2010 Maryland Preview – Defense
Maryland LB Alex Wujciak
CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Maryland Terrapin Defense
Preview 2010 - Defense
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What You Need To Know: Second-year coordinator Don Brown is no less determined to create havoc on defense than when he arrived from UMass in 2009. It comes with a price, however. Although he has one of the best sets of linebackers you never heard of, unleashing Alex Wujciak, Adrian Moten, and Demetrius Hartsfield also means further exposing one of the ACC's worst pass defenses. Ideally, the Terps can get some pressure the old-fashioned way, from defensive linemen, but there isn't an end or a tackle on the roster, who had more than one sack a year ago. With obvious holes on the first and last lines of defense, the Terps lean on those linebackers more than ever, especially Wujciak, an All-America candidate.
Star of the defense: Senior LB Alex Wujciak
Tackles: Alex Wujciak, 131
Sacks: Adrian Moten, 6
Interceptions: Cameron Chism, 4
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior CB Trenton Hughes or redshirt freshman Dexter McDougle
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LB Demetrius Hartsfield
Best pro prospect: Wujciak
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Wujciak, 2) Senior LB Adrian Moten, 3) Junior CB Cameron Chism
Strength of the defense: The linebackers, team speed, safeties
Weakness of the defense: Edge pressure, inconsistency in run and pass defense, creating turnovers
Projected Starters: For the second straight year, the Terrapins are being to forced a bunch of veterans to graduation. In the aftermath are a slew of young players looking to make names for themselves. One who already has is 6-4, 295-pound sophomore NT A.J. Francis, an impressive starter and Freshman All-American in his first season. A top recruit from the 2008 class, he played like it, making 31 tackles and generally doing a nice job of holding at the point of attack and sealing off running lanes.
Who'll line up next to Francis at tackle is one of the defense's great unknowns. Over the spring, a battle was waged between 6-2, 320-pound sophomore Zach Kerr and 6-4, 275-pound redshirt freshman De'Onte Arnett. Two very different interior linemen, Kerr is more of a prototypical space-eater, while Arnett has the athleticism to shoot the gap and make plays behind the line, a good fit in this defense. Both will factor heavily into the rotation.
The veteran on the outside will be 6-4, 245-pound junior Derek Drummond, who has lettered as a backup in each of the last two seasons. A backup throughout 2009, he made 16 tackles, needing the consistent reps to show off his closing speed and acceleration coming around the edge. He has an opportunity to ignite a pass rush that sorely needs it.
The early favorite to start at anchor, or strongside end, is 6-5 and 265-pound sophomore Justin Anderson. He made a few appearances in six games toward the end of his rookie campaign, making three stops and showing glimpses of a bright future. He's added muscle since arriving, yet still has the quickness needed to generate backfield pressure.
Projected Top Reserves: Since arriving as a ballyhooed recruit, 6-2, 255-pound senior Drew Gloster has been a major disappointment in College Park, making just six tackles last year. He has one final shot to contribute, moving from linebacker to defensive end in the hopes that his raw athletic ability can be translated into sacks.
On the inside, 6-6, 275-pound sophomore Carl Russell, but now he needs to get healthy and climb back into the rotation after sitting out the spring with a shoulder injury. He has the desired blend of strength and agility for a defensive tackle, picking up eight tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and a sack as a reserve in 2009.
Watch Out For .... the results of the competition at defensive tackle. While Francis is set at the nose, the competition to line up next to him may drag on deep into the summer. Kerr and Arnett bring very different skill sets to the mix, and even 6-2, 285-pound sophomore Joe Vellano can't be ruled out at this early stage.
Strength: The nose. In Francis, the Terrapins have a fixture over center, who'll earn all-star recognition before he's through. He put down a nice foundation last fall, which will benefit the run defense for the next three seasons.
Weakness: The pass rush. Uhhh, which of these unproven linemen is going to get to the quarterback on a steady basis? There isn't a single returning end or tackle, who had more than one sack last fall, and no one on the outside is going to make opposing tackles quake in their cleats.
