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Season Preview - Defense

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This is a continuation of a season preview started earlier this week. Check out the offensive preview.

Maryland’s defense, I must say before I begin, is one of college football’s most convoluted schemes out there. And that’s all because of one position. I don’t know any other school that uses it, and would actually be surprised to find any. This position is the LEO.

The LEO is a weird combination of an outside linebacker and DE. Some plays he stands up, others he goes down, sometimes he’ll start up and go down. When he’s up, he plays right on the ball, not back, like a linebacker. It really makes no sense, and it appears it’s starting to be phased out – thank god. But for now, it’s still here. There’s a problem with the LEO, though. When he’s up, there’d be only two linemen. But, when he’s down, they like going to a 3-4 style. So on an up play, they sometimes bring another lineman in. That means there’s a DT and a nose tackle on some plays. It confuses me, and I’ve followed this position from the beginning, so this explanation probably doesn’t make any sense. In a short sense, the DLs and LBs have to be very flexible, and there’s a decent amount of subbing.

Anyway, let’s take a quick look at what the depth chart appears to be right now:

DE – Mack Frost / Deege Galt

NT – Bemi Otulaja / Dion Armstrong / Dean Muhtadi

DT – Jeremy Navarre / Travis Ivey / Ian Davidson

LEO – Tre Covington / Derek Drummond / Jared Harrell / Ricardo Dacosta

SLB – Adrian Moten / Dominique Herald / Femi Akinwande / Aaron Ball

MLB* - Dave Philistin / Alex Wujciak / Chase Bullock / Alex Schultz

WLB – Moise Fokou / Rick Costa/ Ben Pooler

CB1 – Kevin Barnes / Nolan Carroll / Brandon Jackson-Mills / Michael Carroll

CB2 – Richard Taylor / Anthony Wiseman / Trenton Hughes

FS – Antwine Perez / Terrell Skinner / Jamari McCollough

SS – Kenny Tate / Jeff Allen / Drew Robinson

As with the offensive depth chart, this isn’t anywhere close to rock solid. Kenny Tate may not be first-string (if you’re wondering what the hell he’s doing on defense, check out a post or two lower), and the linebackers and the LEO are crapshoots to an extent. But this a good outline.

Let’s start up front. The defensive line has not been very good the last two years, Jeremy Navarregiving up 4.6 yards per carry in 2007 and 4.1 in 2008. Sacks are also hard to come by. I don’t really expect either number to improve a great deal this year – although Covington returns, Dre Moore is now gone. That’s a huge loss for this team – nothing against Bemi Otulaja, but he doesn’t have the experience (and probably not the talent) of Moore. And Jeremey Navarre, bless his scrappy heart, is ultra-undersized for a DT.  Mack Frost is talented, but inexperienced. The line could be the biggest liability for this team.

 

The linebackers aren’t as bad. Maryland always has a good linebacker. Always. Usually, UMD has more than one. EJ Henderson, D’Qwell Jackson, and Erin Henderson are the most notable, of course. Dave Philistin, and perhaps Alex Wujciak, appear poised to step in this year. Maybe Adrien Moten. Honestly, the linebackers are absolutely loaded this year, nearly as much as the WRs. It helps to compensate for the weak line. Moten is a great pass rusher; he’ll probably lead the team in sacks. Philistin and Wujciak will likely both be tackle machines.

The secondary has nearly as many question marks as the line. Outside of Kevin Barnes, cornerback is one giant conglomerate of moderately talented cover guys. Nolan Carroll, a former WR, Anthony Wiseman, an inexperienced senior, and Richard Taylor, who actually has nothing notable for me to say here, are all Kevin Barnes
competing for a spot. It’ll likely be Taylor, but who really knows? Probably, none will be reliable. It’s going to be a little scary this year.

The safeties aren’t much better. Antwine Perez has gobs of talent, but may not grasp the scheme, while Terrell Skinner has slightly more experience, but less skill. And will Kenny Tate start? Why else move him to safety? It’s not as if Jeff Allen is a stud, though he is decent. Someone’s going to have to stand up and make a name for themselves. Otherwise, we’ll be in a bad spot.

Chris Cosh is the head of this defense, and that likely scares some, if not most of you. Two years ago, Cosh’s first year, the defense was a disaster. Last year, though, there was a slight improvement. Cosh’s scheme is…interesting. It always seems like he’s playing the 3-4 for the first three quarters, until UMD gets a lead, then goes to a prevent defense. As poor as a strategy as that is, sometimes you’ve just got to take it. Hopefully, he finally does away with it.

The offense is ultra-strong this year, at least compared to years past. The defense, sadly, isn’t. But there’s a lot of potential for greatness with the linebackers. Remember, linebackers are the core of a defense. With good linebackers, anything can happen. Let's hope they're good enough to cover up for the rest of defense.

Kevin Barnes photo from WashingtonPost.com