Much like the offensive line, Maryland has also struggled to find and develop talent in the defensive trenches since joining the Big Ten Conference. They showed glimpses of success towards the end of last season, and the coaching staff is hopeful that the combination of young blue-chip recruits and more experienced upper-classmen leads to more success stopping the run and producing an interior pass rush in 2021.

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Note: Players with an asterisk (*) next to their class will have an extra year of eligibility available to them after their senior season due to COVID-19.

The Big Three (Questions)

How much do the freshmen play?
Three of Maryland’s highest-rated recruits in their 2021 recruiting class come along the defensive line, but none of them will be arriving on campus until the summer. With a number of veteran players above them on the depth chart, they’ll need to make a big impression rather quickly if they hope to break through as true freshmen.

Can the upper-classmen build on last season?
Former defensive coordinator Jon Hoke seemed to find a defensive line combination that worked fairly well for him towards the end of last year. With all of those players returning in 2021, they’ll need to continue that success. Otherwise the coaching staff may turn to some of their true freshmen sooner rather than later.

How many players are in the rotation?
Looking at the depth chart, the Terrapins could seemingly go three-deep at every position along the defensive line. Hoke typically used heavy rotations, but it’s yet to be seen how new defensive coordinator Brian Stewart wants to handle this sort of depth.

Brian Williams – Co-Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Line Coach

Williams enters his third season on Maryland’s coaching staff and was promoted to co-defensive coordinator during the off-season. He’s one of the best recruiters in the country, and is responsible for the majority of the team’s blue-chip additions. But he’s also showed his prowess as a position coach, overseeing solid improvement among the team’s defensive linemen in 2020 after spending the previous year coaching outside linebackers.

Lawtez Rogers (Redshirt Senior*)

2021 Projection: Starter (5-technique)
2020 Statistics: 7 tackles (0.0 for loss), 0.0 sacks, 0 forced fumbles

Rogers started in each of the three games he played in, recording all 7 tackles in the team’s home opener against Minnesota. He primarily saw time at the 5-technique position, but was moved to the hybrid JACK spot while Durrell Nchami was injured.

I’ve projected Rogers to serve as the team’s starting 5-technique in 2021, but could be removed on a rotational basis with a bigger lineman on base downs. As will likely be the case with all three positions along the defensive line, this one will feature some sort of rotation.

Mosiah Nasili-Kite (Junior*)

2021 Projection: Starter (3-technique)
2020 Statistics: 20 tackles (5.0 for loss), 4.0 sacks, 0 forced fumbles

Like Finau, Nasili-Kite transferred to Maryland from Independence Community College before last season began. He was extremely impressive in the five games he played in, leading the team in sacks and finishing second behind Chance Campbell in tackles for loss. After the season, he was named as an honorable mention to the All-Big Ten team.

I’ve projected Nasili-Kite to serve as the team’s starting 3-technique in 2021. Sam Okuayinonu may push him for snaps during the season, but his versatility means he can play every position on the defensive line.

Ami Finau (Senior*)

2021 Projection: Starter (Nose)
2020 Statistics: 18 tackles (3.0 for loss), 2.0 sacks, 1 forced fumble

Finau was one of a number of players who transferred to Maryland from Independence Community College before last season, and made an immediate impact. He started at nose tackle in all five of the team’s games, and was tied for second with two sacks on the year.

I’ve projected Finau to serve as the team’s starting nose tackle in 2021. He’ll likely see the lion’s share of snaps at the position, but is the leading candidate to be taken off of the field in nickel and dime situations.

Joseph Boletepeli (Redshirt Junior*)

2021 Projection: Second-Team (5-technique)
2020 Statistics: 8 tackles (1.0 for loss), 0.0 sacks, 0 forced fumbles

Boletepeli saw immediate playing time last season after transferring from N.C. State. Like Rogers, he saw time both along the defensive line and at the hybrid JACK position while Nchami was injured. He appeared in all but one game for the Terrapins, and received his first career start in the team’s game against Penn State.

I’ve projected Boletepeli to serve as the team’s second-string 5-technique in 2021. He’ll likely be given the opportunity to compete for the starting job with Rogers during the summer, and should receive a significant number of snaps regardless of the outcome of that competition.

Sam Okuayinonu (Senior)

2021 Projection: Second-Team (3-technique)
2020 Statistics: 17 tackles (1.5 for loss), 0.5 sacks, 0 forced fumbles

Okuayinonu returns for his third season in College Park after transferring from the junior college ranks before 2019. He’s one of the first players to take advantage of the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA due to the impacts of COVID-19 on the 2020 season. He played in all five of the team’s games last year, with his best game coming in the season opener against Northwestern.

I’ve projected Okuayinonu to serve as the team’s second-string 3-technique in 2021, but he could also see time at the 5-technique spot on base downs. He’ll be competing for snaps with Nasili-Kite during summer practices.

