
tackle and nose tackle when needed. He's not just a pass rusher, he's a
strong run stuffer who'll only get better with improved play around him.
- DE Omarr Savage, Jr. - 9 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL
Savage is overdue to be a producer. He's a
good-sized 6-5 and 262 pounds and has the potential to be strong against
the run. He hasn't shown much as a pass rusher yet but showed a few
flashed late last year.
- NT Carlos Feliciano, Jr.
Neck-and-neck with Drew Moore for the job in the middle, the 307-pound
Feliciano is back after missing almost all of last year. His strength is
against the run.
There are plenty of options and room for flexibility here
highlighted by the hybrid LEO position even though, technically, only
one starter returns and star tackler D'Qwell Jackson is gone. Trey
Covington and Jermaine Lamons will be part outside linebacker and part
defensive end and need to create more havoc in the backfield. Wesley
Jefferson might not be the ideal prospect when it comes to NFL
measurables, but he's turning into a big-time player moving into the
middle. Erin Henderson, brother of former Maryland star E.J., will make
a name for himself this year on the weakside now that he's healthy.
There's little to no experience among the reserves although there's
plenty of great talents.
The key to the unit: Quickly find good backups to
create competition and a rotation at all the positions, and get more of
an outside pass rush.
Linebacker Rating: 7.5
Trey Covington, Soph. - 39 tackles, 3 sacks, 5.5 TFL
Covington has to be the team's star pass rusher. He's a big 6-3 and 241
pounds with good speed on the outside, and now he has to be more of a
dangerous all-around playmaker. He can line up at the end and be used as
a speed rusher in a 4-3.
- Wesley Jefferson, Jr. - 57 tackles, 1 sack, 3 TFL
He's not going to be a top NFL prospect like E.J. Henderson or D'Qwell
Jackson, but he should be a good producer in the middle. He's a great
tackler who's not big, not fast, and he's not all that strong. It
doesn't matter. He's always around the ball and never misses a tackle.
He was one of the team's star recruits a few years ago and will start to
put up numbers to show it.
- Erin Henderson, Soph.
Henderson will finally get a chance to show what he can do after missing
all of last of last year with a knee injury suffered last summer. On the
plus side, he bulked up big-time getting up to 233 pounds to add more
muscle to his 6-3 frame while keeping his speed and range. He's the
younger brother of former Terp superstar, E.J., and has similar skills.
Watch for him to grow into one of the team's leading tacklers.
- David Holloway, Sr. - 61 tackles, 3 sacks, 4.5 TFL, 1
The former walk-on is the only returning starter to the linebacking
corps and is one of the better tacklers. He's has 116 career stops and
turned into one of the better pass rushers as last season went on. He
has grown into a very strong, very reliable playmaker on the strongside.
- Jermaine Lamons, Jr. - 18 tackles
More of a small defensive end than a big linebacker, the 250-pound
junior will play behind Trey Covington at the hybrid LEO position. He's
great against the run and now has to show he can be more of a pass
- Dave Philstin, Soph. - 7 tackles
Mostly a special teamer as a true
freshman, the 218 pounder is fast option behind David Holloway on the
strongside. The plan is for him to get his feet wet and be the starter
- Moises Fokou, Jr.
While only 215 pounds, he's very fast and has the coaching staff raving
that he'll be a key player behind Erin Henderson on the weakside. The
former Frostburg State transfer was one of the stars of the scout team
The secondary didn't give up a ton of yards last season and allowed a
mere four touchdown passes, but it got dinked and dunked on a bit too
much. The biggest change is the move of linebacker coach Tim Banks to
deal with the secondary, and he'll make sure the safeties are always
involved in run support. Marcus Wimbush and Christian Varner will have
to do a little bit of everything and will get pushed hard by J.J.
Justice and Jeff Allen. The safety parts are almost interchangeable, so
expect plenty of movement. Josh Wilson is about to be an ACC star, while
Isaiah Gardner and Kevin Barnes will bring even more speed to the other
The key to the unit: Get steady production out of the
number two corner on the other side of Josh Wilson and figure out which
safeties fit best in the two spots.
Secondary Rating: 7.5
- CB Josh Wilson, Sr. - 73 tackles, 2 sacks, 3.5 TFL, 1
interception, 8 broken up passes
One of the ACC's top corners, the senior has excellent speed and
emerging cover skills to go along with a safety-like tackling ability.
At only 5-10 and 182 pounds, he still turned into one of the team's
better tacklers finishing fourth, and he led the way in broken up
passes. With his speed, athleticism and all-around playmaking ability,
the pro scouts will be watching closely.
- SS Marcus Wimbush, Sr. - 20 tackles
A huge hitter who'll finally get his turn at bat, the 205-pound safety
will get the start after mostly being used in nickel packaged last
season. While he's not lightning fast and isn't going to be a top
playmaker against the pass, he'll be a rock against the run.
- FS Christian Varner, Jr. - 36 tackles, 1 TFL, 3 interceptions,
3 broken up passes
Varner grew into the starting job as last season wore on finishing as
the team's leader in interceptions and showing a strong safety-like
hitting ability. He's an intimidator when he has a free shot and always
seems to be in the right spot.
- CB Isaiah Gardner, Jr. - 15 tackles
One of the team's fastest defensive backs and also the most versatile,
the junior will move from safety to cornerback. The former Notre Dame
transfer runs a 4.43 with good range, but he'll be tested from the
opening snap with teams looking to stay away from Josh Wilson.
- FS J.J. Justice, Jr. - 9 tackles
He has all the makings of a big-league safety with good quickness and
excellent size at 6-2 and 217 pounds. Now he has to be more productive
pushing Christian Varner for time at free safety. He could end up at
- SS Jeff Allen, Soph. - 8 tackles
It appears to be just a question of time before Allen is a fixture in
the defensive backfield. He's a talented strong safety who'll also be a
key special teamer. He has the range of a free safety and should be
strong in run support.
- CB Kevin Barnes, Soph. - 4 tackles
Very fast but very raw, Barnes runs a 4.45 and has the overall
measureables to be a top corner. He'll have to learn behind Josh Wilson
on the field side and has to show he can be a consistent tackler.
The kicking game will be among the best in the country with
Adam Podlesh sure to be on every preseason All-America list and Dan
Ennis a reliable midrange placekicker. There might be a battle to find
someone to be better from deeper distances if Ennis doesn't start out
hot. Josh Wilson will take over the kickoff return duties while
lightning fast Danny Oquendo will join Terrell Skinner and Christian
Verner returning punts. The punt coverage team has to be far better
after allowing 12.9 yards per return.
The key to the unit: Adam Podlesh has to punt like
Adam Podlesh, Dan Ennis has to kick like the Dan Ennis at the beginning
of last year, and more is needed on punt returns after averaging a mere
5.44 yards per try.
Special Teams Rating: 8
- PK Dan Ennis, Sr. - 17-25 FGs, 23-25 extra points
Ennis did a fantastic job replacing Nick Novak nailing 14 of 17 kicks
inside 40 yards. He doesn't have a big range and he struggled after
hitting his first 11 kicks meaning Obi Egekeze and Chris Roberts will
challenge for the job.
- P Adam Podlesh, Sr. - 44 punts, 1,918 yds, 43.6 yards per kick,
17 inside the 20
Podlesh has been tremendous over the last three seasons averaging 43.2
yards per kick with 60 put inside the 20. He's consistent and can do it
all from deep bombs to putting it away deep.