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Maryland football enters 2017 with more questions than answers at linebacker

This is the Maryland Minute, a short story followed by a roundup of Terps-related news.

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Maryland Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

When Maryland football’s new coaching staff arrived in 2016, the Terps shifted to a defensive scheme that primarily used only two conventional linebackers. Most teams will put three or even four on the field, but Maryland moved to a 4-2-5 formation that included a BUCK, which is essentially a weak-side defensive end/linebacker hybrid.

This switch certainly didn’t help the Terps’ run defense, which finished next-to-last in the country in S&P+. Opposing backs had little trouble shuffling past the undersized defensive line, and when they did, Maryland would only have two at the next level. Starters Jermaine Carter Jr. and Shane Cockerille got plenty of chances and put up big numbers, receiving all-conference honorable mentions because of it, but there were plenty of times when Maryland needed even more from them.

Carter’s return for 2017 makes him the leader of a veteran defense; he’s been named to the Butkus Award watch list as one of the nation’s top linebackers. However, Cockerille’s last season is up in the air. He was ruled academically ineligible for Maryland’s bowl game against Boston College and hasn’t yet been reinstated. Even if that leaves just one spot to fill, Maryland’s in a much tougher spot.

Maryland’s linebackers

Player Year 2016
Player Year 2016
Jermaine Carter Jr. R-SR 110 tackles (59 solo/51 ast), 9.0 TFL, 6.0 sacks, 1 int, 2 FF, 1 TD
Shane Cockerille R-SR 108 tackles (52/56), 8.0 TFL, 3.0 sacks
Jalen Brooks R-SR 28 tackles (12/16), 2.0 TFL, 1.0 sack
Isaiah Davis R-SO 17 tackles (14/3)
Antoine Brooks SO 5 tackles (4/1)
Nnamdi Egbuagba R-JR 4 tackles (2/2)
Brett Shepherd SO 2 tackles (1/1)
Nick Underwood R-SO Junior College
Bryce Brand FR High School (3-star recruit)
Ayinde Eley FR High School (3-star recruit)

Either Jalen or Antoine Brooks (they’re not related) has a golden chance to step up, as does Isaiah Davis, whose older brother Sean is coming off a strong rookie season in the NFL. Underwood and Brand enrolled at Maryland in January, so they could easily factor in (although Brand might see more time at BUCK). Even if Cockerille is ruled eligible, it’s unclear where he’ll be physically after not practicing with the team in the spring.

Having Carter makes everything easier, but with at least one regular starting spot and other rotational snaps up in the air, Maryland needs all the time it can use to sort everything out here.

In other news

Wide receiver D.J. Moore also made a watch list Monday. He’s in the early running for the Paul Hornung Award, given to the nation’s most versatile player (Moore caught, threw, ran and returned balls last year).

We just finished Defensive Line Week by looking at Oseh Saine and B’Ahmad Miller, both of whom are looking to find their role on the Terps.

Now that we’ve moved to linebackers ... hey, Maryland has a new one named Jordan Mosley.

Here’s Justin on how Maryland women’s basketball is preparing for a more physical style at the World University Games.

Brenda Frese’s team also added Kaitlynn Fratz to the staff as Coordinator of Recruiting Operations. Fratz won a Division II title as a player in 2015 and spent two years as a graduate assistant at Valdosta State.

Maryland men’s basketball made four-star power forward Jermaine Harris’ top eight.

Jake Layman’s Blazers lost to the Lakers in the NBA Summer League final, but Layman dropped 21 points and prompted this tweet: