Maryland Preview 2006 - Defense
Maryland Terrapins
Posted Jul 31, 2006

Maryland Terrapins Preview 2006 - Maryland Defense

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.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Josh Wilson, 73
Sacks: Conrad Bolston, 5
Interceptions: Christian Varner, 3

Star of the defense: Senior CB Josh Wilson
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior NT Dre Moore
Unsung star on the rise: Freshman DE Melvin Alaeze (if eligible)
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

Defensive Line
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

Projected Starters
- 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.

Top Backups
- 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

Projected Starters
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 interception
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.

Top Backups
- 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 rusher.
- 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 next season.
- 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 last season.

Defensive Backs

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 side.
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

Projected Starters
- 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.

Top Backups
- 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 strong safety.
- 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.

Special Teams
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

Projected Starters
- 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.

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