2009 Maryland Preview - Defense
Maryland LB Alex Wujciak
CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Maryland Terrapin Defense
Preview 2009 - Defense
2009 CFN Maryland
2009 Maryland Depth
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What you need
to know: Ralph Friedgen had an interesting
response to the departure of coordinator Chris Cosh,
hiring successful head coach Don Brown away UMass.
He arrives determined to attack at all times,
fostering a culture of blitzing and man-press
coverages. It could be a good marriage at a school,
which always seems to attract high-quality athletes.
The Terps have spent the offseason trying to retool
a defense that’s bringing back just four full-time
starters. The leading man will again be junior
inside linebacker Alex Wujciak, who had a team-high
133 tackles to earn second team All-ACC honors.
Better tackling and tighter coverage in the red zone
are two key priorities that must be addressed before
the opening day trip to Cal.
Tackles: Alex Wujciak, 133
Sacks; Jared Harrell, 2
Interceptions: Jamari McCollough, 4
Star of the defense:
Junior LB Alex Wujciak
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior CB Nolan Carroll
Unsung star on the rise:
Sophomore NT Dion Armstrong
Best pro prospect:
Top three all-star candidates:
1) Wujciak, 2) Senior DT Travis Ivey, 3)
Senior CB Anthony Wiseman
Strength of the defense:
Team speed, first-team linebackers, depth in
Weakness of the defense:
Edge pressure, inconsistency in run and pass
defense, front seven depth
If the rebuilt offensive line once to feel better
about itself, it only has to look to the other side
of the ball. The D-line is in transition as well
after losing six lettermen and three starters to
graduation. At least for now, the front wall will be
erected around 6-4, 325-pound senior
Travis Ivey, easily the most experienced
member of the line. A two-time letterman and
four-game starter a year ago, he had 26 tackles,
four tackles for loss, and a sack. A potential
two-gap run-stuffer, players his size often attract
interest from the NFL.
As long as academic issues don’t get in the way,
6-1, 303-pound sophomore
Armstrong will be next to Ivey at nose tackle.
He worked his way into the starting lineup toward
the end of his first season, playing in all 13 games
and making 22 stops. While not especially big, he
uses his leverage as an advantage, and possesses the
speed and quickness of some ends.
At 6-5 and 265 pounds, senior
looks the part to handle the anchor, or
strongside end, but has yet to put together a
complete season. That could change, however, thanks
to that size and impressive agility for a big man.
He started to scratch the surface of his potential
as a junior, making 17 tackles, five tackles for
loss, and a pair of sacks.
The Terps are hoping that 6-4, 250-pound sophomore
Derek Drummond can use all of his speed and athleticism to be the
team’s most disruptive pass rusher. While he played
in just four games last fall, he shows the
suddenness off the edge to maintain the top billing
he carried into the opening of spring practice.
Projected Top Reserves: Going
toe-to-toe with Drummond at defensive end is 6-1,
275-pound redshirt freshman
Masengo Kabongo, who earned some snaps with the first team in the
spring. A native of the Congo, who speaks four
languages, he turned heads in April with his get-off
and closing speed.
While not ready to win a job at the nose quite yet,
it’s only a matter of time before 6-5, 310-pound
is a key part of the regular rotation. A top
recruit from a year ago, he has the size and
strength to stand up blockers and shut down running
Watch Out For ... it to be a long year
for this unit. Maryland was No. 9 in ACC run defense
a year ago and No. 8 in sacks. After losing so many
players to graduation and relying so heavily on
underclassmen, why should anyone anticipate improved
Strength: The middle of the line. Ivey
and Armstrong should combine to give the Terps a
nice and formidable presence on the interior of the
line. Both players were logging starts by the end of
the year, and should hit the ground running once the
season kicks off.
Weakness: Proven depth. Okay,
so maybe the starting four will exceed expectations,
but what can realistically be counted on form the
second and third units? As it stands today, there
isn’t a single reserve that’s lettered with the
program. That’s a harrowing thought, especially if
the injury bug hits or Armstrong has any lingering
issues with the books.
