2008 Maryland Preview - Defense
CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Maryland Terrapin Defense
Preview 2008 - Defense
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What you need
Maryland labored to stop good running teams when
it had tackles Dre Moore and Carlos Feliciano,
and LB Erin Henderson prowling the middle of the
field. Without that reliable trio, the Terps are
going to be in trouble against the likes of
Clemson, Wake Forest, and Virginia Tech. If last
December’s bowl game is a good indicator, Adrian
Moten is about to become the next in a long line
of NFL-caliber linebackers from College Park. He
and Alex Wujciak provide excellent depth to the
defense’s strongest unit. Although CB Kevin
Barnes is on the verge of becoming an All-ACC
defender, he’ll need help in a secondary
breaking in three new starters.
Tackles: Dave Philistin, 124
Moten, Jeremy Navarre, 5.5
Interceptions: Kevin Barnes, 4
of the defense:
Senior LB Dave Philistin
Player who has to step up and become a star:
Junior NT Travis Ivey
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LB Adrian
Best pro prospect: Senior CB Kevin Barnes
Top three all-star candidates: 1)
Philistin, 2) Barnes, 3) Senior LB Moise Fokou
Strength of the defense: The linebackers, team
Weakness of the defense: The defensive line,
Projected Starters: With tackles Dre Moore
and Carlos Feliciano out of eligibility, the big news in
the offseason was the move inside of senior Jeremy
Navarre. A solid three-year starter at defensive
end, he has the strength, quickness, and fundamentals to
overcome being just 6-3 and 270 pounds as an interior
lineman. A former fullback, he has notched 18 career
tackles for loss and nine sacks.
The coaching staff is counting on junior Travis Ivey
to approach his sizable potential and plug the
gaping hole at nose tackle. At 6-4 and 325 pounds, he
has the required girth to clog the middle and occupy
multiple blockers, but has seen very little action over
the last three years. In his defense, he hasn’t been
playing very football for very long, raising hopes that
his best days are ahead of him.
Once he finishes rehabbing a knee injury, senior Mack
Frost is expected to take over at defensive end
after being a reserve over the last three seasons.
Surprisingly quick and explosive for a 6-5, 252-pounder,
he needs to evolve into the type of lineman who
consistently gets a forward push and can apply pressure
to the quarterback.
Back for a third season at LEO, an end/linebacker
hybrid, is 6-3, 240-pound senior Trey Covington.
A durable pass rusher who uses his hands well, he had 43
tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, and a pair of sacks last
season. As the veteran rush end of this unit, it’s
imperative that he gets the sack total a lot closer to
Projected Top Reserves: On the outside,
junior Jared Harrell is poised to make an impact
following a quiet start to his career. At 6-5 and 260
pounds, he has the athleticism and ideal size to blossom
into a steady contributor in the defensive end rotation.
Although he’s sure to get challenged by rookies, such as
redshirt freshmen Dion Armstrong and Ian
Davidson, senior Dean Muhtadi could be the
first tackle off the bench based on experience alone. A
former walk-on who knows the system well, he’ll need to
show he can make stops on running plays in order to earn
a second letter.
At 6-1 and 303 pounds, Armstrong is cat quick, ripping
off a sub-5.0 in the forty and reminding some of an
abridged version of Moore.
Watch Out For ... the Terps to struggle badly
versus teams that can run the ball well. Even when Moore
and Feliciano were around, the Terps still finished 10th
in the ACC against the run. Once the league portion of
the schedule begins, things will get worse before they
Strength: Speed off the edge. Frost,
Covington, and Harrell can all motor like outside
linebackers. Now they have to turn all of that straight
line speed into on-field production.
Weakness: Proven run stoppers. Moving the
270-pound Navarre inside was a testament to his
versatility and a cry for help. While the starters will
be vulnerable, the backups are an even greater concern,
mixing walk-ons with untested freshmen.
