Maryland Football Position Previews: Defensive Line


Dec 27, 2013; Annapolis, MD, USA; Marshall Thundering Herd quarterback Rakeem Cato (12) throws the ball as Maryland Terrapins defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson (99) chases in the first quarter during the 2013 Military Bowl at Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve already broken down the outlook for each of the offensive positions for the Maryland football program for the upcoming season. Now it’s time to shift the focus to the defensive side of the ball. First on the docket is the defensive line, which is a unit that will look quite different in the 2015-16 season.

The Terps will be switching to a 4-3 defensive scheme in 2015, which could turn out to be a wise move for Randy Edsall and company because of how lineman-heavy the Big Ten is. In this conference, many of the games are won on the frontline and having four down linemen may help Maryland improve their run defense, which was near the middle of the pack a season ago.

Maryland will have to replace three key starters from last season. Andre Monroe, Keith Bowers, and Darius Kilgo all graduated and have moved on. The younger Terps must now rise to the occasion.

The leader of the unit should be rising junior Yannick Ngakoue, who registered 37 tackles and six sacks last year. Ngakoue is used to playing linebacker, but given his athleticism and pass-rushing prowess, he should have no issue making the transition to playing with his hand in the dirt. 

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Playing opposite Ngakoue at defensive end will most likely be junior Roman Braglio. Braglio appeared in 13 games as a sophomore in 2014 and recorded 11 tackles to go along with 2.5 sacks. In limited action, he has shown some flashes of what he can do as a pass-rusher. Braglio’s energy and effort should allow for him to have a breakout season in 2015. Sophomore Jessie Aniebonam should also figure to get some reps this season. Last season, the Good Counsel product played in all 13 games and made 14 total tackles and was credited with 0.5 sacks.

As far as the interior defensive line is concerned, the Terps are talented but a bit inexperienced. One of the starting spots will be claimed by redshirt junior Quinton Jefferson. Jefferson was slated to play a substantial role last season, but it was unfortunately cut short due to injury. In three seasons, he has recorded 68 total tackles, 9 for loss, 4 sacks and two forced fumbles.

There will be some competition for the other starting defensive tackle position. It should most likely wind up going to either David Shaw or Kingsley Opara, both of whom are rising sophomores. Shaw appeared in seven games for the Terps last season, so he may have the upper hand at this point.

Considering all of the changes that the defense has undergone, the defensive line unit is largely unproven right now. There’s plenty of talent, but can it all come together? We’ll see.

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