2016 Terps Season Preview: Defensive Tackles
Last week, we took a look at the defensive ends that will be on the roster for the Maryland football program in 2016. This week, we’ll be previewing the rest of the defensive line as we look at the team’s defensive tackles. Along with the offensive line, this unit is one of the most difficult to project for this season. There are a group of about 5-6 players who could all start, and it’s very likely that we see a heavy rotation by head coach DJ Durkin and defensive coordinator Andy Buh. Note that, in the base 4-3 Under defensive scheme that Maryland will use this season (and used last season) the interior of the defensive line features a nose tackle and a defensive tackle. In this sense, it is essentially a 3-4 scheme with the primary pass-rusher lining up on the line instead of off of it.
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2016 Terps Season Preview: The Series
Running Backs: http://baltimoresportsandlife.com/2016-season-preview-running-backs/
Wide Receivers: http://baltimoresportsandlife.com/2016-terps-season-preview-wide-receivers/
Tight Ends: http://baltimoresportsandlife.com/2016-terps-season-preview-tight-ends/
Offensive Tackles: http://baltimoresportsandlife.com/2016-terps-season-preview-offensive-tackles
Offensive Guards: http://baltimoresportsandlife.com/2016-terps-season-preview-offensive-guards
Defensive Ends: http://baltimoresportsandlife.com/2016-terps-season-preview-defensive-ends/
David Shaw (Redshirt Sophomore)
2016 Projection: Starter (Nose Tackle)
2015 Statistics: 6 tackles (0.5 for loss), 0.0 sacks, 0 forced fumbles
Shaw was Maryland’s starting nose tackle for the first four games of last season before suffering a season-ending injury against West Virginia. He was fortunate enough to receive a medical redshirt for last year, and will begin this season with three years of eligibility remaining. His best game of 2016 came in that West Virginia game, where he recorded 3 of his 6 tackles. He gives Durkin and Buh size and some agility from his nose tackle spot.
I have projected Shaw to be the starting nose tackle for the Terrapins this season. I feel relatively confident about this projection, though there are some players who could challenge him for the starting job.
Adam McLean (Freshman)
2016 Projection: Starter (Defensive Tackle)
2015 Statistics: None
It has taken a little bit of extra time for McLean to join the Terrapins due to some academic problems, but after enrolling early this spring, he is finally ready to contribute for Buh’s defense. He came to College Park in 2015 as a 4-star recruit out of Quince Orchard High School in Gaithersburg, MD. Originally committed to Penn State, he spurned the Nittany Lions by switching his commitment to Maryland. He was ranked as the #2 player in the state of Maryland when he left high school.
I have projected McLean to start at defensive tackle for the Terrapins this season. However, I should note that this position is extremely difficult to project. While I feel relatively confident about Shaw being the team’s starting nose tackle, the defensive tackle position is very much up in the air. But after enrolling early and gaining the necessary experience, there is no reason why McLean shouldn’t be able to earn a starting job in his first season with the program.
Kingsley Opara (Redshirt Junior)
2016 Projection: Second-Team (Nose Tackle)
2015 Statistics: 16 tackles (0.5 for loss), 0.5 sacks, 0 forced fumbles
Opara is entering his fourth season with the Terrapins after coming to College Park in former head coach Randy Edsall’s 2013 recruiting class. He saw his first game action last season, playing in 11 of the team’s 12 games. He was a solid reserve interior lineman for the team last season, and will be looking to make an even bigger impact this year.
I have projected Opara to serve as Shaw’s backup at nose tackle for Maryland this season. However, he could also play defensive tackle, which makes projecting this unit even more difficult.
Cavon Walker (Redshirt Junior)
2016 Projection: Second-Team (Defensive Tackle)
2015 Statistics: 7 tackles (0.0 for loss), 0 sacks, 0 forced fumbles
Like Opara, Walker came to College Park in Edsall’s 2013 recruiting class. Unlike Opara, he did it as a 3-star linebacker recruit. Over the past two years, he has made the transition from outside linebacker to interior defensive lineman. After missing the majority of the 2014 season due to injury, he saw his first real playing time as a defensive tackle last season. He played in 10 games, with most of his action coming on special teams.
I have projected Walker to serve as McLean’s backup at defensive tackle for Maryland this season. However, he could just as easily become the starter or the third-stringer at the position. The defensive tackle job will likely be won during fall camp.
Azubuike Ukandu (Redshirt Senior)
2016 Projection: Third-Team (Nose Tackle)
2015 Statistics: 24 tackles (7.0 for loss), 3.0 sacks, 1 forced fumble
Ukandu has one of the best stories on the Maryland football team. After walking onto the team in 2012 and serving a redshirt season, he saw very sporadic action in the 2014 season. However, last season he played in 11 of the team’s 12 games, starting in 8 of them. With the team struggling through many injuries on the interior of the defensive line, Ukandu’s season was very impressive. His best game came against Wisconsin, where he recorded 5 tackles, 2.5 of which were for a loss.
I have projected Ukandu to serve as the third-string nose tackle for Maryland in 2016. I should note that he and Opara will likely be battling for the backup nose tackle job all throughout fall camp.
Keiron Howard (Redshirt Freshman)
2016 Projection: Third-Team (Defensive Tackle)
2015 Statistics: None
Howard came to College Park in Edsall’s 2015 recruiting class as a 3-star recruit from Potomac High School in Fort Washington, MD. He was ranked as the 13th-best player in the state of Maryland. He served a redshirt season last year, and saw a lot of playing time in the Red-White Spring game this season.
I have projected Howard to serve as the third-string defensive tackle for Maryland this season. With a good fall camp, he could challenge for the starting job.
Malik Jones (Redshirt Junior)
2016 Projection: Fourth-Team (Defensive Tackle)
2015 Statistics: None
Jones suffered a season-ending injury during fall camp in 2015, and will be looking to bounce back from that this season. He has only seen action in a few games during his collegiate career.
I have projected Jones to serve as the fourth-string defensive tackle for Maryland in 2016. However, he should be in the mix for the starting job during fall camp, so he could wind up anywhere on the depth chart at the position when the season begins.
Oseh Saine (Redshirt Freshman)
2016 Projection: Fifth-Team (Defensive Tackle)
2015 Statistics: None
Saine came to College Park in Edsall’s 2015 recruiting class as a rather late addition, switching his commitment from Boston College to Maryland. He redshirted during his freshman season, and will be looking to contribute for Durkin and Buh this year.
I have projected Saine to serve as the fifth-string defensive tackle for the Terrapins in 2016. However, he should also be in the mix for the starting job during fall camp.
Seun Oluwatimi (Freshman)
2016 Projection: Redshirt (Nose Tackle)
2015 Statistics (High School): N/A
Oluwatimi was a very lightly recruited defensive lineman from nearby DeMatha Catholic High School when Durkin offered him a scholarship. He played both offensive and defensive line for the Stags, and will play on the defensive side of the football for the Terrapins.
I have projected Oluwatimi to redshirt during his freshman season with Maryland.
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]