Outlook: Unless multiple linemen don’t
follow the script, this will be a sore spot for the
defense throughout the season. The Terrapins lack true
playmakers on the outside and proven run stuffers on the
inside. The program could be in store for a repeat of
last season, when it finished near the bottom of the
conference in sacks and run defense.
Projected Starters: Even as all-star Erin
Henderson is leaving for the NFL, the linebackers should
be a plus. Three players who started games in 2007
return, headed by 6-2, 231-pound senior Dave
Philistin in the middle. Blessed with the instincts
and range to constantly be near the ball, he bloomed a
year ago, making 124 tackles and 6.5 tackles for loss.
He’s the new star of the corps now that Henderson has
taken his game to the Minnesota Vikings.
At strongside, senior Moise Fokou has come out of
nowhere since walking on to the team to become a
productive and disruptive part of the defense. Lightning
fast at 6-2 and 225 pounds, he became a starter a year
ago, making 84 tackles, seven tackles for loss, and two
sacks. He underwent off-season shoulder surgery, but
will be healthy for the start of the season.
The newcomer to the starting lineup is senior Chase
Bullock, a career backup in the middle who’s
shifting to weakside. While not as quick or explosive as
Philistin and Fokou, he has great size at 6-2 and 234
pounds and is the strongest of the linebackers. Back
from nagging ankle injuries that plagued him throughout
2007, he’s ready to deliver the best season of his
Projected Top Reserves: The future at
linebacker can be seen in sophomores Adrian Moten
and Alex Wujciak. While neither is likely to
start, both will be important parts of the defense for
years to come. The 6-2, 221-pound Moten is expected to
back up Fokou, bringing more speed and versatility to
the unit. In a glimpse of things to come, he finished on
a tear in his first season, making 50 tackles, 7.5
tackles for loss, and 5.5 sacks.
Big, strong, and instinctive at 6-3 and 255 pounds,
Wujciak is a prototypical inside linebacker and a
cornerstone of the defense once Philistin graduates. A
high-motor, high-intensity performer, his love for the
game is obvious and infectious. Before injuring his knee
and missing the season, he was slated to be in the
rotation and earn a letter.
Watch Out For ... Moten. Looking an awful lot
like the next in a growing line of great Maryland
linebackers, he’ll be difficult to keep off the field
this fall. If the staff sets out to get the three best
defenders on the field, Bullock better start looking
over his shoulder.
Strength: Talent. Maryland just keeps
cranking out athletic linebackers with NFL futures. And
this year’s squad is no different. While Philistin and
Fokou are fantastic playmakers, Moten and Wujciak
provide hope the trend at the position is going to
Weakness: Weakside. If it takes a player
five years to crack the starting lineup, it’s usually a
sign he has limitations. Bullock has been a good soldier
as a backup and special teamer, but that doesn’t
guarantee he’s ready to move into the lineup and make
Outlook: Although Henderson will be
missed, the Terrapins will still feature a terrific
corps of linebackers capable of making stops behind the
line and batting away balls in pass defense. Philistin
will pile up the tackles in an All-ACC, and Moten and
Wujciak will gradually begin taking on more
responsibility as the season ages.
Projected Starters: Just one starter
returns to a defensive backfield in transition.
Fortunately, he’s a good one. Senior CB Kevin Barnes
is a future NFL draft choice, who’s going to contend
for a spot on the All-ACC team. At 6-1 and 188 pounds,
he has great size for a corner, adequate speed, and
terrific ball skills. In his first season replacing Josh
Wilson at boundary corner, he responded with 65 tackles,
5.5 tackles for loss, four interceptions, and nine
passes broken up.
At the other cornerback spot, 5-10, 185-pound junior
Anthony Wiseman has a narrow edge, but he’ll have to
keep fighting in the summer to maintain that position.
Undersized and prone to injury early in his career, he’s
one of the fastest defensive players, the primary reason
he’s competing for the top job.
