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Maryland 2016 recruiting class preview: Part 2, defense

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A number of local standouts populate Maryland's target list.

Trevon Diggs, the younger brother of Stefon, is one of Maryland's top targets in the class.
Trevon Diggs, the younger brother of Stefon, is one of Maryland's top targets in the class.
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We looked at Maryland's offensive targets in the 2016 class Monday, the first part of our preview of what could be a loaded haul for the Terrapins. There are a number of high-caliber local prospects with interest in Maryland, and many of them are closely connected friends. Read the piece on the offense if you want the whole run down, but defensive players heavily involved in "the movement" include Trevon Diggs and Keith Simms, so keep an eye out for those names

One of the most important positions in the class for the Terps was the pass-coverage linebacking position SAM, with no clear long term answer emerging at the position. That's where four-star Good Counsel (Md.) linebacker Keandre Jones fits in. The first commitment in the class for the Terrapins, Jones is an excellent pass coverage who likely slots in at SAM but could play WILL as well due to his pass-rushing abilities.

Maryland has one other commitment who could end up on the defensive side of the ball -- DeMatha (Md.) athlete Darryl Turner, who will likely play either wide receiver or safety in College Park. Either position fills a need, but safety is the more pressing one for the Terps so as of now expect him to end up there.

Three of our projected top five needs for Maryland in the class are on the defensive end (again, if you want the full list), go back to the offense section. That would be safety, nose tackle and cornerback -- three vital positions in Maryland's 3-4, and three positions the Terrapins need some help with for the future

Based on Maryland's current roster and information from the 247Sports database, here's what (and who) the staff is probably targeting in the class on defense. For more on the class, check out our offer board and map.

2-3 defensive ends

Maryland's currently projected to have just two defensive ends in 2017 (Adam McLean and Brett Kulka), and will probably be looking to add two strong-side defensive ends and one weak-side. There's plenty of targets in the 2016 class, but none have quite emerged as a likely option yet.

The ideal option is four-star DeMatha (Md.) prospect Shane Simmons, but he's also one of the least likely. Simmons committed to Penn State in July, and while commitments from his high school teammates could stir his interest in the Terrapins, there's been nothing to suggest he'll look elsewhere. While we're talking about prospects already committed elsewhere, St. John's College (D.C.) end Devante Brooks committed to Tennessee in January and could be another name to watch if momentum starts rolling in the direction of the Terps.

Two previously local defensive end prospects moved out of state, severely hampering Maryland's chances with each. Nigerian native Oluwole Betiku received his first offer from Maryland while an unknown prospect at Bishop McNamara (Md.), but has since transferred to California powerhouse Junipero Serra and is now a four-star recruit with offers from USC and UCLA. Former Baltimore prospect Rahshaun Smith, at one time the second-best player in the state, is transferring to the IMG Academy in Florida and holds offers from Florida and Florida State, among others.

The most likely is probably St. John's College (D.C.) recruit Terrell Hall, who holds offers from Ohio State and Penn State, among others. Hall is close with Maryland basketball commit Anthony Cowan and a number of football recruits, and is scheduled to visit College Park later this month.

1-2 nose tackles

With McLean, Oseh Saine and Keiron Howard, Maryland signed three players in the 2015 class who could have an impact at nose tackle down the line. We project McLean to end up at end, but Saine, Howard and Shaw provide the Terps with adequate depth at the position. What they're missing is a true top guy at the position, a space eater who can really fill in for Darius Kilgo. Two such targets are available in the 2016 class, and landing either would be a major coup for the Terps.

The highest ranked of the pair is Paramus Catholic (N.J.) prospect Rashan Gary, rated a five-star recruit and the second-best player in the nation. Remember dream target Byron Cowart from the 2014 class? Gary is even higher rated, is from Maryland's general recruiting area, and has only taken visits to three campuses -- Penn State, Rutgers and Maryland. The Terrapins are still a longshot here (he has offers from Alabama, Ohio State and Notre Dame, among many others), but they've put themselves in good position early.

