Part of a position-by-position look at Maryland football this spring
Running down Maryland’s defensive line …
Starters returning (3): DT Joe Vellano (94 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 12 starts), DE Keith Bowers (36 tackles, 6 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 11 starts), DT Andre Monroe (18 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 5 sacks, 4 starts)
Other notable returnees: DT A.J. Francis (31 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 sacks, 4 starts), DE Isaiah Ross (2 tackles, 1 start), DE Ian Evans (7 tackles, 0.5 sack)
Starters lost (1): DE David Mackall (transfer; 30 tackles, 6 TFL, 3 sacks, 7 starts)
Other notable departures: DT Maurice Hampton (graduation; 21 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 0.5 sacks, 4 starts)
Notable additions: DE Justin Anderson (return from redshirt season), DE Quinton Jefferson (grayshirt)
Emerging names to know: DT Darius Kilgo (sophomore)
Career starts returning: 77 (Vellano 25, Francis 23, Anderson 13, Bowers 11, Monroe 4, Ross 1)
Career starts lost: 12 (Mackall 7, Hampton 5)
On paper, not much is going to look good for a team coming off a 2-10 season.
Maryland’s defensive line is a notable exception.
Looking for a star? The Terrapins have it in Joe Vellano.
In search of an efficient performer? When healthy, that’s exactly what Andre Monroe was as a redshirt freshman.
Seeking a run-stopping, middle-clogging defensive tackle? A.J. Francis did that well early in his career.
Trying to find a few talented guys coming off injuries that can bolster the rotation? Both Justin Anderson and Isaiah Ross fit the bill.
That’s five guys for three spots, and it doesn’t even include incumbent starter Keith Bowers, who is out for the rest of spring practice with heart palpitations.
By switching to a 3-4 and shifting several tackles to end (including Vellano, who rightfully was a first-team all-ACC pick and second-team All-American last year despite the disaster around him), the Terps are probably deeper at end than at any point in recent memory. It’s a bit jury-rigged, sure, but it won’t be hard to defensive line coach Greg Gattuso to establish a rotation of capable ends if there aren’t an overwhelming number of injuries.
The more curious situation is at tackle, where the loquacious Francis is no longer being asked to slim down and instead can do what he does best: Occupy offensive linemen and drag down some tailbacks trying to slip past him. If Darius Kilgo can emerge as a competent backup (he had five tackles in limited work last year), the defensive line figures to be a strength.
As much as people love their running backs and receivers, play on the lines (as well as at quarterback) often dictate a team’s success. Maryland is thin at quarterback and inexperienced along the offensive line (more on those in later posts), but an able D-line might be the first sign of a less porous defense in 2012.
—- Patrick Stevens