Our summer football preview series keeps moving on. After looking at the entire offense — quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends and offensive line — we’ve turned our attention to the defensive front this week. Thomas overviewed the position group Monday, and now it’s time to look at the contenders for defensive end playing time in 2019.
Jesse Aniebonam and Byron Cowart graduated after becoming mainstays on the edge for the Terrapins, which was already predicted to open the door for young players to get on the field moving forward. The hiring of Jon Hoke as defensive coordinator has also shaken things up, as the transition from a 4-2-5 scheme to a 3-4 will require more work to be done by players on the end. Their jobs will now be to plug holes and help blitzing linebackers find ways to the quarterback.
Here are some names to keep an eye on.
Lawtez Rogers, No. 95
Year: Redshirt sophomore
Hometown: Landover, Md.
High school: Eleanor Roosevelt
Rogers was a three-star recruit who committed to the Terrapins just days after Joshua Kaindoh’s decommitment. After sitting out his first year, he tallied eight tackles in 10 appearances last season, including one sack. Rogers exploded onto the scene as the new staff arrived, and quickly put himself into a prime position to start in 2019.
Brett Kulka, No. 96
Year: Redshirt senior
Hometown: Edinboro, Pa.
High school: General McLane
Things seem up for grabs throughout the depth chart here, Kulka’s experience should make him a factor. A season-ending knee injury in just the fourth game of the year derailed a 2018 campaign that included two tackles and fumble recovery against No. 23 Texas. Kulka’s career had been a crescendo up to his best season, in 2017, when he finished with 30 tackles, 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble in 11 games.
Out of General McLane High School in 2014, Kulka was a three-star recruit who signed with Maryland as his only Power 5 offer despite being an all-region player on the offensive and defensive line.
B’Ahmad Miller, No. 90
Year: Redshirt sophomore
Hometown: Newark, Del.
High School: St. Frances Academy
One of the rare St. Frances Academy prospects to come through College Park, Miller chose the Terps over the likes of Pittsburgh, Illinois and Temple as a three-star recruit in 2017. He didn’t see game action as a rookie, but made three appearances last season.
At 290 pounds, Miller could help the Terrapins in a Big Ten conference where size means a lot. The Maryland defense finished 86th in the country last year in both defensive rushing S&P+ and rush yards allowed per game. With a shift in scheme and a lot of moving parts and growing pains, a player such as Miller could easily work in for significant time.
Tyler Baylor, No. 10
Year: Redshirt freshman
Hometown: Olney, Md.
High school: Good Counsel
Baylor was a high three-star prospect in 2018 who chose Maryland over Georgia and Louisville, among others. He sticks out of this group not only because he plays up front and wears No. 10, but also because his size differs from others at the position. Coming in with a similar 6’4 frame but weighing 248 pounds could present a change-of-pace piece for the coaching staff when needed. Baylor’s frame also makes him an option at the JACK linebacker spot, which we’ll cover more in-depth next week.
With a new scheme, this position should see plenty of shuffling.
In the spring game, the Terrapins seemed to ease their way into a new system by playing out of a 4-3-type set rather than the 4-2-5 from DJ Durkin’s time, but also not giving up too much of the planned 3-4 scheme. This middle ground allowed the staff to evaluate players and help them transition into new roles, especially without freshmen on campus or transfers in place.
With a new staff and new scheme, there will certainly be growing pains and shuffles for Maryland in the 2019 campaign. Some of those changes will happen before the team even kicks off the season at home against Howard. The exact positioning of players along the defensive line could change depending on what the staff sees, and the arrival of freshman Anthony Booker and JuCo transfer Sam Okuayinonu will play a role.
However, if Rogers can carry momentum from the spring forward, he’ll give Maryland a solid option here after the departure of Aniebonam and Cowart. And with Kulka’s experience and the potential of some younger players, the Terrapins should have some talent at defensive end in 2019.