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2007 Maryland Preview - Defense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Apr 12, 2007


Preview 2007 Maryland Terrapins Defense

Maryland Terrapins

Preview 2007 - Defense

- 2007 Maryland Preview | 2007 Maryland Offense Preview
-
2007 Maryland Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Maryland Preview 

What you need to know: The defense didn't exactly work last season, but it didn't seem to matter. No one stopped the run, the secondary was average, there weren't enough takeaways, and the 3-4 that was supposed to generate a serious pass rush wasn't even close. The Terps still won nine games helped be the defense coming through when it absolutely had to. This year's group won't be so fortunate and has to be better. The defensive line should be better with end Jeremy Navarre and tackle Dre Moore good enough to hope for All-ACC honors. Erin Henderson leads an athletic linebacking corps that needs experience, but should be good in time. The secondary is a concern, especially the corners hoping for Isaiah Gardner to become a shut-down defender after returning from a shoulder injury.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Erin Henderson, 114
Sacks: Dre Moore, Jeremy Navarre, 3.5
Interceptions: Erin Henderson, J.J. Justice, 2

Star of the defense: Junior LB Erin Henderson
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior CB Kevin Barnes
Unsung star on the rise: Junior LB Dave Philistin
Best pro prospect: Senior DT Dre Moore
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Henderson, 2) Moore, 3) DE Jeremy Navarre
Strength of the defense: Defensive tackle, athleticism in the back eight
Weakness of the defense:
Proven pass rush, second corner

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: The front line is loaded with experience, now it has to be better. Junior Jeremy Navarre has the talent to become one of the ACC's better pass rushers, but he has to be more consistent and has to actually get to the quarterback after only registering 3.5 sacks to go along with 47 tackles and 9.5 tackles for loss. At 262 pounds, he has the size, he has the quickness, and he has the experience with 22 starts over the last two seasons. Now the former fullback has to put it all together.

The rock in the middle is Dre Moore, a 6-4, 311-pound junior who's one of the strongest players in Maryland history. While he's best against the run with 47 tackles last season, he can also get into the backfield cranking out 3.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss. With his size, strength and speed, he has all the measurables to make NFL scouts drool.

On the nose is 6-5, 307-pound junior Carlos Feliciano, a good spot starter over the last two seasons who actually played ahead of Moore late last year. While he won't get into the backfield, he can hold his own against the run.

Projected Top Reserves: 290-pound senior Omarr Savage has hit the weights big time over the last two years and should be solid inside behind Moore. It's taken him four years to be a technically sound defender, but now he's good enough to start if needed. He only made three tackles after missing most of last year hurt.

315-pound sophomore Travis Ivey is the team's biggest player up front and has all the skills to be a star with the quickness to be a defensive end and the size to be run clogger inside. He's a natural interior pass rusher who'll start to make his presence felt behind Feliciano. All he's missing is playing time.

Junior Mack Frost is one of the best athletes up front with excellent speed and quickness, but he hasn't done much despite playing in every game last season making just eight tackles.

Watch Out For ... Navarre to start to get into the backfield. The junior has too much talent to not be a dominant pass rusher on an every game basis.
Strength: Tackle size. The Terp tackles certainly look the part. They're big, fast, and good. Now they need to be difference makers and do far more against the run after getting pushed around way too often.
Weakness: Proven pass rush. The overall quickness is there, but the production isn't. The Terp scheme lets the linebackers make most of the big plays while the line is supposed to hold up at the point of attack, but it didn't work finishing 11th in the league in both sacks and tackles for loss.
Outlook: It's all there to have the best line Maryland has had in several seasons, but the backups have to show they can play and the starters have to start doing something to show they're not just combine guys. All three starters have to start making more big plays, but most importantly, they have to handle themselves against the bigger, more physical lines.
Rating: 7

Linebackers

Projected Starters: The linebacking corps might not have much in the way of experience, but it has an all-star in junior Erin Henderson to work around. A tackling machine on the weakside, the 236-pound junior bulked up and bounced back after missing all of 2005 with a knee injury to led the team with 114 stops to so along with three forced fumbles and 6.5 tackles for loss. Extremely strong, he's like a lineman when he's one on one against a ball-carrier.

Also back is junior Trey Covington, a designated pass rusher from the hybrid LEO position. One problem: he didn't rush the passer all that well. He has the speed, the strength, and the experience to be a disruptive force, but he only made 41 tackles and 1.5 sacks last season getting blocked way too easily.

In the middle taking over for do-it-all Wesley Jefferson, who took off a year early to go be a cop, is 234-pound junior Chase Bullock. He hasn't been able to see too much time behind Jefferson, but now he's ready to be the next great Terp middle man. While he hasn't cemented the job quite yet, he has played the role well in practices.

231-pound junior Dave Philistin will replace David Holloway on the strongside after making 26 tackles and 5.5 tackles for loss. On a team full of athletic linebackers, he's special with cornerback speed and a 40.5 inch vertical. Don't be shocked if he quietly becomes the most productive linebacker of the bunch.

Projected Top Reserves: While junior Moise Fokou might not be the team's best linebacker, he's the most versatile able to play anywhere inside or out. He was a quality reserve making 21 tackles, and now he'll back up Henderson on the weakside. A bit light at 216 pounds, he makes up for it with his blazing speed.

Redshirt freshman Alex Wujciak is being given every opportunity to win the job in the middle. One of the team's top defensive recruits to years ago, he's a good athlete with the potential to be a steady starter if he can beat out Bullock.

