2016 Terps Season Preview: Linebackers
The Maryland Terrapins enter the 2016 season with some very talented starting linebackers, but questions begin to arise when considering the lack of depth at the position. Under Head Coach DJ Durkin and Defensive Coordinator Andy Buh, Maryland will run a base 4-3 Under defensive scheme, meaning that 3 linebackers will be on the field along with 4 defensive linemen. However, Durkin also likes to use a lot of Nickel and Dime formations, meaning that he could compensate for the lack of depth at the linebacker position by using more defensive backs.
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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/
Defensive Tackles: http://baltimoresportsandlife.com/2016-terps-season-preview-defensive-tackles/
Jalen Brooks (Redshirt Junior)
2016 Projection: Starter (Strong-Side)
2015 Statistics: 64 tackles (1.0 for loss), 0.0 sacks, 2 interceptions, 1 forced fumble
Brooks had a breakout season last year, starting 11 of the team’s 12 games and finishing 5th in tackles. He is a very strong player, and stops the run well from his strong-side linebacker position. However, he also added 2 interceptions last season, proving that he can do more than simply tackle running backs. His best game came against Bowling Green, when he racked up 9 tackles and an interception.
I have projected Brooks to start at strong-side linebacker for the Terrapins this season. He will be a crucial part of Buh’s defensive gameplan against teams like Michigan, Michigan State, and Wisconsin. However, against spread offenses, he will most likely be taken off of the field in favor of a smaller defensive back.
Jermaine Carter, Jr. (Redshirt Junior)
2016 Projection: Starter (Middle)
2015 Statistics: 103 tackles (14.0 for loss), 0.0 sacks, 0 interceptions, 0 forced fumbles
It’s difficult to believe that Carter is only entering his second season as Maryland’s starting middle linebacker. He has appeared in every single game over the course of the past two years, and started all 12 games for the Terrapins last season. He led the team in tackles, averaging 8.6 of them per game. Not only was he one of the best linebackers in recent history for Maryland, he was one of the best in the Big Ten Conference last season. He recorded over 10 tackles in 4 different games, and finished the team’s game against West Virginia with 14 tackles, 3.0 of which were for a loss. For his efforts last season, he was an All-Big Ten honorable mention.
Carter will start at middle linebacker for the Terrapins this season, as one of the team’s few “sure thing” projections. He has a chance to make history both for Maryland’s football program, and for the Big Ten Conference. His name is already in many conversations for the 2017 NFL Draft, and with another solid season this year, no one could blame him for taking his talents to the next level.
Shane Cockerille (Redshirt Junior)
2016 Projection: Starter (Weak-Side)
2015 Statistics: 11/23 (47.8%), 82 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT; 16 carries, 37 yards, 0 TD; 2 catches, 2 yards, 0 TD; 3 tackles (0.0 for loss), 0.0 sacks, 0 interceptions, 0 forced fumbles
Cockerille’s time in College Park has certainly been an interesting ride. He came to Maryland in former head coach Randy Edsall’s 2013 recruiting class as a highly decorated quarterback. After redshirting during his freshman season, he saw some time playing on special teams in 2014. In order to get onto the field, he moved to fullback for the 2015 season. After seeing some time there, the coaching staff elected to use him as a sort of wildcat quarterback towards the end of the season. During this off-season, Durkin announced that Cockerille would be moving to linebacker for the 2016 season. There is no question that he is an extremely athletic young man, capable of playing nearly any position on the field.
I have projected Cockerille to start at weak-side linebacker for the Terrapins this season. Abner Logan was projected to have this job before announcing that he would be transferring out of the program at the end of April. His departure opened a door for Cockerille, who saw a ton of playing time during the Red-White Spring Game.
Gus Little (Redshirt Freshman)
2016 Projection: Second-Team (Strong-Side)
2015 Statistics: None
Little came to Maryland last year in Edsall’s 2015 recruiting class as a 3-star linebacker. He was ranked as one of the best inside linebackers in the state of Virginia and one of the better ones in the country coming out of Massaponax High School in Fredericksburg. He redshirted during his freshman season, and proved to be a solid scout team player in practice.
I have projected Little to serve as the second-string strong-side linebacker for Maryland this season. Ideally, he would have one or two more experienced players above him on the depth chart to allow him to gain experience behind them. However, that is not the case this season, and he will likely spend fall camp competing for this job with Matt Gillespie.
