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Maryland football will have a blend of old and new faces at linebacker in 2020

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The Terps return key players while also adding quality depth in the heart of the defense.

Maryland v Ohio State Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Our summer profile series is back and we’re previewing Maryland football one position group at a time.

Maryland football looks to continue its rebuild in 2020 under head coach Mike Locksley, though it’s sure to be an unusual season — if played — due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We’ve previewed the wide receivers, tight ends, running backs and quarterbacks, and now we’ll move to the defensive side of the ball before ending the series with a look at both lines.

Maryland’s 2020 scholarship linebackers

Player Year 2019
Player Year 2019
Ayinde Eley JR 79 tackles (44/35), 4 TFL, 2 FR, 1 INT
Chance Campbell JR 54 tackles (37/17). 4.5 TFL, 1 FF, 1 INT
Shaq Smith SR 24 tackles (14/10), 3.5 TFL, 1 sack
Durell Nchami R-SO DNP (ACL tear)
Ruben Hyppolite II FR High School (4-star recruit)
T. Kautai JR At Indy CC (32 tackles, 3 TFL, 1.5 sacks)
Fa'Najae Gotay SO 26 tackles (15/11), .5 TFL
Cortez Andrews SO 6 tackles (3/3), 2 TFL
Ahmad McCullough SO No stats (2 appearances)
Deshawn Holt R-FR DNP
Kameron Blount R-FR DNP
Frankie Burgess FR High School (3-star recruit)

Plenty of key players return

Though leading linebacker Keandre Jones is now in the NFL with the Chicago Bears and Isaiah Davis graduated, the position returns plenty of talent.

The room will undoubtedly be led by Ayinde “Ace” Eley, who was second on the team with 79 total tackles last season, despite only playing in 11 games. The 2019 Big Ten Honorable Mention selection also had two fumble recoveries, the most of anyone on the team, five pass breakups, four tackles for loss and an interception.

Also back from last season are Chance Campbell and Shaq Smith. Campbell had a breakout season in 2019, recording 54 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, a forced fumble and an interception. He only started two games as a sophomore, but expect that to change in 2020.

Smith was expected to be a key part of the defense last season after transferring from Clemson. He recorded 24 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, one sack and four pass breakups in 11 games, though he dealt with injury for most of the year. After having ample time to get his body back in form, he’ll look to bounce back this season.

Durell Nchami sat out 2019 with an ACL tear, but can be expected to have a significant impact at the position as well. He appeared in 10 games as a freshman in 2018, posting 15 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, one sack, one pass breakup and one blocked kick. He’s also the biggest linebacker on the roster at 6’4, 250 pounds.

Three new faces join the group

The linebacker room brings in the second-highest ranked commit of the 2020 class in four-star Ruben Hyppolite II, who was ranked as the 17th best outside linebacker in the nation by the 24/7 Sports Composite out of Hollywood, Florida. He makes a case to earn minutes early, with a fair shot to earn a starting spot.

Three-star Frankie Burgess comes in as the only other freshman position. He led the entire state of Florida with 22 sacks in his senior year, earning Sun Sentinel Defensive Player of the Year honors. He also tallied 60 tackles (39 solo), three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

Rounding out the newcomers is three-star TJ Kautai out of Independence Community College. He was ranked as the No. 6 JuCo linebacker in the nation after recording 32 tackles with 1.5 sacks and three tackles for loss last season.