Maryland football needs to restock its defensive line, and took steps toward getting there with its 2017 recruiting class.
The Terps graduated starters Azubuike Ukandu and Roman Braglio, and are bringing in freshmen with various levels of preparedness.
It’s not a given that any of the new guys will be able to play right away, but three appear to have a shot to potentially get major playing time.
Here’s Maryland’s extensive list of defensive linemen:
Maryland’s defensive line needs an upgrade.
The Terps had one of the worst run defenses in the nation in 2016, and improvements on the defensive line are the first step to fixing that. They were dead last in adjusted line yards last season, and they need to take several steps forward to make this defense more respectable.
Senior Chandler Burkett hasn’t seen an enormous amount of playing time in his previous three years with the team, but he played enough at the end of last season that he appears to be the leading candidate to replace Braglio as defensive end.
Ukandu played defensive tackle, and unless a freshman makes real strides, Cavon Walker figures to join Kingsley Opara there. Jesse Aniebonam played the BUCK last year, a position that combines defensive end and linebacker responsibilities, and he’ll be back to play that same spot. Redshirt junior Melvin Keihn will likely be behind him for the second straight season.
Maryland brought in four recruits who could all help...sometime.
Cam Spence and Breyon and Brandon Gaddy are the team’s highest-rated recruits on the line, and all three could be in line to play as true freshmen. Spence and Breyon are four-star recruits on the 247Sports Composite, and each plays defensive tackle. Some recruiting services had Breyon weighing 335 pounds, which would have seemed to put him at an unplayable weight, but the team measures him at 315, a much more manageable weight. Spence comes in at 311. They’ve got the size to play right away. Whether they have the technique and muscle will be more apparent by August.
Brandon Gaddy might be the unit’s biggest question mark. He was graded lower than Breyon by Scout and 247Sports, but provides more versatility than his brother. He could play inside or outside depending on where the team needs him.
Bryce Brand comes in as a candidate to play the BUCK, but he’s another guy who’ll need to put on some pounds. He and Aniebonam both play the same position, but at 260 pounds, the senior has a 30-pound advantage on the freshman. Still, Brand enrolled early, and will have from now until August to start making up that gap.
Lawtez Rogers and B’Ahmad Miller both seem to be redshirt candidates, though with a DJ Durkin-coached team, you can never be sure. Their measurements on recruiting services were evidently outdated. Each was measured at 235 pounds on 247Sports, but Rogers came in at 256 and Miller 262. They’re in position to at least challenge for playing time in the years to come, given their 6’3 and 6’4 frames.
This position is one of the toughest to project, as players often need more time here than at other spots. Still, Spence and Gaddy have enough size to potentially make a difference early.