Redshirt freshmen Adrian Moten and Stephen Hargett will battle it out for the backup job on the strongside. Moten can fly with 4.5 speed, while the 244-pound Hargett is bigger.

Watch Out For ... Philistin to be fantastic. He has the NFL size, speed and talent to become a terror in the backfield. With the Terps looking for help getting to the quarterback, he could turn out to be the most effective pass rusher.
Strength: Overall talent. There's no questioning how good the Terp linebacking corps is. There's plenty of athleticism and NFL skill to go along with good veterans in Henderson and Covington, but ...
Weakness: ... the overall proven production isn't there. Losing Wesley Jefferson and David Holloway hurts mostly because of their experience. Maryland will upgrade the athleticism, but those two were bankable defenders.
Outlook: As good as last year's crew was on paper, it didn't do much to get into the backfield and made far too many tackles five-plus yards down the field. While the overall experience isn't there, the talent level is. This will be a far better group at the end of the year than it will be to start.
Rating: 7

Defensive Backs

Projected Starters: The big concern is over the Boundry corner spot vacated by heart-and-soul star Josh Wilson. Junior Kevin Barnes might not be Wilson, but he has 4.5 speed, great size at 6-1 and 188 pounds, and a little bit of experience making 11 tackles. Mostly a special teamer so far, his ascension into the starting spot might turn out to be the key to the defense.

On the field side is Isaiah Gardner, a tough 5-11, 197-pound senior who has all-star talent with safety-like hitting ability making 63 stops last year. Out from spring ball recovering from shoulder surgery, he has to be a number one corner right off the bat. He can do it with is 4.43 speed and the experience to handle all types of receivers.

6-2, 222-pound junior J.J. Justice will step into the free safety spot after making 21 tackles and two interceptions as a key reserve. While he's built more like a strong safety, he has the range to be a ball-hawk in the full-time role.

He's one of the stronger players in the back seven and hits like a ton of bricks. With Justice getting the start, senior Christian Varner will move from free safety to strong safety. One of the team's most experienced players, he was also among the most active last season with 58 tackles. A big hitter, he's a smart player who finds his way into the right position.  

Projected Top Reserves: With Gardner out this spring, junior Richard Taylor got all the main reps on the other side of Barnes. Mostly a special teamer so far, he's seen just enough time at corner, making six stops last year, to step in on either side if needed.

Sophomore Terrell Skinner will be one of the first players in the rotation at free safety, but the 214-pounder can play either safety spot. He started out his career as a wide receiver, but quickly moved over to use his size and athleticism as a defensive back prospect.

A key backup will be junior Jeff Allen, a career special teamer who made 12 tackles and recovered two fumbles in limited action in the secondary. Playing behind Varner, he's good at getting to the ball and delivering the big hit. The coaching staff really likes his potential.

Another rising prospect is sophomore Anthony Wiseman, a smallish 5-9, 197-pound corner with the speed to become a terror behind Taylor and Gardner.

Watch Out For ... the team's best defensive backs to not emerge until midseason. Sure, the projected starters will be fine, but look out for players like Skinner, Allen and Wiseman to quickly grow into playmakers. It's not going to happen right away, but there might be competition for jobs well into October.
Strength: Big hitting safeties. Losing Wimbush is tough, but putting in Justice is like having a linebacker in the secondary while Varner flies all over the place. These two will deliver more than their share of pops.
Weakness: Sure-thing second corner. Watch the panic ensure if Gardner's shoulder isn't quite ready to start the year. Barnes and Taylor are fine and should be able to hold their own, but the coaching staff would like the security of Gardner to be the main man for a little while.
Outlook: The whole will be better than the sum of the parts. It might take a little while, but the production will be there by the end of the year. As long as the corners come through with decent years, the corners will do their jobs intimidating receivers across the middle and helping out in run support. More interceptions would be nice after Maryland picked off just eight passes.
Rating: 7

Special Teams

Projected Starters: Talk about filling some big shoes, junior Chris Roberts takes over for two-time Ray Guy semifinalist Adam Podlesh, who averaged 43.1 yards per kick and dropped 21 inside the 20. Roberts and star recruit Travis Baltz will battle for the starting job with a premium placed on consistency. Each has a huge leg, but being able to pin the ball deep will be what wins the gig for one of them. Also gone is Dan Ennis, who had a nice year hitting 20 of 25 field goals. Junior Obi Egekeze is a big kicker with a great deep leg, but he has yet to try a field goal in a game and has to prove he can connect consistently from 40 yards and in.

Danny Oquendo
is back as the main punt returner after a pedestrian year averaging 8.4 yards per try. He has the speed to do far more. Da'Rel Scott will get the first shot to replace Josh Wilson as the main kick returner, but it'll be asking a lot to match the 27.3 yard average.

Watch Out For ... Egekeze. It's not too dramatic to suggest he might be the key to the season considering Maryland played in six games decided by four points or fewer. He'll hit more bombs than Ennis did, but he likely won't be as good from close range.
Strength: Speed in the return game. As long as Oquendo and Scott get a little bit of room, they'll be gone. There's no excuse for these two not to break off several big plays.
Weakness: Experience. Can Egekeze hit when the pressure's on? Will the coaching staff really rely on a true freshman to handle the punting? There's a big, big drop off when you lose kickers like Ennis and Podlesh.
Outlook: No, the special teams won't be as good as last year, but there's room for improvement in the coverage units and from Oquendo. The kickers don't have to be stars right away, just steady. Roberts and Egekeze can't be liabilities or the team's promising season could quickly change. In the end, Egekeze will be fine, he almost won the job last year, so the main focus will be on the punters early on.
Rating:
6

  

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