It’s Defensive Ends Week here at Testudo Times. We’ve previewed the quarterbacks, running backs, receivers and the offensive line. Now it’s time to look at a pair of pass rushers that should get their share of rotational snaps.
Maryland head coach DJ Durkin’s defense utilizes a hybrid BUCK position that’s a combination of the defensive end and linebacker positions. Durkin primarily uses the BUCK to get after the passer (which is why it’s being discussed this week), but they occasionally drop into coverage. As such, they tend to be large, but agile players, capable of either putting their hand in the ground and rush the quarterback in a 4-3 or standing up and dropping into coverage in a 3-4 lineup.
Dante Fowler, the No. 3 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, played the position while Durkin was at Florida. In College Park, it’s been Jesse Aniebonam’s spot, although he missed almost all of last season with an injury. He’s back, but here’s who else could rotate in this fall.
Bryce Brand, No. 27
Weight: 241 lbs.
Hometown: Detroit, Michigan
High school: Clayton Valley Charter
Durell Nchami, No. 30
Weight: 220 lbs.
Hometown: Burtonsville, Maryland
High school: Paint Branch
Brand is the most experienced BUCK linebacker besides Jesse Aniebonam.
Brand came to Maryland as a three-star prospect, and ended up as one of the few freshmen to see the field consistently. He was part of a group that had to make up for the absence of Aniebonam. However, Aniebonam’s back from a broken ankle and figures to take the majority of the defensive snaps at BUCK.
Brand enrolled early, then gained valuable experience in 2017 that should put him in a position to compete for rotational snaps in 2018. He appeared in 10 games, and recorded his first and only sack in the season opener against Texas and a career-high four tackles versus Indiana. The Detroit native would register a total of 13 tackles on the season.
With Melvin Keihn transferring to Richmond and Chandler Burkett graduated, Brand becomes the only BUCK linebacker on the roster with any experience other than Aniebonam. He’s put on 11 pounds since enrolling and has a shot to bolster his position the two-deep come fall, but he’ll have competition.
Nchami has a shot to follow Brand’s path and contribute early.
Nchami was another three-star prospect and Maryland’s first commit for 2018. He enrolled early and made some impressive plays in the spring. With the amount of attrition at the position, he gets penciled in as the third-stringer and could see a healthy amount of snaps this year.
If he can consistently defend against the run, in addition to pass rush duties, Nchami has a chance to separate himself. On a play during the spring game, Nchami set the edge, identified the runner, and took down Ty Johnson before he could get going.
Durell Nchami crashed in to stop this run before Ty could go anywhere. pic.twitter.com/KdszaVTiqJ— Lamar Johnson (@im_lamar) April 14, 2018
This is still Aniebonam’s position, but there’s room for them to contribute.
Neither will be required to be an every-down type of player, with Aniebonam back in the rotation, but there’s a lot of snaps to go around. Going into the offseason, it was assumed that Keihn would mix back in, giving Maryland two veterans at the position. Instead, it will just be Aniebonam and a couple young guns.
Brand has the experience edge, having learned the principles of Durkin’s defense and his hybrid defensive lineman-linebacker position. Nchami also has a spring of familiarity under his belt, and should mix in early. Maryland had more than its fair share of issues rushing the passer. If either can provide a boost to those efforts, and some breathers for Aniebonam, the Terps’ bottom line will be better for it.