Even in a best-case scenario, the Terrapins are
going to face growing pains along the defensive
line. There are simply too many issues and too many
unproven players to expect an about-face from last
seasons result. While Ivey has an all-league
ceiling, he’ll be much more effective if a couple of
teammates enjoy much-needed breakout years.
Two starters may be gone, but the lone returner is a
good one. The career of 6-3, 255-pound
Alex Wujciak was shot out of a cannon in
2008. A year after missing the entire season to a
knee injury, he had a team-high 133 tackles and 8.5
tackles for loss, en route to the All-ACC second
team. A high-motor, high-intensity performer, he has
the size, range, and instincts to be one of the
nation’s premier inside linebackers.
After Wujciak, the most experienced linebacker will
be 6-2, 230-pound junior
a two-time letterwinner and the choice at
strongside. Following a sensational rookie year, he
battled a wrist injury and took on more of a
secondary role in 2008, starting just one game and
making 24 tackles. He has tremendous range and
pass-rushing skills, making him a candidate to be
used on blitzes.
The freshest face among the linebackers will be 6-2,
230-pound redshirt freshman
Hartsfield, the frontrunner to start the season
at weakside. An explosive defender, with a quick
first step, he’s the prototypical Terrapin outside
linebacker, playing with outstanding intensity and
athleticism. At his best going north and south, he,
too, will be unleashed on the blitz.
Projected Top Reserves: While Wujciak
recovered from an injury in the spring, 6-3,
took most of the first team snaps at middle
linebacker. A backup tight end and H-back in 2007,
he was ineligible last season and used the spring to
get more comfortable as a defensive player.
The coaching staff is very excited about the future
of 6-0, 225-pound true freshman
Drakeford, who has already taken part in his
first spring camp. He showed the read-and-react
skills and sideline-to-sideline speed that attracted
the Terrapins to him and will help him avoid a
Watch Out For ... frequent blitzing.
New defensive coordinator Dan Brown wants to bring
the pressure, and inherits a set of linebackers that
can get into the backfield in a hurry. Moten and
Hartsfield, in particular, will be used liberally to
augment a suspect pass rush.
Strength: Range. Ever since Ralph
Friedgen came on board, the Terrapins have had a
habit of being a magnet for the kind of linebackers,
who can make plays all over the field. With Wujciak,
Moten, and Hartsfield populating the lineup, this
year’s edition should be no different.
Weakness: Proven depth. After Wujciak
and Moten, Maryland will hold its breath and hope
that the young kids don’t play to their age.
Hartsfield has loads of potential, but he’s just a
second-year freshman, and the second and third units
are loaded with novices at this level.
Outlook: Regardless of the hurdles in
front of them, the Terps have always had a knack for
piecing together a productive corps of linebackers.
With Wujciak carrying the banner and Moten about to
recapture his rookie form, Maryland will be able to
overcome the question marks that exist beyond those
Although two of last year’s starters are gone,
Maryland is well-stocked with returning lettermen
and players with starting experience. Now, they just
have to play much better in pass defense. Senior CB
Wiseman made the most of his first full-time
opportunity, starting every game and making 49
tackles and a team-high 10 pass breakups. While the
5-10, 185-pounder has some of the best wheels on the
team, he still needs to sharpen his cover skills.
Joining Wiseman at corner will be senior
who’s about to benefit from the graduation of Kevin
Barnes. At 6-1 and 202 pounds, he brings the size,
speed, and physicality to the position that’s needed
to press receivers at the line of scrimmage. A good
open field tackler, he started four games a year ago
and made 37 tackles and eight pass breakups.
The veteran among the safeties is 6-3, 214-pound
senior Terrell Skinner, a former wide receiver who can stick like a
linebacker. His size and wingspan are assets in pass
defense, allowing him to blanket bigger tight ends
and climb the tree to bat balls away. He’s made a
nice transition since switching sides of the ball,
starting 11 games and making 63 stops as a junior.
