Terps Football: 2017 Season Preview – The Defensive Tackles
Last season, one of the biggest weaknesses for the Maryland Terrapins’ defense was the interior of their defensive line. The team’s run defense was one of the worst in the Big Ten Conference, and even a constant in-game rotation of players through the position wasn’t enough to find any consistency. A few of the players from last year’s roster are back, but they are joined by some very talented youngsters. There ought to be enough talent on the interior of the defensive line this season to find the consistency that they lacked in 2016.
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Cavon Walker (Redshirt Senior)
2017 Projection: Starter (Defensive Tackle)
2016 Statistics: 30 tackles (8.5 for loss), 3.5 sacks, 1 fumble forced, 2 pass breakups
Walker came to Maryland back in 2013 as an outside linebacker, but worked his way into a role as a defensive tackle last season. He started 3 games in 2017, and only got better as the season went along. In the 4-man front that head coach DJ Durkin typically runs, Walker plays the 3-technique position. He uses his quickness and agility, and of the two interior defensive linemen, he is the best pass-rusher. He was a bit inconsistent at times last season, which led to more playing time for Brett Kulka at this position.
I have projected Walker to start at the defensive tackle position for the Terrapins in 2017. However, due to a likely deep rotation at the position, Durkin may stick with the hot hand here and things may be different week-to-week. Walker’s experience and strong finish to last season make him an excellent candidate to start this year.
Kingsley Opara (Redshirt Senior)
2017 Projection: Starter (Nose Tackle)
2016 Statistics: 41 tackles (11.5 for loss), 3.0 sacks, 1 fumble forced, 0 pass breakups
Opara started 9 games for Maryland’s defense last season, and had some very nice games at nose tackle. He ranked second on the team in tackles for loss with 11.5, and recovered the fumble in double overtime against UCF that would eventually lead to the team’s victory. In Durkin’s 4-man front, he plays the 1-technique. He utilizes his size and toughness inside, and is the defense’s primary run-stopper.
I have projected Opara to start at nose tackle for Maryland in 2017. Like Walker however, a deep rotation could force him into a more secondary role if another player steps up.
Adam McLean (Sophomore)
2017 Projection: Second-Team (Defensive Tackle)
2016 Statistics: None
Maryland fans have been waiting for this former 4-star recruit to have a breakout season, and 2017 may be the year. McLean was originally recruited as a part of former head coach Randy Edsall’s 2015 recruiting class, but due to some academic issues was pushed back into the 2016 class. He played in just 1 game last season, and despite issues on the defensive line, was unable to crack the depth chart.
I have projected McLean to serve as Walker’s primary backup at defensive tackle in 2017, and be a solid member of the rotation of interior defensive linemen. He has excellent quickness for his size, and should fit well in Durkin’s 4-man front.
Cam Spence (Freshman)
2017 Projection: Second-Team (Nose Tackle)
2016 Statistics (High School): N/A
Spence will arrive in College Park shortly as one of the highest-rated recruits in Durkin’s 2017 recruiting class. A 4-star recruit from the infamous IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL, he has the size and the talent to play immediately at the collegiate level.
I have projected Spence to serve as Opara’s primary backup at nose tackle in 2017. Like McLean, I expect him to see plenty of playing time as a member of the defensive lineman rotation.
Keiron Howard (Redshirt Sophomore)
2017 Projection: Third-Team (Defensive Tackle)
2016 Statistics: 1 tackle (0.0 for loss), 0.0 sacks, 0 fumbles forced, 0 pass breakups
Howard came to College Park in 2015 as one of the better high school players in the state of Maryland, but has yet to break through for the Terrapins. After redshirting during his freshman season, he played a minor role in just 5 games last year. He’ll have a better chance for playing time in 2017, but will have to work to separate himself from some of the very talented freshmen who Durkin has recruited this season.
I have projected Howard to serve as the team’s third-string defensive tackle in 2017. With Walker and McLean ahead of him, he’ll have to work to become a member of the rotation of defensive linemen. A strong 2017 season would set him up nicely for 2018 when Walker has graduated.
Breyon Gaddy (Freshman)
2017 Projection: Third-Team (Nose Tackle)
2016 Statistics (High School): 22 tackles (0.0 for loss), 4.0 sacks, 1 fumble forced, 1 pass breakup
Gaddy is the biggest defensive player on the roster, weighing in at a whopping 360 pounds. In fact, he’s tied for biggest player on the entire roster with offensive lineman Richard Merritt. He was recruited along with his twin brother Brandon, and flipped from Tennessee to come to College Park.
I have projected Breyon to serve as the team’s third-string nose tackle in 2017. He was recruited as one of the better interior defensive linemen in the country, and his size is unbelievable for an 18-year old. Like Howard, he may have to work a bit to become a member of the defensive line rotation.
Oseh Saine (Redshirt Sophomore)
2017 Projection: Fourth-Team (Defensive Tackle)
2016 Statistics: 5 tackles (0.5 for loss), 0.5 sacks, 0 fumbles forced, 0 pass breakups
Saine played a small role last season after redshirting as a true freshman in 2015. Edsall flipped his commitment from Boston College in order to bring him to College Park. He has good agility for his size, which makes him a good fit as a 3-technique in Durkin’s 4-man front.
I have projected Saine to serve as the team’s fourth-string defensive tackle in 2017. He should be given the opportunity to compete his way up the depth chart during camp, and could potentially steal some playing time from players like Howard or McLean.
Mbi Tanyi (Junior)
2017 Projection: Fourth-Team (Nose Tackle)
2016 Statistics: 9 tackles (0.0 for loss), 0.0 sacks, 0 fumbles forced, 0 pass breakups
Tanyi was a bit of a surprise contributor in 2016, playing in 9 games and playing an extended role against Indiana in late October. He’ll be looking to take the next step and play a bigger role in the next two seasons before he leaves College Park.
I have projected Tanyi to serve as the team’s fourth-string nose tackle in 2017. However, with two freshmen above him on my projected depth chart, it’s entirely possible that he works his way into a much bigger role.
Seun Oluwatimi (Sophomore)
2017 Projection: Fifth-Team (Nose Tackle)
2016 Statistics: Did Not Play
Oluwatimi didn’t see any playing time as a true freshman out of DeMatha Catholic High School last season.
I have projected him to serve as the team’s fifth-string nose tackle in 2017.
Celso Rivera (Junior)
2017 Projection: Sixth-Team (Nose Tackle)
2016 Statistics: Did Not Play
Rivera is a walk-on from Woodbridge, VA who weighs in at an impressive 350 pounds. After Gaddy and Merritt, he comes in as the third-biggest player on Maryland’s 2017 roster.
I have projected Rivera to serve as the team’s sixth-string nose tackle in 2017.
Brandon Gaddy (Freshman)
2017 Projection: Redshirt
2016 Statistics (High School): N/A
Breyon’s brother is a bit smaller and was rated a bit lower by the recruiting agencies, but is very talented nonetheless. He is an extremely impressive athlete, having played quarterback, running back, and tight end in high school, in addition to defensive tackle. In fact, he ran for 18 touchdowns in his junior year.
I have projected Brandon to redshirt during his true freshman season, but he could very well work his way into a role in the defensive lineman rotation.