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Maryland’s 3 most experienced defensive tackles all have something left to prove

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Mbi Tanyi has starting experience, but can he—or two of his fellow upperclassmen—take the next step forward?

NCAA Football: Towson at Maryland
This is Mbi Tanyi chasing a quarterback.
Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Defensive Tackles Week at Testudo Times. Our summer preview series has already been through the entire offense—from quarterbacks to running backs to receivers to the offensive line—and focused on defensive ends last week.

The interior defensive line is perhaps the most competitive spot on the field for Maryland. The Terps have one senior with starting experience, while two other upperclassmen have a couple years of production under their belts. Let’s start with that trio.

Mbi Tanyi, No. 50

Height: 6’1
Weight: 296 lbs.
Year: Senior
Hometown: Houston, Texas
High School: George Bush HS

Keiron Howard, DL, No. 59

Height: 6’3
Weight: 293 lbs.
Year: Redshirt junior
Hometown: Fort Washington, Maryland
High School: Potomac

Oseh Saine, DL, No. 93

Height: 6’2
Weight: 295 lbs.
Year: Redshirt junior
Hometown: Worcester, Massachusetts
High school: Lincoln HS/Worcester Academy (post-grad)

The background

All three of these linemen were part of the Terps’ 2015 recruiting class, and all were three-star prospects. Saine had originally committed to Boston College, but instead played a postgrad season and ended up pledging to Maryland along with the other two. (Another defensive tackle originally in that group, Adam McLean, didn’t enroll until 2016; we’ll cover him later in the week.)

Each member of this trio has seen rotational time at Maryland, but the collective impact has been rather insignificant. Howard had one tackle in 2016 and 13 last year, including two sacks, which were magically second on the team. Saine has five and two tackles in the last two seasons.

Tanyi, meanwhile, played in nine games as a freshman and nine more as a sophomore, albeit sparingly, recording four and nine tackles. He had 20 last year and was credited with nine starts. But his most notable attribute has been his versatility. Tanyi was recruited as a defensive end, then moved to linebacker in 2016, then gained 25 pounds and became a defensive tackle. At the moment, it looks like he’s there to stay.

With two regulars gone, there are spots for the taking.

Tanyi has some starting experience of his own, but Kingsley Opara and Cavon Walker have been Maryland’s top defensive tackles for the last two seasons. Each made 11 starts last year, although there was some moving around along the line after Jesse Aniebonam’s injury in the season opener.

This year’s defensive tackle group is loaded, as 10 players all seem to have reasonable shots at playing time. Tanyi has the most experience of the group, but it’s far from a given that he’ll beat out everyone else for a starting spot this year. Howard and Saine

It’s worth noting that all three of these players are around the same size—between 6’1 and 6’3 with only three pounds separating them—and could potentially profile as a defensive end. It was Walker who kicked outside when the injury bug bit last year, but perhaps Tanyi or one of the other veterans will face a similar task this season. There are plenty of competitors at strong-side defensive end for the Terps.

Howard and Saine aren’t seniors, but with Maryland loading up on blue-chip defensive linemen in the last couple recruiting cycles, this might be a make-or-break season for both of them. A pivotal fall camp starts in under three weeks.