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Maryland’s defensive line has the potential to be one of the football program’s most underrated assets

The Terps head into the new year with plenty of returning and incoming talent on the defensive line.

NCAA Football: Rutgers at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

In our Maryland football positional preview series, we have already looked into most of the offense ahead of the 2021 season.

Now, it is time to turn to the defensive side of the ball as we continue to dive into the Terps’ position groups as the season rapidly approaches. More specifically, we are going to examine Maryland’s defensive line heading into this year.

The defensive line is one of the program’s strongest assets and it projects to be an effective group. Let’s examine what Maryland brings to the table with its defensive line with the first regular season game just a few weeks away.

Maryland 2021 defensive line depth

Player Year Height Weight
Player Year Height Weight
Joseph Boletepeli Junior 6'4" 280 lbs
Tyler Baylor Junior 6'4" 255 lbs
Mosiah Nasili-Kite Junior 6'2" 305 lbs
Taizse Johnson Freshman 6'1" 290 lbs
Greg Rose Senior 6'3" 271 lbs
Jacob Purcell Junior 6'2" 225 lbs
Ami Finau Senior 6'2" 330 lbs
Isaac Bunyun Sophomore 6'3" 294 lbs
Tommy Akingbesote Freshman 6'4" 285 lbs
Ryan Brown Sophomore 6'1" 274 lbs
Anthony Booker Jr. Sophomore 6'3" 320 lbs
Andre Porter Freshman 6'4" 300 lbs
Almosse Titi Junior 6'2" 305 lbs
Darrell Jackson Freshman 6'6" 274 lbs
Riyad Wilmot Sophomore 6'4" 255 lbs
Lawtez Rogers Senior 6'4" 275 lbs
Zion Shockley Freshman 6'4" 245 lbs
Sam Okuayinonu Grad 6'1" 290 lbs
Ernest Shockley III Senior 6'3" 290 lbs
Demeioun Robinson Freshman 6'3" 240 lbs

Mosiah Nasili-Kite and Ami Finau will spearhead the Terps’ defensive line

When you look at foundational pieces of Maryland’s defensive line, the big name that stands out is junior Mosiah Nasili-Kite. After finishing as a 2020 All-Big Ten Honorable Mention, Nasili-Kite will have even more expectations to excel on the Terps’ defensive line in 2021.

As a result of last season’s success, he was named to the 2021 Pro Football Focus Preseason All-Big Ten list and the 2021 Athlon Sports Preseason All-Big Ten list as well. Nasili-Kite is a dominant force on the line of scrimmage and led the Big Ten in sacks per game with a 0.8 clip after getting four sacks in five games last season. He also finished second on the team with five tackles for a loss in 2020.

Nasili-Kite consistently used all of his 305 pounds to overpower his opponents and he also exhibited quality speed to slip through blocks. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Maryland’s best man on the defensive line provide another strong output in 2021.

Near Nasili-Kite on the talent level is the likes of senior Ami Finau, who started in all five games on the defensive line as a junior during the shortened season. He’ll likely be a mainstay on the defensive line once again for Maryland right next to Nasili-Kite.

Finau collected 18 tackles and four solo tackles in 2020 and finished second on the roster with two sacks. Finau’s first season with Maryland was a major success and he’ll look to have another quality year on the defensive line.

Consistency will be the key for Maryland’s defensive line as a whole, and the combination of Nasili-Kite and Finau provides an effective one-two punch on the line of scrimmage to disrupt their opponent’s offenses.

With the help of incoming freshmen, Maryland should have significant depth on the defensive line in 2021

There’s no doubt that Nasili-Kite and Finau will lead the charge on Maryland’s defensive line to go along with a few veterans, as previously noted. However, which players will fill a critical role behind some of the more experienced players on the roster?

Look no further than the five talented incoming freshmen that will join the Terps’ defensive line for 2021. Head coach Mike Locksley recruited heavily on the defensive side of the ball and the potential payoff for those recruiting efforts could come this season.

Freshman Taizse Johnson will likely have the biggest impact on the roster as the highest-ranked defensive tackle that’s on his way to Maryland in the 2021 class, per 247Sports.

Maryland’s incoming freshman edge rusher Demeioun Robinson is listed as a linebacker on the team website and ranked higher than Johnson as a defensive line recruit on 247Sports, but for our purposes, he will be reviewed in the linebacker’s preview.

Johnson is a consensus four-star defensive tackle and was the second-ranked player coming out of Washington D.C. He doesn’t bring too much size with a 6-1, 290-pound frame, but Johnson makes up for his lack of size with excellent speed. The scouting report notes of his fantastic closing speed and footwork, which should be noticeable on the field if he’s given the chance.

Freshman Tommy Akingbesote is also coming to Maryland as one of the top defensive lineman recruits in the nation. Akingbesote is another four-star player and was ranked as the 19th defensive tackle in the country. Unlike Johnson, he brings much more length with a 6-4 frame on the defensive line and uses his long arms to take advantage of blockers who try to get in his way.

The combination of Johnson and Akingbesote should see a decent amount of looks early on as they both have the raw talent to make a positive impact on Maryland’s defensive line. Behind those freshmen, the Terps have three more young talents — Andre Porter, Darrell Jackson and Zion Shockley — that can eventually sneak their way into the lineup on game days.

Porter is the most notable of the remaining three freshmen defensive linemen. He was ranked the 30th-best defensive tackle nationally and the 13th-ranked player in Pennsylvania before joining the Terps’ program.

Jackson brings the most length to Maryland out of the defensive line’s incoming freshmen standing at 6-foot-6, while Shockley comes to the team as the No. 20 player in Maryland.

There will likely be plenty of stiff competition going into the season to fill out some of the spots on the defensive line, but one thing is for sure. Maryland’s defensive line is evidently one of the strongest positions on the team due to the influx of talented freshmen that joined proven veterans for the upcoming campaign.