Tyler Burke (Redshirt Sophomore)
2016 Projection: Second-Team (Middle)
2015 Statistics: 8 tackles (1.0 for loss), 0.0 sacks, 0 interceptions, 1 forced fumble
After serving a redshirt season in 2014, Burke appeared in every game for the Terrapins last season, primarily on special teams. He was a 3-star linebacker in Edsall’s 2014 recruiting class, and was ranked as one of the better recruits in the state of Pennsylvania coming out of Coatesville High School.
I have projected Burke to serve as Carter’s backup at middle linebacker for the Terrapins in 2016. The experience that he gained last season should serve him well as he prepares for an expanded role this season.
Nnamdi Egbuaba (Redshirt Sophomore)
2016 Projection: Second-Team (Weak-Side)
2015 Statistics: 1 tackle (0.0 for loss), 0.0 sacks, 0 interceptions, 0 forced fumbles
Like Burke, Egbuaba came to College Park in Edsall’s 2014 recruiting class and redshirted during his freshman season. He appeared in the team’s final 6 games of the season last year, primarily on special teams. He was ranked as a 3-star recruit coming out of St. Frances Academy in Baltimore.
I have projected Egbuaba to serve as Cockerille’s backup at weak-side linebacker for the Terrapins this season. His speed and athleticism will serve him well at this position, which will require him to cover slot receivers and running backs out of the backfield.
Matt Gillespie (Redshirt Sophomore)
2016 Projection: Third-Team (Strong-Side)
2015 Statistics: None
Gillespie walked onto the Maryland football team in 2014 and spent that year redshirting. He didn’t see the field last season, but was named the special teams scout team’s player of the week for his preparation before the West Virginia game. He is a local product, hailing from Loyola Blakefield High School in Towson.
I have projected Gillespie to serve as the team’s third-string strong-side linebacker behind Brooks and Little, though he could challenge for the second-string job with a strong camp.
Isaiah Davis (Redshirt Freshman)
2016 Projection: Third-Team (Middle)
2015 Statistics: None
Davis is the younger brother of former Terrapins defensive back Sean Davis, who was selected in the second round of the NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers in April. He redshirted during his freshman season in 2015, and will be working for a chance to see the field this year.
I have projected Davis to serve as Maryland’s third-string middle linebacker this season. He is likely a year or two away from contributing in a big way, but he may see time on special teams this year.
Brett Zanotto (Sophomore)
2016 Projection: Third-Team (Weak-Side)
2015 Statistics: 23 tackles (1.0 for loss), 0.5 sacks, 0 interceptions, 0 forced fumbles
Zanotto was a very pleasant surprise for Maryland last season, playing in 10 of the team’s 12 games as a true freshman backup linebacker. He came to College Park as the 2nd-best inside linebacker in the state of Pennsylvania out of Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville. He finished the season strong, playing in the final six games of the year.
I have projected Zanotto to serve as Maryland’s third-string weak-side linebacker this season. However, he will most likely be given a chance to compete for the starting job with Cockerille and Egbuaba during fall camp.
Brett Shepherd (Freshman)
2016 Projection: Redshirt (Strong-Side)
2015 Statistics (High School): N/A
Shepherd comes to College Park as a 3-star linebacker recruit from Collins Hill High School in Buford, Georgia. He was one of the late additions to Maryland’s 2016 recruiting class after Durkin was hired. He chose Maryland over a number of different Power Five programs, including Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma State, Virginia, and Virginia Tech.
I have projected Shepherd to redshirt during his true freshman season for Maryland. He looks to be a very talented young man who may very well be able to contribute in a big way for Buh’s defense in a few years after he gains some experience and bulks up a bit.
Antoine Brooks (Freshman)
2016 Projection: Redshirt (Weak-Side)
2015 Statistics (High School): N/A
Brooks was a local standout high school player at DuVal High School in nearby Lanham as both a quarterback and a defensive back. However, due to a gruesome injury he suffered in the middle of his senior season, he didn’t get a scholarship offer from the Terrapins until very late in the recruiting season. However, Durkin and his staff liked what they saw and brought him on board as a linebacker.
I have projected Brooks to redshirt during his freshman season with the Terrapins. This will allow him to work himself back to game speed and continue to rehabilitate after his injury. He is an absolutely freakish athlete who has a chance to be a solid contributor for Buh’s defense in a few years.