Jamari McCollough is one of the unit’s more
versatile players, showing the ability to play some
corner and safety. He’ll fill the void at strong
safety this fall after starting a pair of games in
2008, and collecting 37 tackles and a team-high four
picks. While a little undersized at 5-11 and 200
pounds, he compensates with his speed and intensity.
Projected Top Reserves: After
getting his feet wet in his first year since
transferring from USC, 6-1, 200-pound junior
is looking to push Skinner before replacing him in
2010. Both big and fast, he began laying a
foundation in 2008 by playing in all 13 games,
starting a pair, and getting in on two dozen
At 6-4 and 225 pounds, sophomore
passes the eye test without exception. Yet
another import from wide receiver, he combines that
exceptional size with exceptional quickness, a blend
that could make him a star by next fall. In his
debut on defense, he had 15 tackles in 13 games,
while making his presence felt on special teams.
At cornerback, 6-0, 185-pound sophomore
has had the type of offseason that could position
him to be the first man off the bench. One of just
four true freshmen to play in 2008, he had eight
tackles in nine games to earn a letter after Barnes
was injured. He has the raw speed and good size to
develop into a pivotal player in the rotation.
Watch Out For ... the corners to play
plenty of man-press coverage. In laymen’s terms,
that simply means that the defensive backs will be
asked to attack at all times, jamming receivers in
order to give linemen an extra second to get
penetration. The days of sitting back in the
secondary are over at Maryland.
Strength: Experience. All four of
the projected starters are seniors, with at least a
couple of letters, a real luxury in the last line of
defense. Plus, there are a handful of upperclassmen
dotting the second and third teams, which allows the
kids, like Tate and Chism, to develop at a
Red zone defense. The Maryland pass efficiency
defense was so poor because it had twice as many
touchdown passes yielded as interceptions. The Terps
were burned 20 times, which tied for last in the
ACC, including a half-dozen in the final two games.
Outlook: Steady, but not spectacular.
While all of those veterans in the two-deep are a
good thing, Maryland remains susceptible against the
better passing attacks. If the pass rush can’t apply
more pressure, shutting down opponents, like Cal and
NC State, will be a tall order.
There’s stability on special teams until the subject
shifts to placekicker. The Terps are auditioning
three unknowns to replace the talented, yet wildly
inconsistent, Obi Egekeze. Sophomore
a transfer from Division II Indiana (Pa.)
began the spring with a slight edge, but have
squandered it due to a lack of consistency.
Mike Barbour showed a little more accuracy in
practice, which was not missed by the coaching
staff. The pair, along with senior
will tee it up again in August in a competition that
could last throughout the summer.
There’s no such uncertainty at punter, where junior
Travis Baltz is set to build on last year’s All-ACC first team
debut. He averaged 41.1 yards and placed 24 punts
inside the 20-yard line, helping Maryland to a No.
21 national ranking in net punting.
Torrey Smith set an ACC record for kick return
yards for a freshman, averaging almost 26 yards,
which was good for No. 3 in the league. He has
game-breaker potential, as does sophomore
the front-runner to try and spark the punt team.
Watch Out For ... how the placekicker
competition plays out. There’s a lot of
hand-wringing going regarding this situation,
especially since the Terps have a habit of playing
in a ton of close games. They need someone to secure
this job and never look back.
Strength: Punt coverage. The
Terps were air-tight in this area a year ago,
largely because of the hang time and directional
kicks of Baltz. Maryland finished No. 6 in the
country, yielding a measly 83 yards all year on 20
Uncertainty at placekicker. It’s the 400-pound
gorilla in the room for special teams coach Charles
Bankins. It wouldn’t be so bad that none of the
competitors have ever attempted a kick at this
level, but not one was originally offered a
scholarship by Maryland either.
Outlook: Because of the presence of
Baltz, Smith, and the coverage teams, Maryland will
contend to be the most complete special teams unit
in the ACC. Achieving that, however, is going to
require one of the three contending kickers to
perform with more consistency than Egekeze did in