It’s Monday, which means it’s time to start a new positional breakdown at Testudo Times. This week, we’re on to the linebackers. We’ve already previewed the quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, offensive line, defensive ends and defensive tackles.
Maryland’s three senior linebackers from last year are gone.
Jermaine Carter Jr. was arguably Maryland’s most consistent presence on defense for the last three seasons. After he led the team in tackles every year since 2015, the Carolina Panthers drafted Carter in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
After switching from quarterback to fullback, then briefly back to quarterback and then permanently to linebacker, Shane Cockerille is also out of the picture. The same goes for Jalen Brooks, who was a solid contributor on defense for four years.
Their production will be hard to replicate, and will likely come from more than just three players. The defensive line beefing up should help take a bit of the load off the linebacking corps’ shoulders, but these guys are still at the core of the defense.
There are still some veterans to fill their shoes.
Isaiah Davis took on a larger role as last season progressed and finished third on the team in tackles. He figures to be a starting linebacker this year.
Davis will be flanked by grad transfer Tre Watson, who spent his undergrad years at Illinois. He joined the Terps in the winter. At Illinois, Watson was third on the team in tackles and tied for second with 4.5 sacks.
A couple other potential veteran candidates for playing time are junior Brett Shepherd and redshirt junior Nick Underwood. Each has upside as a rangy, high-volume tackler, but neither has seen extended time at Maryland.
Most everyone else is inexperienced, unproven or a freshman.
Six linebackers—excluding Watson—are coming to College Park this year. Jordan Mosley and Durell Nchami enrolled early, and each looked like they had the ability to crack the rotation based on their performances in spring ball. Mosley is an athletic outside linebacker and may play a position similar to the one Antoine Brooks plays. Nchami could be a BUCK, or he could stick at outside linebacker.
Nihym Anderson, Chance Campbell, Fa’Najae Gotay and extra-late addition Ahmad McCullough round up the rest of the newcomers. Each brings something a little different to the table, which should simultaneously complicate things and benefit the Terps.
Redshirt freshman Ayinde Eley also figures to fit into the rotation somewhere. He’s got some pass rushing skills, but is also athletic enough at 6’3, 227 pounds to cover enough ground to be an effective outside linebacker.
Maryland’s personnel packages will dictate who plays.
DJ Durkin always talks about being multiple with the Terps’ fronts, but the base defense tends to be a nickel package, or a 4-2-5. There could be as few as one true linebacker on the field in a dime package, or as many as four in a 3-4.
The good news is that there are many different playing styles in this group, and each player should develop a clear role based on his skill set.
This is also a position group where, because of all the unknowns, Maryland can make good use of the new NCAA rule that allows players to compete in four games without burning a redshirt. The Terps can afford to experiment with some of the freshmen and rotational players early in the season to see where things stand going forward.