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2008 Maryland Preview - Defense
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Posted May 2, 2008 2008 Preview - Maryland Terrapin Defense

Maryland Terrapins

Preview 2008 - Defense

- 2008 CFN Maryland Preview | 2008 Maryland Offense
- 2008 Maryland Defense | 2008 Maryland Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN Maryland Preview | 2006 CFN Maryland Preview 

What you need to know: 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.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Dave Philistin, 124
Sacks: Adrian Moten, Jeremy Navarre, 5.5
Interceptions: Kevin Barnes, 4

Star 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 Moten
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 speed
Weakness of the defense: The defensive line, second corner

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 double digits.         

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 get better.
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.
: 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.
Rating: 6


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 career.            

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 continue.
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 plays.
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.
Rating: 7.5


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 2010.
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 challenge.
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.
: 8

Special Teams

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 playing time.

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 Terrapin defense.
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.
Rating: 7