The front-runners to be the new safeties are junior
Terrell Skinner and senior Jeff Allen at free
safety and strong safety, respectively. At 6-2 and 214
pounds, he can stick like a linebacker and has the long
wingspan that’ll come in handy when defending passes. A
former wide receiver with solid ball skills, he’s being
counted on to step up his game after making a dozen
tackles as a reserve a year ago.
A career backup and special teams performer, 6-1,
190-pound Allen has his best chance yet to move into the
starting lineup. A big hitter who won’t shy away from
contact, he’s gradually gotten more playing time, making
a personal-best 28 tackles last year.
Projected Top Reserves: The “X” factor in the
defensive backfield is 6-2, 200-pound FS Antwine
Perez, who began his career at USC and sat out last
season to comply with NCAA rules. As expected from a
Trojan recruit, the sophomore is big and fast, and was
coveted by dozens of programs when he was in high
school. Although he’ll start off behind Skinner, he has
way too much upside not to make an impact in his first
season of eligibility.
Junior Nolan Carroll drew even with Wiseman in
the spring in the race to decide who’ll start opposite
Barnes. At 6-1 and 202 pounds, he offers much better
size and a physical presence at the position, yet
sacrifices little in the area of speed. He had 14
tackles as a sophomore, his first season in the
secondary after moving over from wide receiver.
Watch Out For ... the progression of
Perez. He’s a little behind in experience, but his
talent and potential far exceed the rest of the
program’s safeties. With enough development this fall,
he could be the cornerstone of the secondary in 2009 and
Strength: Barnes. He’s the closest thing
to a sure thing that Maryland has in the secondary, and
a player who’s peaking in his development. With his
cover and ball skills, he’s good enough to neutralize
everyone’s No. 1.
Weakness: The other corner. Wiseman and
Carroll impressed in April, but that was April. With
quarterbacks likely to avoid Barnes’ side of the field,
the new starter at field corner is going to be fed a
steady diet of passes until he proves he’s up to the
Outlook: As long as there’s some semblance
of a pass rush, the secondary will survive against a
schedule that doesn’t feature many scary passing
attacks. The Terps are loaded with quality athletes
here, and have experienced upperclassmen littered
throughout the two-deep.
Projected Starters: Unlike a year ago,
Maryland enters this season with some stability on
special teams. Both senior PK Obi Egekeze and
sophomore P Travis Baltz are back after playing
well in their debuts as regulars. Egekeze nailed
17-of-23 field goal attempts, missing just one in ACC
play and showing off above average leg strength.
Considering he was a freshman replacing Ray Guy Award
semifinalist Adam Podlesh, Baltz did about as well as
could be expected, averaging just under 41 yards a punt
and showing good touch. At 6-2 and 200 pounds, he has a
booming leg, and should only get better with more
Sophomore Da’Rel Scott was last year’s primary
kick returner, averaging 21.8 yards on 26 chances, but
could have a reduced role now that he’s competing to be
the feature back. If he’s pulled from special teams,
junior Anthony Wiseman would be the likely
beneficiary of more playing time.
More steady than spectacular, senior Danny Oquendo
returns for his third year as the regular punt
returner. In each of the last two seasons, he has only
averaged a little more than eight yards a return, which
won’t create cries for post-season honors.
Watch Out For ... Baltz to take steps
toward becoming one of the league’s top punters. After
scratching the surface of his potential, he has the leg
strength and hang time to be a major asset for the
Strength: Kickoff coverage. As has often
been the case since Ralph Friedgen arrived, Maryland is
home to solid coverage teams, leading the nation a year
ago by allowing 16.5 yards a return, despite having just
one touchback all year.
Weakness: The return game. The returners
were pedestrian a year ago, rarely popping off big
plays, and they won’t get better if Scott is limited
because of his expanded role on offense.
Outlook: Maryland took a big step on
special teams a year ago, locating a punter and
placekicker it can rely on. With those key positions
being handled by Baltz and Egekeze, respectively, the
next step for new assistant Danny Pearman will be to
find a couple of return men capable of positively
impacting field position.