Outlook: It'll once again be a long year for the Maryland defensive line, marked by growing pains and lost battles in the trenches. Francis has the ceiling of a star, but he's just a single second-year player and doesn't have a ton of talent around him. If the Terps want to dial up pressure, they'll often have to turn loose one of the linebackers on a blitz.
Projected Starters: For those Terrapin fans looking for something to cheer about, feast your eyes on the linebackers. They represent the strength of the entire program. The headliner in the middle will once again be 6-3, 245-pound senior Alex Wujciak, a first team All-ACC performer, with All-America potential. For the second straight year, he led the team with 131 tackles, adding 8.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions, and two forced fumbles. First to the ball, he has tremendous instincts to go along with the range and size to be a force in run defense.
Back at strongside is 6-2, 230-pound senior Adrian Moten, who, like Wujciak, held off on the NFL after testing his value with the league's advisory committee. One of the program's best pass rushers and a great fit in Don Brown's aggressive system, he racked up 68 tackles, nine tackles for loss, and a team-high six sacks. He's always had a nose for the backfield and the closing speed to track down helpless quarterbacks.
Until a broken wrist impeded his progress, 6-2, 235-pound sophomore Demetrius Hartsfield was having a breakout first season at weakside, Even after missing a couple games and being limited in two others, he still wound up with 64 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks. An explosive defender, with a sudden first step, he's the prototype for a Maryland outside linebacker, playing with ideal burst and intensity.
Projected Top Reserves: After Hartsfield was injured, 6-2, 230-pound junior Ben Pooler moved into the lineup for five games and hardly skipped a beat. Not only did he gain a chunk of valuable experience, but he also made 43 stops, 6.5 tackles for loss, and three sacks. After struggling with knee injuries early in his career, he showed what he could when healthy and given an opportunity.
Sophomore Darin Drakeford must complete one more season of his apprenticeship before replacing Moten at strongside in 2011. A read-and-react defender, with excellent burst and sideline-to-sideline speed, he made 18 tackles and a stop for loss as a 12-game backup and special teamer in 2009.
Watch Out For .... frequent blitzing. Brown likes to bring the heat from every possible angle, and has access to one of the ACC's best collection of linebackers. Ideally, he'd be able to turn these guys loose judiciously, but the lack of a traditional rush up front could negate a conservative approach.
Strength: Range. Ever since Ralph Friedgen came on board a decade ago, Maryland has had a penchant for being a magnet for the kind of linebackers who can make plays all over the field. With Wujciak, Moten, and Hartsfield on the field at the same time, it'll be difficult for backs to get beyond the second line of defense.
Weakness: Injuries. Health problems are about the only things capable of derailing this deep group of linebackers in 2010. Wujciak and Pooler have had knee problems in the past, and Hartsfield missed a chunk of time last fall. The Terps will try to avoid offseason contact for Wujciak, who's dished out a lot of punishment over the last two seasons.
Outlook: When all else fails, you can always count on Maryland to cobble together a solid corps of linebackers. This season will certainly be no different. Wujciak is a legitimate Butkus Award contender, and Moten and Hartsfield will be downright disruptive from the outside positions. Together, they'll make a bunch of big plays and keep the Terps in certain games this fall.
Projected Starters: The Terps had little success defending the pass in 2009. Creating a new trend will require a team effort and some former backups to step up and thrive as regulars. The top returner is 5-10, 190-pound CB Cameron Chism, who played well after Nolan Carroll was injured, making 66 tackles and a team-high four interceptions. He has good ball skills and enough speed and fundamentals to be the program's version of a shutdown corner for the next two seasons.
The other corner position, however, is going to be a complete toss-up that may not be decided until the summer. On experience alone, 5-11, 185-pound junior Trenton Hughes will have an edge, courtesy of last season's first letter and 11 tackles in a dozen games. He has the jets to play catch-up on a broken play, but isn't nearly as physical as his competitors.
