Project 2014: The Defensive Line
Image Credit: ESPN
The Maryland Terrapins’ defensive line underwent a lot of changes from the 2012 season to the 2013 season. Star linemen Joe Vellano and A.J. Francis were gone, leaving only nose tackle Darius Kilgo. Defensive coordinator Brian Stewart was tasked with replacing both defensive end positions, and did so with Keith Bowers and Quinton Jefferson. But by the end of the season, the best defensive lineman on the team was Andre Monroe, the versatile pass-rusher who played both nose tackle and defensive end last season. The team doesn’t lose any key contributors on the defensive line for 2014, and the unit is poised to be very good in a conference that requires solid line play on both sides of the ball.
2013 Sacks Rank: 18th (2.85 sacks/game)
2013 Rush Defense Rank: 45th (149.3 yards/game)
2013 Red Zone Defense Rank: 115th (90.6% scoring)
2013 Total Defense Rank: 44th (374.4 yards/game)
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Darius Kilgo - Redshirt Senior
2013 Statistics: 37 tackles (6.5 for loss), 2.0 sacks, 0 forced fumbles
The Terps’ starting nose tackle returns for his final season in College Park in 2014. He’s been a solid force at the center of Brian Stewart’s 3-4 defense for a few years now, and took on a greater workload in 2013 with the departures of Joe Vellano and A.J. Francis. He is a perfect nose tackle for the 3-4 system, as his big frame allows him to account for the two gaps necessary for his position in the scheme. You won’t see him get a lot of sacks, because that’s not his job. In the 3-4 scheme, his job is to plug the holes in the middle of the defensive line to force running backs outside. He is listed as the co-starter at nose tackle with fellow senior lineman Keith Bowers in the spring depth chart, but I fully expect him to be starting come August.
Andre Monroe - Redshirt Senior
2013 Statistics: 42 tackles (17.0 for loss), 9.0 sacks, 2 forced fumbles
The most improved player on the Terps’ 2013 team was defensive lineman Andre Monroe. He suffered a season-ending injury before the 2012 season, but came back very strong in his full, healthy 2013 campaign. A spectacular pass-rusher, he started out as the backup nose tackle to Darius Kilgo. But his talents were better suited as a defensive end, and he wound up starting at the strong-side end position by the end of the season. He was in the backfield of opposing teams constantly, either tackling running backs for a loss or sacking quarterbacks. Some would say that he came out of nowhere, but if he had stayed healthy in 2012, he could have really broken out big after a great 2011 season. He is listed as a starter at strong-side defensive end on Randy Edsall’s spring depth chart, and he’ll be given every opportunity to start there in his senior season.
Keith Bowers - Senior
2013 Statistics: 32 tackles (0 for loss), 0.0 sacks, 0 forced fumbles
When Andre Monroe was given a starting job last season, Keith Bowers was the odd man out in the defensive line’s starting rotation. He started out the season as the starting weak-side defensive end, but his job was taken by Quinton Jefferson when Monroe took the starting strong-side end job. He had a rough start to last season, and wasn’t able to set the edge well enough on running plays to warrant Randy Edsall keeping him as a starter on the line. After Jefferson took his starting job, Bowers moved inside as Darius Kilgo’s backup at nose tackle. With his size, he may be a better fit there than defensive end, and will be given a chance to compete for the starting job there in the spring.
Quinton Jefferson - Junior
2013 Statistics: 47 tackles (7.5 for loss), 3.0 sacks, 1 forced fumble
The versatile Quinton Jefferson played both strong-side and weak-side defensive end in 2013, and played well in both spots. His pass-rushing ability gave him the skills necessary to play on the strong side, but his ability to set the edge on running plays allowed him to excel on the weak-side as well. He is a player who came to College Park with a lot of potential, and is being given a chance to show what he can do. He should only get better in 2014, as he’ll be the starting weak-side defensive end for Brian Stewart in his 3-4 scheme. Look for his pass-rushing abilities to be on display a bit more than would be normal from a weak-side defensive end, as there’s no denying his talent in that regard.
Nate Clarke - Redshirt Junior
2013 Statistics: 2 tackles (1.0 for loss), 0.0 sacks, 1 forced fumble
In 2012, Nate Clarke moved from the offensive line to the defensive line, and has been a backup nose tackle ever since. He has yet to make a huge impact on the team, as Darius Kilgo has had the nose tackle spot locked down for awhile now. He is a solid backup, and normally will only get playing time on special teams and perhaps in goal line situations. Next season however, he will likely compete for the starting job at nose tackle, as Darius Kilgo, Keith Bowers, and Andre Monroe will have all graduated. For now though, he’ll be the backup at nose tackle.
Roman Braglio - Redshirt Sophomore
2013 Statistics: 6 tackles (3.5 for loss), 2.0 sacks, 0 forced fumbles
Appearing in 10 games with one start against Old Dominion, Roman Braglio solidified himself as the backup strong-side defensive end to both Quinton Jefferson and Andre Monroe last season. A highly ranked local player, he was able to make a good impact in just his redshirt freshman season in 2013. I’d expect his role to increase a bit in 2014, though he’ll still be stuck behind Andre Monroe on the depth chart. His biggest contributions could come in 2015 and 2016, when he could definitely start on the Terps’ defensive line.
Malik Jones - Redshirt Freshman
2013 Statistics: N/A
Recruited to College Park as an offensive lineman, Malik Jones made the switch to the defensive line immediately. His size indicates that he’ll be best suited for a spot at defensive end, likely on the weak side. His raw talent is good, but he’ll likely be buried on the depth chart for awhile. If he can impress the coaches in practice, he may be able to climb up the depth chart and get some playing time on special teams in the near future. His days of real contribution on the defensive line could be a few years away, though.
Kingsley Opara - Redshirt Freshman
2013 Statistics: N/A
One of the Terps’ only defensive line recruits in 2013, Opara was injured for most of last season, eliminating any chance he had of contributing immediately. Although he is listed on the depth chart as a defensive end, I see him adding just a little more size and slotting in at nose tackle. After Darius Kilgo and Keith Bowers graduate, the Terps will have a need at nose tackle, and Opara is a player who could definitely make a difference there. For this season however, he’ll be a backup at one of the defensive line spots.
David Shaw - Freshman
2013 Statistics: N/A
The only defensive lineman recruited by Randy Edsall in 2014 is David Shaw, who projects to be a nose tackle for the Terps. He’s got a great work ethic, and is everything a coach wants in a player from an attitude standpoint. He certainly has some work to do on his game, and I’d expect him to spend 2014 as a redshirt season. If he can do enough good work in the weight room and on the practice field, I could see him potentially competing for the starting nose tackle spot as a redshirt freshman in 2015.