We have discovered an image of defensive line coach Dave Sollazzo not screaming. I think this is a first. Hopefully, there'll be a lot more of these if all the position battles turn out right. Image via farm4.static.flickr.com
After overviewing the tight end battle, the next logical step would be the wasteland that is Maryland's offensive line. But quite frankly, that group is such a cluster (you can guess the next word) that it would be an extraordinarily strong effort just to make a little bit of headway in figuring out frontrunners, challengers, and the like.
Instead, how about the defensive line? It wasn't much better than the disaster on the other side of the line, but there's a plethora of talent along the DL. While most positions are pretty firmly locked down, there's one legitimate battle (NT) and one possible one (anchor). While other people will factor into all the races and even at other positions - like Isaiah Ross and Carl Russell - there are four major players in the two battles. We're here to break them down.
The Transplant: De'Onte Arnett
Arnett came in last year as a highly touted freshman defensive end. He was well-known for his quickness and size, which was on the big side for a DE. I always thought he was kind of like a Richard Seymour.
But Don Brown likes speed. While Arnett's speed was decent at DE, it's phenomenal at defensive tackle, and his size allows him to make the transition. He's very talented and is extremely athletic for DT, even if he will be slightly undersized at 6-4, 275. Because he redshirted last year, experience may be a factor. His biggest concern has to do with his size and strength, because while it was great for DE, it could be a limiting factor at DT.
Odds: Arnett fits the attacking, fast style of Don Brown very well. Because he can get to the passer, Brown will probably want him in the majority of the time, bringing in Kerr in run situations. But he needs to prove that he can not get overrun by stronger offensive guards and centers on running plays, because that would throw a wrench in the plans.
The Big One: Zach Kerr
Kerr's the opposite of Arnett, a gargantuan man that stands 6-2, 320. He's a space-eater at its best, and has surprising quickness for his size. He started from day one last year as a true freshman, but was rather average in his time; he wasn't spectacular for a freshman, but he certainly wasn't disappointing, either. Of course, that probably has a lot to do with his surrounding players, which were below-average for the most part.
He might not get to the QB like Arnett can, but he can play a Haynesworth role, eating up two or so blockers, freeing the rest of the defensive line to go one on one. When other blitzers start to join that group - say, Adrian Moten - the mismatch becomes clear.
Odds: Even though Kerr has his strengths, I personally like everyone being able to reach the QB. Brown seems to be mimicking Miami by moving players to one position up the food chart - safeties to linebackers, linebackers to defensive ends - so my guess is that he'd prefer Arnett there. But Kerr would certainly be in on running situations, and what happens if Arnett proves he's not strong enough to play well against the rush? Kerr would come in full-time.
The Frontrunner: Justin Anderson
Anderson was a surprise redshirt burn last year, but he was pretty good when he played. He saw time all across the line, but was concentrated at DT. He now moves outside to anchor, a sort of DE/DT hybrid, which is a good place for him.
Last year, his only negative was his size and strength - at 250, he was pretty small for a DT. The hope is that the combination of the move out a spot and some more added weight (up to 265) will be enough for him to be a consistent starter. Hopefully the added weight didn't take away any of his agility.
Odds: Honestly, this isn't much of a position battle, as long as Anderson can make the transition to the outside well-enough. He has a sizable lead; he just needs to maintain it by proving that anchor really is the right place for him.
The Academic: Masengo Kabongo
Kabongo is well-known for his smarts, speaking four languages and maintaining a 3.5 GPA in a language he isn't native to. His intelligence crosses over to the football field, making him one of the headiest players on the team. He's also one of the more athletic players, with a solid combination of size and speed. Why, then, hasn't he seen the field more? After all, he was a well-known commodity coming into College Park, as he was highly recruited (Florida was on his list, I believe).
Part of it has to do with the fact that nailing a position down for Kabongo - who is a little undersized at DT but not quite quick enough for DE - has been difficult. He's bounced around from DT to NT to DE, and he's hoping that anchor will be a nice little home. He's athletic and smart enough to succeed somewhere - he just needs to find out where.
Odds: He's a bit of a wildcard, because he hasn't seen the field a ton. All the reports out of HS said he has a lot of talent, and I haven't heard anything contrary from anyone since he's been on campus. I'm just waiting for him to start showing it. Because Anderson played a pretty decent amount last year, even more than Kabongo, he has the lead, but Anderson needs to show he can do well at anchor. Otherwise, Kabongo will get a chance. However, he's no more proven at anchor than Anderson is.