In an odd-front defensive scheme like Maryland has run since head coach Michael Locksley took the reins in College Park two years ago, the inside linebacker position is likely the most important one. Expected to do everything from stop the run, rush the passer, and cover in the passing game, their versatility and athleticism have to be stellar. As has been the case for the last few seasons, there’ll be no shortage of talent at the position 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)

Can Lewis get onto the field?
Locksley and his coaching staff shocked the nation when they landed 5-star linebacker Terrence Lewis in January. But after undergoing surgery for a torn ACL in late March, his status for the season is still questionable. The coaching staff would obviously love to get him involved as soon as possible.

How big of a leap can Hyppolite II make?
As a highly-touted freshman, Ruben Hyppolite II showed flashes of brilliance last season. He’ll likely have a more solidified role in 2021, and the coaching staff will be looking for him to break out in the middle of their defense.

How big of a loss is Campbell?
After a 2020 season that saw him lead the team in tackles and tackles for loss, Chance Campbell elected to transfer to Ole Miss where he’ll be reunited with former Maryland head coach DJ Durkin. While there’s plenty of young talent at the inside linebacker position, he would’ve been the clear leader of defensive coordinator Brian Stewart’s unit had he stayed in College Park.

Brawley Evans – Inside Linebackers Coach

After spending last season as Maryland’s outside linebackers coach, Evans will be coaching the inside linebackers in 2021. He’s a native of Baltimore and is a veteran of the coaching staff in College Park, spending two seasons as a graduate assistant from 2012-2013 and four seasons as an analyst from 2016-2019.

Ruben Hyppolite II (Sophomore*)

2021 Projection: Starter (Strong-Side)
2020 Statistics: 18 tackles (2.0 for loss), 2.0 sacks, 0 forced fumbles, 0 INTs

Hyppolite II was Maryland’s highest-rated defensive recruit in their 2020 recruiting class, ranked by 247Sports as the 17th-best outside linebacker in the country and the 40th-best player from the state of Florida. He played in all but one game for the Terrapins in 2020, and recorded both of his sacks in the team’s game against Penn State.

I’ve projected Hyppolite II to serve as the team’s starting strong-side inside linebacker in 2021. His versatility and athleticism will allow Stewart to move him all over the field, and his coverage ability ensures that he won’t be a liability on passing downs. If he plays his cards right, he should be poised for a breakout sophomore season.

Fa’Najae Gotay (Redshirt Junior*)

2021 Projection: Starter (Weak-Side)
2020 Statistics: 23 tackles (1.0 for loss), 0.0 sacks, 0 forced fumbles, 0 INTs

After playing primarily as a safety in high school, Gotay has made an excellent transition to the linebacker position for the Terrapins. While adding bulk to his frame, he’s retained the sideline-to-sideline speed that made him such a weapon in the secondary. He played in all but one game for Maryland last season, racking up 11 tackles in the team’s season finale against Rutgers.

I’ve projected Gotay to serve as the team’s starting weak-side inside linebacker in 2021. Like Hyppolite II, he’s an excellent coverage linebacker who doesn’t need to be taken off the field on passing downs.

Gereme Spraggins (Junior*)

2021 Projection: Second-Team (Strong-Side)
2021 Statistics (Hutchinson Community College): 41 tackles (8.0 for loss), 3.0 sacks, 0 forced fumbles, 1 INT

Spraggins comes to College Park as a 3-star recruit from the junior college ranks. 247Sports ranked him as the 5th-best junior college linebacker recruit in the country. He played in 19 games over the course of two seasons for Hutchinson Community College, where he racked up 111 total tackles and 5.5 sacks. He’s a Maryland native, playing his high school football at Arundel High School in Gambrills.

I’ve projected Spraggins to serve as the team’s second-string strong-side inside linebacker in 2021. He’ll likely push Hyppolite II for snaps, and could see some playing time on base downs.

Branden Jennings (Freshman)

2021 Projection: Second-Team (Weak-Side)
2020 Statistics (High School): 84 tackles (19.0 for loss), 12.0 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 0 INTs

Jennings comes to College Park as a 4-star recruit from Sandalwood High School in Jacksonville, FL. 247Sports ranked him as the 12th-best linebacker in the country, and the 18th-best player from the state of Florida. While he had originally committed to Michigan, he flipped to Maryland on National Signing Day in December.

