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Maryland appears to be running a 4-3 defense now

Yannick Ngakoue and Jesse Aniebonam have moved to the defensive line, leading to one likely conclusion...

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland's football roster has been updated ahead of spring practice, and it sure looks like the Terrapins' rumored move to a 4-3 defense under new defensive coordinator Keith Dudzinski is happening. Former WILL linebackers Yannick Ngakoue, Jesse Aniebonam and Chandler Burkett have been moved down to the defensive line, giving the previously depleted unit a major facelift. Last year, Maryland had 13 defensive linemen and 18 linebackers. This season, they have 13 defensive linemen and nine linebackers, pointing strongly at a scheme change.

This move would make a lot of sense from a personnel standpoint. Maryland lost starters at arguably the two most important positions in Brian Stewart's 3-4 scheme (NT, SAM), and had no clear answers to replace either one of them. Now, the Terps can potentially eliminate both positions, instead tailoring their scheme to the talent available on the roster. Maryland also lost both starters at inside linebacker, and changing to a 4-3 should allow them to get a better combination of players in the front seven.

That means we'll likely see Ngakoue and Aniebonam as Maryland's two starting defensive ends, putting the team's two most talented pass-rushers on the field at the same time. As for the two starting tackles, look for sophomore David Shaw (newly listed at 6'4 and 308 pounds), sophomore Kingsley Opara (6'4, 308), junior Quinton Jefferson (6'3, 287), junior Roman Braglio (6'3, 267) and incoming true freshman Adam McLean to be in the running.

If the scheme change occurs, expect sophomore Jalen Brooks (6'2, 234), sophomore Jermaine Carter, Jr. (6'0, 240), junior Abner Logan (6'1, 240) and junior Cavon Walker (a staggering 6'2, 254) to compete for the three starting spots at linebacker. It's hard to predict exactly what arrangement they'll use until we find out what the linebacker roles will be in the new defense (expect SAM to stay and WILL to change, perhaps with the same name).

After giving up 66 points in the last seven quarters of the season and losing seven starters to graduation, Maryland's defense was a major question mark heading into the 2015 season. Whether the recent reshuffling works or not, Randy Edsall is at least showing some flexibility.

Other takeaways from the updated roster:

  • There's one other position change: junior Jacquille Veii has moved back to running back from wide receiver. After running 39 times for 146 yards as a true freshman in 2013, he moved to wideout, catching 16 passes for 230 yards and a touchdown. Veii still remained active in the running game, with 19 carries for 105 yards and two touchdowns.
  • Three spring enrollees have been added to the roster: defensive lineman Oseh Saine, defensive back D'Andre Payne and punter Nicholas Pritchard. Saine is listed at 6'3 and 280 pounds, while Payne is 5'9 and 179.
  • Sophomore wide receiver Juwann Winfree is now an imposing 6'2 and 210 pounds, adding 15 pounds from last season.
  • Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Brett Kulka put on 20 pounds, going from 240 to 260. Opara and Shaw each put on 18 pounds from last season.
  • The biggest linebacker besides Walker? Redshirt freshman Tyler Burke, listed at 6'3 and 247 pounds.
  • Maryland had five offensive linemen at 300 pounds last year and three at 310. This year, the Terps have nine offensive linemen over 300 pounds, with five at or above 310. Leading the way is redshirt freshmen Damian Prince, listed at 6'3 and 325 pounds, and Derwin Gray, listed at 6'5 and 315.