Taizse Johnson (Freshman)

2021 Projection: Second-Team (Nose)
2020 Statistics (High School): N/A

Johnson is one of four additions to Maryland’s defensive line in their 2021 recruiting class. He comes to College Park as a 4-star recruit from St. John’s College High School in Washington, DC. Ranked as the 2nd-best player in the District of Columbia, he chose Maryland over offers from Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, and many others.

I’ve projected Johnson to serve as the team’s second-string nose tackle in 2021. He’ll be competing for the job with Almosse Titi during summer practices, and may be used on a rotational basis. He could also see time at the 3-technique position on base downs.

Darrell Jackson (Freshman)

2021 Projection: Third-Team (5-technique)
2020 Statistics (High School): N/A

Jackson comes to College Park as a 3-star recruit from Gadsden County High School in Havana, FL. He chose Maryland over offers from Miami (FL), Mississippi State, Tennessee, and a few others. I’ve projected him to serve as the team’s third-string 5-technique in 2021, and the coaching staff may elect to redshirt him this season.

Tommy Akingbesote (Freshman)

2021 Projection: Third-Team (3-technique)
2020 Statistics (High School): N/A

Akingbesote is the other blue-chip defensive line recruit, coming to College Park as a 4-star prospect from Charles Herbert Flowers High School in Springdale, MD. He chose Maryland over offers from Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas A&M, and others. I’ve projected him to serve as the team’s third-string 3-technique in 2021, and like Jackson the coaching staff may elect to redshirt him.

Almosse Titi (Redshirt Junior*)

2021 Projection: Third-Team (Nose)
2020 Statistics: None

Titi came to Maryland from the junior college ranks before last season began, and saw most of his playing time come on special teams. He was ranked as the 7th-best junior college defensive tackle recruit last year. I’ve projected him to serve as the team’s third-string nose tackle in 2021, though he’ll have the opportunity to compete for the second-string job with Johnson.

Tyler Baylor (Redshirt Junior*)

2021 Projection: Fourth-Team (5-technique)
2020 Statistics: None

After spending last season as a tight end, Baylor returns to the defensive line in 2021. He’s appeared in 16 games during his first three seasons in College Park, but has yet to break through and make an impact on the field. I’ve projected him to serve as the team’s fourth-string 5-technique in 2021.

Andre Porter (Freshman)

2021 Projection: Fourth-Team (3-technique)
2020 Statistics (High School): N/A

Porter comes to College Park as a highly-regarded 3-star recruit who spent his first three high school seasons in Washington, DC before transferring to Pennsylvania for his senior year. He had been committed to Boston College where former Maryland defensive backs coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim was leading his recruitment, but flipped to the Terrapins just before National Signing Day.

I’ve projected Porter to serve as the team’s fourth-string 3-technique in 2021, though he’ll be given every opportunity to compete with Akingbesote for snaps behind Nasili-Kite and Okuayinonu.

Anthony Booker, Jr. (Redshirt Sophomore*)

2021 Projection: Fourth-Team (Nose)
2020 Statistics: 7 tackles (1.5 for loss), 0.0 sacks, 0 forced fumbles

Booker, Jr. has appeared in 7 games during his first two seasons in College Park, with his most extensive playing time coming last season. I’ve projected him to serve as the team’s fourth-string nose tackle in 2021, but he’ll likely be competing for the backup job with Johnson and Titi during summer practices.

Greg Rose (Senior)

2021 Projection: Fifth-Team (5-technique)
2020 Statistics: None

Rose joined the team before last season as a walk-on after spending his first two collegiate seasons at Lackawanna Community College in Scranton, PA. He played his high school football at nearby DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, MD. I’ve projected him to serve as the team’s fifth-string 5-technique in 2021.

Ernest Shockley III (Redshirt Senior)

2021 Projection: Fifth-Team (3-technique)
2019 Statistics (Indiana University of Pennsylvania): 25 tackles (5.0 for loss), 2.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble

Shockley III comes to College Park as a graduate transfer walk-on after spending the last three seasons at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP). Before that, he spent one year at Bowie State. He had a solid career at IUP, and is following his brother Zion to Maryland. I’ve projected him to serve as the team’s fifth-string 3-technique in 2021.

Ryan Brown (Sophomore)

2021 Projection: Sixth-Team (5-technique)
2020 Statistics: Did Not Play

Brown joined the team as a walk-on before last season began after playing his high school football at Northern High School in Owings, MD. I’ve projected him to serve as the team’s sixth-string 5-technique in 2021.

Isaac Bunyun (Sophomore)

2021 Projection: Sixth-Team (3-technique)
2020 Statistics: Did Not Play

Bunyun joined the team as a walk-on before last season began after playing his high school football at High Point High School in Beltsville, MD. I’ve projected him to serve as the team’s sixth-string 3-technique in 2021.

Zack Kiesel
Zack Kiesel

Terps Analyst

Zack is a financial analyst for a defense contractor in Washington, DC. The Owings Mills native focuses most of his efforts on Maryland Football recruiting and individual coach and player pieces; but also covers Terps Basketball. He has established relationships with Big Ten beat reporters across the conference, which he utilizes in his game previews. Now a Sr. Terps Analyst for BSL, Zack can be reached at: [email protected]

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