While Maryland football lacks experience on its defensive line, the same can’t be said about its opponents this season. Three of the Terps’ 2019 opponents are ranked among Bleacher Report’s 10 best defensive lines in college football — Syracuse (No. 6), Penn State (No. 5) and Michigan State (No. 1).
In terms of individual players, five of USA TODAY’s 10 best college defensive linemen are in the Big Ten, so the Terps will face some of the top talent in the country at the position. Here are the best Maryland will be up against in the fall.
Chase Young, Ohio State (Nov. 9)
Everyone in college football is high on Chase Young right now, and rightfully so. The defensive end had a monster sophomore season for the Buckeyes, putting up 34 total tackles, 10.5 sacks, 15.5 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles.
The DeMatha product is ranked first on USA TODAY’s list of the best defensive linemen going into the season, and he is No. 9 on Sports Illustrated’s list of the top 100 players in college football. Young was named a Sporting News Preseason First Team All-American and the Big Ten Preseason Defender of the Year, and he’s projected to be a top 2020 NFL Draft pick by multiple outlets.
Young has a lot of athleticism and speed, which makes him a nightmare for players on the opposing end. He towers over defenders at at 6’5, 285 pounds and is a big playmaker on the field with a high football IQ. It’s pretty safe to assume he’s going to cause Maryland’s offensive line some trouble when the team faces Ohio State this fall.
Kenny Willekes, Michigan State (Nov. 30)
After leading the Big Ten with 20.5 tackles for loss in 2018, Willekes was awarded the conference’s Defensive Lineman of the Year. He also racked up 8.5 sacks, 12 quarterback hurries and 78 total tackles last season, earning an All-American selection.
Willekes broke his leg in the Spartans’ bowl game, making him inactive for the spring, but he’s expected to be ready for his junior season. He was ranked as the 52nd-best player in college football by Sports Illustrated, and Fansided had him as high as 16th.
Willekes is a master at making game-changing decisions on the fly to take down his opponent out of nowhere. He wreaks havoc in opponents’ backfields and can easily escape the grasp of offensive linemen, so Maryland’s offensive line will need to have an eye on him at all times come the late November matchup.
Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State (Sept. 27)
Gross-Matos was right behind Willekes last season with 20 tackles for loss, just the 11th player to do so in Penn State football history. Only eight FBS players had more tackles for loss. Gross-Matos also produced 54 total tackles, eight sacks, six quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles as a sophomore.
Similarly to the other guys on this list, Gross-Matos made Sports Illustrated’s elite list, coming in at No. 69. At 6’5, 262 pounds, he’s been predicted as another top draft pick and will definitely be a force for the Nittany Lions.
In 2018, Gross-Matos made some huge stops to hand the Terps a 38-3 loss. He’s able to use his height to tower over players and tackle from above, and he made some huge stops against the Terps in 2018 to force a s a 38-3 loss.
Michigan State has the best defensive line going into this season, with another top player in its arsenal in Raequan Williams. The 6’4, 298-pounder had 53 tackles and 10.5 tackles for loss as a redshirt junior in 2018.
Syracuse and its defensive line also should cause the Terps some concern, specifically Alton Robinson and Kendall Coleman. Robinson had 10 sacks, 17 tackles for loss, 11 quarterback hurries and three forced fumbles last season, while Coleman put up 10 sacks, 32 tackles and 12 tackles for loss.