Our summer football preview continues to move along. After looking at the entire offense — quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends and the offensive line — we’ve turned to the other side of the ball, starting with the defensive line this week.
We have talked about veteran defensive ends and defensive tackles, a trio of redshirt sophomores who are looking to make the leap and the best defensive linemen on Maryland’s schedule. To wrap things up, I will be looking at two newcomers on the defensive line.
With Maryland’s 2018 defensive ends Byron Cowart and Jesse Aniebonam moving on, the Terps will need somebody to step up this season and set the tone on the edge. Here are two new additions to the position.
Anthony “Tank” Booker, No. 89
Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio
High School: Winston Woods
Booker was a highly-touted recruit for Maryland. The three-star defensive end was expected to sign with Cincinnati, his hometown team, but committed and signed to the Terps during the first week of February. Booker was rated as the No. 40 player in Ohio and the No. 60 strong-side defensive end by 247Sports Composite.
Despite being a freshman, Booker’s profile is one of the largest on the defensive line. Standing at 6’5, Booker’s size should be an advantage as he practices and plays against larger offensive linemen.
Sam Okuayinonu, No. 97
Class: Redshirt sophomore
Hometown: Lowell, Mass.
High School: Lowell
Okuayinonu had a unique route to end up in College Park, picking the Terps over schools such as Memphis, South Florida and UMass. The 6’3 defensive end spent 12 years in Liberia before moving to Lowell, Massachusetts, where he played soccer until transitioning to football in his senior year. After not much production during his senior season, Okuayinonu bounced around a few community colleges, imagining he could have a story similar to kids within Netflix’s show ‘Last Chance U.’
Eventually, Okuayinonu arrived to Virginia, Minnesota, where he played for Mesabi Range C.C. during the 2018 season. The 270-pounder had a breakout season with 62 tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss, 17.5 sacks and a forced fumble. His production earned him First Team All-American honors at the JuCo level, and he was named Defensive Player of the Year by the Minnesota College Athletic Conference. Okuayinonu was rated as a three-star recruit and the eighth-best JuCo strong-side defensive end in the nation, according to 247Sports Composite.
The newcomers have a clean slate to make their mark.
With a new system being introduced to Maryland’s defense and the lack of experience on the defensive line, Booker and Okuayinonu have the chance to see immediate playing time and make an impact in their first year in the program. Booker’s size and strength could make him one of Maryland’s more college-ready freshmen, while Okuayinonu’s production last season is hard to ignore.
Of course, the biggest thing for both players in 2019 is their ability to adjust to the Division I competition with bigger and faster athletes. If they aren’t able to secure major roles on defense, Booker and Okuayinonu could see some time on special teams. Both players can be utilized by Maryland’s staff for up to four games and not lose a year of eligibility.
This defensive line will be making plenty of adjustments entering 2019, and with the lack of known quantities at the position group, Booker and Okuayinonu have a chance to quickly level the playing field with their more experienced counterparts.