Project 2014: Darius Kilgo
Image Credit: 247Sports
2013 Statistics: 37 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks, 0 forced fumbles, 1 pass broken up
Best Game: vs. West Virginia (3 tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss, 1.0 sacks, 0 forced fumbles, 0 passes broken up)
Worst Game: vs. Syracuse (0 tackles, 0.0 tackles for loss, 0.0 sacks, 0 forced fumbles, 0 passes broken up)
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Whenever a football team at any level makes the move to a 3-4 defensive style, the most concerning position for coaches is the nose tackle position. In fact, the main reason why so few teams run the 3-4 defense, especially at the college level, is the lack of players who can truly be that dominant nose tackle that you need to have success in the 3-4 defense. Luckily for Brian Stewart and the Maryland Terrapins, they have Darius Kilgo to anchor the center of their defensive line.
In 2012, Kilgo played between two of the best defensive lineman to grace College Park in the last decade, A.J. Francis and Joe Vellano. They teamed up to form a dominant defensive line, and led the Terps’ defense to national recognition. They were one of the best run defenses in the country that season, and Darius Kilgo was a big reason for that. In 2013, Francis and Vellano had graduated, so Kilgo was playing between two new players. He didn’t show the dominance that he had in 2012, but still played the tough nose tackle position very well. His senior season should be one to watch, as he should get a chance to show his talents to an NFL team at some point after he graduates.
In order to play the nose tackle position in a 3-4 defense, you must be both a gifted athlete and a big man. Most nose tackles are a good bit heavier than 300 pounds, and Kilgo weighs in at 310 pounds. While you have to be big to play the nose tackle position, you also have to be agile enough to cover two gaps in the offensive line. While a traditional 4-3 defensive tackle is only responsible for one gap, the nose tackle in a 3-4 defense is responsible for two, making the position too difficult for many players.
In a 4-3 defense, the line is normally constructed such that the two defensive tackles are good run stoppers, and the two defensive ends are good pass rushers. This leaves the three linebackers, who are normally smaller and help in coverage a good portion of the time. A 3-4 defense is different in that most of the defensive line is dedicated to stopping the run, while the two outside linebackers are the team’s best pass rushers.
In the 3-4 defense, the strong side defensive end is normally the better pass-rushing defensive lineman. However, he must also be able to stop the run, and is normally much bigger than a traditional 4-3 defensive end. Andre Monroe is a good example of this for the Terps. The weak side defensive end is normally a small 4-3 defensive tackle, who moves outside and stops the run from there. He is not usually much of a pass rusher. Keith Bowers is a good example of this for Maryland. The nose tackle is a pure run stopper, able to clog the middle of the offensive line, and make sure tackles on the ball-carrier. As I mentioned above, most nose tackles are above 300 pounds, and they have to be that large in order to fully execute their assignments. Darius Kilgo fits this mold very well.
The front 7 of the Maryland Terrapins defense in 2014 should feature between 5 and 6 seniors, depending on who wins Marcus Whitfield’s old outside linebacker position. The middle of the defense will be anchored by seniors, with Darius Kilgo at nose tackle and Cole Farrand and L.A. Goree at the two inside linebacker positions. The Terps will be looking for Darius Kilgo to have a big year for them as they go up against some of the best power running teams in the country. While he will likely sit out for the majority of games against spread teams like James Madison, West Virginia, and Indiana, he will be needed in a big way for the team’s games against the powerful running styles of Iowa, Wisconsin, Penn State, Michigan State, and Michigan.