I’ve projected Jennings to serve as the team’s second-string weak-side inside linebacker in 2021. With Lewis likely out for at least a portion of the season, he’ll have an opportunity to grab some playing time immediately. Stewart may also elect to use him as an outside linebacker on passing downs due to his pass-rushing abilities.

TJ Kautai (Senior*)

2021 Projection: Third-Team (Strong-Side)
2020 Statistics: Did Not Play

Kautai transferred to Maryland from Independence Community College in Independence, KS before last season began but elected to sit out due to COVID-19. At the time, 247Sports ranked him as the 7th-best junior college inside linebacker recruit in the country. He tallied 32 total tackles in his 2019 campaign, including 3.0 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. I’ve projected him to serve as the team’s third-string strong-side inside linebacker in 2021.

Kobi Thomas (Junior)

2021 Projection: Third-Team (Weak-Side)
2020 Statistics: 4 tackles (0.0 for loss), 0.0 sacks, 0 forced fumbles, 0 INTs

Thomas received his first playing time last year after joining the team as a walk-on before the 2019 season. The majority of his time on the field came on special teams, but he tallied 3 tackles in Maryland’s season finale against Rutgers. 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 third-string weak-side inside linebacker in 2021.

David Brownlee (Senior)

2021 Projection: Fourth-Team (Strong-Side)
2020 Statistics: 3 tackles (0.0 for loss), 0.0 sacks, 0 forced fumbles, 0 INTs

Brownlee has played in seven games for the Terrapins after joining the team as a walk-on before the 2018 season. He saw the field in all but one game last year, recording a tackle in the team’s games against Minnesota, Penn State, and Rutgers. He played his high school football at Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville, MD. I’ve projected him to serve as the team’s fourth-string strong-side inside linebacker in 2021.

Sean Greeley (Junior)

2021 Projection: Fourth-Team (Weak-Side)
2020 Statistics: None

Greeley has been a key player on special teams for the Terrapins since joining the team as a walk-on before the 2019 season. He’s missed just three games during his first two years in College Park. He played his high school football at Havre de Grace High School in Havre de Grace, MD. I’ve projected him to serve as the team’s fourth-string weak-side inside linebacker in 2021.

Alex Simet (Junior)

2021 Projection: Fifth-Team (Strong-Side)
2020 Statistics: Did Not Play

Simet didn’t see the field after joining the team as a walk-on before last season. He played his high school football at Towson High School in Towson, MD. I’ve projected him to serve as the team’s fifth-string strong-side inside linebacker in 2021.

Brady Smith (Sophomore)

2021 Projection: Fifth-Team (Weak-Side)
2020 Statistics: Did Not Play

Smith joins the team as a walk-on this season after playing his high school football at Parkside High School in Salisbury, MD. I’ve projected him to serve as the team’s fifth-string weak-side inside linebacker in 2021.

Josh Morris (Sophomore)

2021 Projection: Sixth-Team (Strong-Side)
2020 Statistics: Did Not Play

Morris joins the team as a walk-on this season after playing his high school football at Gonzaga College High School in Washington, DC. I’ve projected him to serve as the team’s sixth-string strong-side inside linebacker in 2021.

Maxwell Brown (Freshman)

2021 Projection: Seventh-Team (Strong-Side)
2021 Statistics (High School): N/A

Brown joins the team as a walk-on this season after playing his high school football at Sherwood High School in Sandy Spring, MD. I’ve projected him to serve as the team’s seventh-string strong-side inside linebacker in 2021.

Terrence Lewis (Freshman)

2021 Projection: Injured
2020 Statistics (High School): N/A

Lewis comes to College Park as Maryland’s best recruit since Stefon Diggs in 2012. 247Sports ranks him as a 5-star prospect, the best linebacker in the country, and the 5th-best player from the state of Florida. He led Miami Central High School to a state championship last season despite playing with a torn ACL. He boasts stellar sideline-to-sideline speed and is a prototypical modern inside linebacker. His abilities in coverage allow him to stay on the field on passing downs.

Lewis underwent surgery to repair his torn ACL in late March, and has yet to resume full football activities. It’s unclear when he’ll be healthy enough to take the field, but he’ll almost certainly be starting the 2021 season on the sideline. When he returns, he’ll likely compete for snaps at the weak-side inside linebacker position.

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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