The battle of the trenches on both sides of the ball is crucial to playing well and winning football games. Last year, Maryland struggled on both sides of the line. I have already covered the Maryland offensive line and today, we are gonna get started on the defense with the defensive line.
On defense last year, the team’s top cover corner and emotional leader Nolan Carroll broke his leg in the second game, and that hurt the defense as a whole as they finished dead last in scoring defense at 31.3 ppg and they ranked 105th nationally in pass effenciency. This year is hopefully different as the defense enters its second season with defensive coordinator, Don Brown.
The defensive line has one returning starter in sophomore AJ Francis (6-2, 295) and he is the team’s nose tackle. Francis was a phenomenal run stopper as a freshman garnering praise from the College Football News as a member of their Freshman All-America Team. He will be teaming on the interior with sophomore Joe Vellano (6-2, 285) who emerged as a force at a defensive tackle during the spring. He gives the Terps a quality inside pass rusher. Some of the other defensive tackles for the Terps are the inconsistent Zach Kerr (6-2, 320) and red-shirt freshman De’Onte Arnett (6-4, 275). There are also three juniors in Maurice Hampton, Ian Davidson, and Obum Akunyili who can spell the team in a pinch.
At the end spots, Derek Drummond (6-4, 245) was in a battle with Drew Gloster (6-2, 255) in the spring until Drummond injured his knee. It will be interesting to see what happens with that spot as the season gets here. Sophomore Justin Anderson (6-5, 265) will occupy the other end spot. As for the backups, red-shirt freshman Bradley Johnson and Masengo Kabongo will be there. Sophomore Carl Russell and hybrid linebacker/defensive end Isaiah Ross are returning from injuries.
Although I have outlined who may start and who may ride the pine, the team’s defense was so bad last year that nothing can totally be set in stone. However, the team has a lot more speed and should be faster and hopefully that translates to success up front. Brown is excited about this group and what it can do. Controlling the line is so crucial to playing well on defense, and right now I am concerned about what exactly this unit can do and there are more questions than answers for me.