Maryland has a pretty good feel for this year's starting safeties. At strong safety, 6-1, 210-pound senior Antwine Perez may never reach the bar that was set when he signed with USC, but he does have a lot of experience and physical attributes. A letterman and spot starter the last two years, he had a career-best 45 tackles, flashing the speed and whopping hits that still have NFL scouts sniffing around the campus.
At 6-4 and 220 pounds, junior Kenny Tate looks an awful lot like a linebacker, but will still cover ground like a defensive back. A one-time wide receiver, he's finally getting accustomed to this side of the ball, starting four games at free safety and making 47 tackles and 3.5 tackles loss last year. Still, he's prone to getting burned in man situations, and has some fine-tuning to do with his coverages.
Projected Top Reserves: Going toe-to-toe with Hughes throughout the offseason for the cornerback opening will be 5-10, 200-pound redshirt freshman Dexter McDougle. Despite being behind in terms of experience, he has just enough confidence and explosiveness to hang with the older competitors.
Very quietly, Maryland did a nice job of bolstering its depth at safety for the future, turning loose sophomore Eric Franklin over the final five games of his rookie year. He made four tackles, but more important, got a better read on the speed of the game. At 6-2 and 205 pounds, he's a physical tackler and one of the brighter young defensive players.
Watch Out For .... the staff to experiment with position changes right up until the start of the season. A handful of the defensive backs are interchangeable between corner and safety, giving assistant Kevin Lempa a lot of latitude on how he uses them and where they stack up on the depth chart.
Strength: The safeties. Yeah, they're a little raw and vulnerable in pass coverage, but Tate, Perez, and Franklin are going to light up their share of unsuspecting receivers this fall. All three have terrific size and an appetite for supporting the run and delivering knockout blows.
Weakness: Red zone defense. For the second season in-a-row, the Terps yielded twice as many touchdown passes as interceptions, a key reason why they were 105th nationally in pass efficiency D. In a league not known for its stellar quarterback, Maryland got burned for 21 scoring strikes and more than 13 yards a completion.
Outlook: Regardless of what happens in the offseason, the Terrapins will remain susceptible through the air. How bad things become will depend on the development of the young corners and the ability of the snot-knocking safeties to do more than just lower the boom. Maryland doesn't face a dangerous passer until October, which gives it time to sort out the mess.
Projected Starters: The Terps remain intact on special teams, one of the few areas allowing the coaches to exhale. Senior P Travis Baltz is a three-year starter and a former All-ACC first team selection in 2008. More of a precision punter than a boomer, he averaged 40.7 and exhibited great hang time in an injury-shortened junior year.
When Baltz went down, sophomore Nick Ferrara stepped in and did a credible job as the emergency punter. He's also the team's regular placekicker, making 18-of-25 field goal and all 26 of his extra point attempts. He has good size and leg drive, connecting on a 50-yarder against Wake Forest.
With All-ACC junior Torrey Smith back to handle kickoffs and junior Tony Logan fielding punts, the Terrapins have a pair of potential gamebreakers in the return game.
Watch Out For… Baltz to regain his sophomore form. Last year was a mess, dealing with an ankle injury and surgery on his finger. Not only did Maryland lose its punter, but it also lost its holder on kicks. He'll be at full-strength before long and ready to relocate that confidence and pop in his leg.
Strength: Kickoff returns. With a ball in his hands, Smith becomes a special athlete, capable of zipping through a seam and never looking back. In two seasons, he's averaged almost 26 yards a return and taken three back for touchdowns.
Weakness: Punts returns. As good as Maryland was on kickoff returns, it was equally impotent on punt returns, averaging just six yards and ranking 100th in the country. It's time for Logan to turn that speed and acceleration into improved field position.
Outlook: Now that Baltz is healthy again, Ferrara has solved the problems in the kicking game, and Smith is back, Maryland has the ingredients for one of the ACC's tightest special teams units. On a team with so many question marks on offense and defense, this unit is poised to assist both throughout the year.
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2010 Maryland Defense |
Maryland Depth Chart
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