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Maryland’s veteran linebackers should provide key depth in 2018

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They haven’t seen the field much, but can still help the team.

Brett Shepherd Nick Underwood Lila Bromberg / Testudo Times

It’s Linebackers Week at Testudo Times. Our summer football preview series has already covered Maryland’s quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, offensive line, defensive ends and defensive tackles. Now let’s look at a trio of veterans who haven’t seen much time, but can provide solid depth in 2018.

Brett Shepherd, LB, No. 53

Height: 6’4
Weight: 228 lbs.
Year: Junior
Hometown: Buford, Georgia
High school: Collins Hill

Nick Underwood, LB, No. 42

Height: 6’0
Weight: 225 lbs.
Year: Redshirt junior
Hometown: Lake Oswego, Oregon
High school: Lake Oswego HS

Nnamdi Egbuaba, LB, No. 31

Height: 6’0
Weight: 235 lbs.
Year: Senior
Hometown: Baltimore, Maryland
High school: St. Frances Academy

The background

All three of these players came to College Park in vastly different ways.

Shepherd had an off-field issue in high school that forced him to transfer high schools and caused some college suitors to back off. As a result, he was one of the most talented, underrated recruits to be uncommitted late in the 2016 cycle, but Maryland determined he was worth a shot.

Underwood signed with Air Force out of high school as a two-star recruit, made his way to Riverside Community College and proceeded to record 71 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, four fumble recoveries and two interceptions. He was a three-star junior college recruit in 2017.

Egbuaba was a three-star recruit out of St. Frances in the Class of 2014. He was one of a handful of local players to stay home and influence the early stages of what was still being marketed as #TheMovement. Damian Prince, Jesse Aniebonam and Derwin Gray were his fellow signees.

None of the three have seen significant playing time in College Park.

Egbuaba has played in 15 games across four seasons, totaling four tackles. He redshirted Year 1 and missed last year with an injury. Shepherd has seven tackles across two seasons and has mainly contributed on special teams. Underwood made seven tackles in nine games last year in his first year in College Park.

Not much has been asked of this trio during their varying times at Maryland. With Jermaine Carter roaming the field flanked by other veteran linebackers, there hasn’t really been space for these guys to crack the lineup.

But there’s an opportunity this year for any one of the three to step into a bigger role. DJ Durkin’s base nickel defense, which employs just two linebackers, doesn’t make matters easier for one of these guys to get on the field, but there are other ways to impact the team.

Special teams has been this trio’s home, and it’s OK if it stays that way.

Each of these three has experience on special teams units, and they’re likely to gain more this season, especially with a large crop of young linebackers entering the fray. Special teams is a continuously criminally underrated phase of the game by the casual fan. It’s an opportunity for non-starters to prove their worth to the team and show they deserve a shot at an increased workload.

With a lot of bodies competing for a select few spots, it may be difficult for any one of these three to breakout, but continuing to solidify previously special teams units will carry a lot of hidden importance.

That said, Durkin has always been all about fully open and continuous competition, so it’s not unthinkable that one or more of these guys could earn high-leverage defensive snaps. Whether they end up on the field or not, they’ll provide capable depth for a unit that is full of unknowns heading into the season.