Over the past six weeks, we’ve previewed a number of position groups at Testudo Times. After running the gauntlet of offensive position groups, our series transitioned to defense last week with the defensive linemen. Now it’s time to discuss the linebacking corps, and after Thomas broke down the group as a whole yesterday, it’s time to discuss some specific players.
To kick things off, we’ll be taking a look at a pair of rising inside linebackers who could make an impact inside the box. Redshirt sophomore Ayinde Eley and true sophomore Chance Campbell combined for 24 tackles last season. This year, both are in the mix for starting spots in the front seven following Tre Watson’s departure for the NFL.
Ayinde Eley, No. 16
Year: Redshirt sophomore
Hometown: Silver Spring, Md.
High School: Good Counsel
Eley was an outside linebacker in high school at Good Counsel, earning a three-star grade from the 247Sports Composite. He was ranked as the No. 22 OLB in the country as part of the 2017 class, and he was considered a top-10 player within the state of Maryland. Eley was a coveted recruit, earning offers from nine of the 14 teams in the Big Ten as well as Virginia Tech and West Virginia, to name a few. He ultimately chose Maryland over the rest, staying within his home state.
After not appearing in a game in his first season on campus in 2017, Eley took a redshirt, preserving a year of eligibility. He came on to the scene in 2018, and in Maryland’s nickel defense, he saw time in all 12 games, racking up 13 tackles — six solo — with a pass breakup, a fumble recovery and an interception.
GOOD COUNSEL'S OWN. AYINDE ELEY. pic.twitter.com/2AG2HhhazN— Jared Goldstein (@_jgoldy17) September 9, 2018
Chance Campbell, No. 44
Hometown: Towson, Md.
High School: Calvert Hall
Like Eley, Campbell was an outside linebacker in high school and was recruited as such. He too was a three-star prospect, though he rated as the No. 101 outside linebacker and No. 27 player in the state. Michigan State, West Virginia and Boston College were all in the mix, but when all was said and done, Campbell made the decision to stay close to home and play for the Terps.
Campbell earned opportunities right away in College Park, receiving playing time in the first 11 games of the 2018 season as a true freshman. His defensive snap count was rather low, but he managed to rack up 11 tackles — five solo — as a reserve. Now with Watson gone, there will be plenty of opportunities available.
They’ll have to adjust to a new scheme.
In the 4-2-5 scheme under defensive coordinator Andy Buh, the linebackers on the field had to cover a lot of ground, being responsible for one half of the field in zone coverage. Jon Hoke is now running the defense in College Park, and he comes in with a 3-4 scheme that will double the amount of linebackers on the field in base defense. The position group will have a more focused role now, especially in the passing game, and that could allow them to key in on the ball and rack up more tackles.
In spring practice, Eley and Campbell emerged as top options for the starting roles, but there will still be competition. Redshirt senior Isaiah Davis picked up 96 tackles and a pair of sacks in 2018, and his veteran presence could be invaluable on and off the field. Ohio State transfer Keandre Jones could also transition to the interior following the addition of outside linebacker Shaq Smith.
There are a lot of question marks on defense entering the season, with only three starters returning and everyone adjusting to the 3-4 scheme. But it seems that Eley and Campbell will both have significant roles from Week 1, and they could have a huge impact in their second years on the field.