The other major tackle target is Gilman (Md.) recruit Ellison Jordan, our first listed defensive recruit currently projected to Maryland by the 247Sports Crystal Ball. The 6'0, 255-pound prospect has visited College Park six times, and is also considering Penn State and Virginia Tech, among others.

Another potential option is Bishop McDevitt (Pa.) prospect Anthony Long, who holds offers from the Terps, Pittsburgh and Boston College, among others. If Maryland gets him on campus (and if Penn State doesn't offer), the staff could have a good chance with them.

1 WILL linebacker

As mentioned earlier, Maryland desperately needed a SAM linebacker in this class, but Jones fills that need with flying colors. Yannick Ngakoue and Jesse Aniebonam have the pass-rushing WILL position locked down for the next three years, but adding another player to the position would be ideal.

Luckily, there's a player available who fits that need, has high interest in Maryland and is connected with the movement. Landon (Md.) linebacker Keith Simms has spoken highly of the Terps before, and is a skilled pass rusher who is close with Dwayne Haskins, among other local prospects. Simms holds offers from North Carolina, Iowa and Virginia Tech, among others, but Maryland has to be considered the early favorite.

1-2 inside linebackers

Projected 2015 starters Abner Logan and Jermaine Carter are expected to graduate after the 2016 season, but the Terrapins brought in three inside linebackers in their most recent class, giving them some depth at the position. The top inside linebacker target in the 2016 class is likely four-star athlete Koby Quansah, the top-rated player in the state of Connecticut. Randy Edsall still has connections in the state from his days at UConn, and Quansah is considering Maryland along with Boston College and Rutgers, among others.

The other option at inside linebacker emerged more recently, as Maryland offered Fort Pierce Central (Fla.) prospect Greg Simmons in January. Simmons spoke highly of the Terps after his offer -- his next-biggest is from Cincinnati -- and he could continue the Florida pipeline Maryland is trying to establish.

2-3 cornerbacks

Maryland has had a rough time of it in cornerback recruiting over the past few years. Five-star D.C. prospect Jalen Tabor ended up signing with Florida in the 2014 class, while high three-star Maryland commit Kareem Ali shockingly flipped to Temple, leaving the Terps without a high-profile corner in 2015. Maryland was able to bring in impressive Delaware prospect Darnell Savage (and Tennessee transfer D'Andre Payne), but the future of the position is a question mark.

Luckily for Maryland, one of their very biggest targets (and one with big interest in the program) can be found at the position. That would be four-star Avalon School (Md.) athlete Trevon Diggs, the younger brother of former Terrapin star Stefon and one of the top players in the state. Diggs holds offers from Penn State, Florida and Florida State, as well as a number of other SEC offers, but reportedly favors the Terrapins, Nittany Lions and Gators.

Beyond Diggs, the picture gets much muddier for Maryland when looking at 2016 cornerback targets. Florida prospect Jadarius Byrd recently committed to Marshall, and three-star Virginia athlete Robbie Robinson will be tough to wrest away from Virginia, Virginia Tech, Ohio State and Penn State.

1-2 safeties

No matter if Darryl Turner ends up at here or at wide receiver, Maryland will be looking to add at least one more safety in their 2016 class. After three years of Sean Davis and Anthony Nixon (and one more coming this year, although Davis could be at corner), the Terrapins don't have any clear answers for what's next.

The best option emerged recently: three-star St. John's (D.C.) prospect Aaron Hansford, a top-10 prospect in the District who picked up a Maryland offer in late January. Hansford also holds offers from Duke and Pittsburgh, among others, but the Terrapins appear to be in good position.

Maryland's other option at the position appears to be McKeesport (Pa.) athlete Khaleke Hudson, who recently picked up a Penn State offer. It's nearly impossible to take a Pennsylvania player with that offer out of the state, but the Terrapins are still in the running for now.