Terps Football: 2017 Season Preview – The Defensive Ends
Over the course of the last few months, we’ve previewed Maryland’s offense position-by-position. Today, we’ll start taking a look at head coach DJ Durkin’s specialty: the defense. The Terrapins’ defense had its struggles last season, especially against the run. We’ll preview the defensive tackles next week, but the defensive ends hold responsibility in the run game as well. While they did a fairly good job of getting to the quarterback last season, setting the edge on runs needs to be a priority for this unit in 2017. It’s a unit that will be led by a new coach, with Jimmy Brumbaugh taking over responsibility both as defensive line coach and co-defensive coordinator.
(Discuss this article on the BSL Message Board here.)
Chandler Burkett (Redshirt Senior)
2017 Projection: Starter (Strong-Side)
2016 Statistics: 35 tackles (4.5 for loss), 3.0 sacks, 0 fumbles forced, 3 pass breakups, 2 kicks blocked
Burkett had a breakout season in 2016 as a redshirt junior, finishing the year with 8 consecutive starts on the strong side of Maryland’s defensive line. His best game came against Indiana, when he notched 9 tackles, including 1.5 for a loss. He is a good pass-rusher for a strong-side defensive end, which gives him the versatility that Durkin likes to have in his linemen.
I have projected Burkett to start at strong-side defensive end in his final season with the Terrapins. I also brought him up in our Talking Terps Football With Talking Terps article last month as an under-the-radar player who I see having a big year.
Jesse Aniebonam (Senior)
2017 Projection: Starter (Buck)
2016 Statistics: 46 tackles (14.0 for loss), 9.0 sacks, 1 fumble forced, 1 pass breakup
Aniebonam thrived in his first season as a featured Buck in Durkin’s hybrid defensive scheme. He led the team with 9 sacks and 14 tackles for loss, and played in all 13 of the team’s games. Durkin and defensive coordinator Andy Buh moved him all over their defensive formations, playing him inside, outside, and as a linebacker. With a year of experience in Durkin’s scheme, expect for him to do even more in his final season with the Terrapins.
Aniebonam will be the team’s starting Buck this season. While Durkin will most likely rotate a few players into this position, Aniebonam will get primary reps.
Brett Kulka (Redshirt Junior)
2017 Projection: Second-Team (Strong-Side)
2016 Statistics: 11 tackles (1.0 for loss), 0.5 sack, 0 fumbles forced, 0 pass breakups
The struggles of the interior of Maryland’s defensive line last season forced Kulka to showcase his impressive versatility. After starting the year as a reserve defensive end, he moved inside to make 5 starts at defensive tackle.
I have projected Kulka to move back outside this season and serve as Burkett’s primary backup at strong-side defensive end. His size and skillset serve him better at this position, and Durkin has a few more weapons to work with on the interior this season.
Melvin Keihn (Redshirt Junior)
2017 Projection: Second-Team (Buck)
2016 Statistics: 24 tackles (2.0 for loss), 0.0 sacks, 0 fumbles forced, 1 pass breakup
Keihn had a decent debut season with the Terrapins after transferring from Virginia Tech before the start of the 2015 season. He played in 10 of the team’s 13 games, and racked up 8 tackles against Penn State in early October.
I have projected Keihn to serve as Aniebonam’s primary backup at the Buck position this season, and he’ll see plenty of playing time in the heavy defensive line rotation.
Lawtez Rogers (Freshman)
2017 Projection: Third-Team (Strong-Side)
2016 Statistics (High School): 45 tackles (0.0 for loss), 8.0 sacks, 0 fumbles forced, 0 pass breakups
Rogers will be joining the team shortly as a member of Durkin’s stellar 2017 recruiting class. He attended high school at nearby Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, and was a consensus 3-star recruit. He has the size and skillset necessary to play on the strong side of Brumbaugh’s defensive line.
I have projected Rogers to serve as the third-string strong-side defensive end this season, behind both Burkett and Kulka. He may serve a redshirt season if he isn’t used on special teams. With Burkett graduating after the season, his best chance for playing time will come in 2018.
Dion Goldbourne (Redshirt Freshman)
2017 Projection: Third-Team (Buck)
2016 Statistics: Redshirted
Goldbourne redshirted last season as a true freshman, but he has impressed the coaching staff a lot during his short time in College Park. He is a pure pass-rusher out of Delray Beach, FL, and fits perfectly into the Buck position in Durkin’s scheme.
I have projected Goldbourne to serve as the team’s third-string Buck this season, and he will also likely see time in the defensive line rotation. Between Aniebonam, Keihn, and Goldbourne, the Terrapins ought to have a rather formidable pass-rush in 2017.
Andrew Isaacs (Redshirt Senior)
2017 Projection: Fourth-Team (Strong-Side)
2016 Statistics: 1 tackle (0.0 for loss)
Isaacs is an unknown commodity on the defensive line, after spending the last 4 years as a tight end. Due to injuries, he was never able to break through at that position, and he’s hoping that a position change will give him the opportunity to contribute in his final season in College Park.
I have projected Isaacs to serve as the team’s fourth-string strong-side defensive end this season, but he could potentially leap-frog Rogers at the position. Regardless, it looks like the majority of his playing time will come on special teams in 2017.
Bryce Brand (Freshman)
2017 Projection: Redshirt
2016 Statistics (High School): 80 tackles (10.0 for loss), 11.5 sacks, 0 fumbles forced, 0 pass breakups
Brand is an early-enrollee from Detroit, MI who came to College Park during the offseason with his brother Ryan, a quarterback. Bryce is a former 3-star recruit who flipped his commitment from Arizona, and will likely slot into the Buck position on Durkin’s defense.
I have projected Brand to serve a redshirt season in 2017. There are a number of talented players at the Buck position this year, so his best chance for playing time will come in 2018.
B’Ahmad Miller (Freshman)
2017 Projection: Redshirt
2016 Statistics (High School): N/A
Miller is another one of the freshman defensive linemen who Durkin added in his 2017 recruiting class. He comes to College Park as a former 3-star recruit from St. Frances Academy in Baltimore, MD. He will likely fit into a strong-side defensive end role on Maryland’s defense.
I have projected Miller to redshirt in 2017. Like most of the freshman defensive ends, his best chance for playing time will come in 2018.
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]