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Maryland football signed 2 linebackers for 2017, and the Terps need both of them

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This unit has possibly the most uncertain future of any on the team.

NCAA Football: Maryland at Florida International Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Linebacker is one of many question marks for the Maryland football team. DJ Durkin came in and installed a new defense that employed only two linebackers at a time last season, and the Terps had a bit of a rough time adjusting. They’ve brought in two linebackers in their 2017 recruiting class, and each could see time next to guaranteed senior starter Jermaine Carter Jr. this fall.

The linebackers share part of the blame for Maryland’s porous run defense, which S&P+ ranked as the second-worst in the whole country in 2016. Shane Cockerille took the starting spot next to Carter in his first season after switching from quarterback.

Cockerille’s inexperience showed, as he often didn’t know what angles to take or where to be, though as someone thrust into a starting role on a completely new side of the ball, that’s hardly his fault. Carter, on the other hand, appears to be playing slightly out of position in Durkin’s scheme. If Maryland’s defense is to succeed, it’ll need a fast linebacker next to Carter who can cover a lot of ground.

Here’s the full group:

Will Cockerille be back?

Cockerille has okay speed, but his eligibility for 2017 is unclear. He was suspended for academic issues for the Quick Lane Bowl. His status with the team might be more clear by the end of spring practice, or it might not.

He and Carter started every regular season game together, while fellow rising senior Jalen Brooks was the team’s go-to if it added another linebacker for bigger emphasis on run protection. Rising sophomore Isaiah Davis started in the bowl game though, and will be in the mix if Cockerille isn’t eligible.

Maryland brought in two new players in this class.

So, let’s finally meet the new guys.

Junior college recruit Nick Underwood enrolled at Maryland this spring, which could potentially even give him a shot to compete for a starting spot. Good Counsel (Md.) linebacker Ayinde Eley will arrive this summer.

Their roles? It’s tough to say right now.

Eley needs to put on a good amount of weight if he wants to play right away. He only packs 204 pounds on his 6’5 frame, and he’ll probably have to put 20 or 30 pounds on before he can play. But judging by his highlight tape, which is exactly not how you should scout someone, he has the speed to play linebacker in this defense.

Underwood, having spent time at junior college, is clearly the more polished prospect. We’ll get our first glimpse of him during spring practice and the spring game, and everything will be kind of unclear until then.