The Maryland football team saw their defensive line struggle at times.
On the other hand, the unit showed flashes of what they could be and the talent is definitely there.
The Terrapins definitely excelled at rushing the passer in 2016.
Maryland finished third in the Big Ten in sacks (37) and averaged 2.8 per contest. Jesse Aniebonam registered a team-high nine sacks, which was good for fifth in the conference.
Aniebonam was one of the most important players on Maryland’s defense as he lined up at the BUCK spot. The position is a hybrid defensive end/linebacker and his primary goal is to rush the quarterback.
Yannick Ngakoue, who starred for the Jacksonville Jaguars this fall, thrived in the position in 2015.
In addition to being an extremely gifted pass rusher, Aniebonam also excels at stopping the run and wreaking havoc in the backfield. The former Good Counsel (Md.) standout racked up a team-high 14 tackles-for-loss
Aniebonam definitely wasn’t the one that produced on the defensive line for the Terps.
Roman Braglio, Kingsley Opara, and Cavon Walker each tallied at least three sacks and were part of a productive rotation. The Terps had seven games in which they totaled three or more sacks.
The unit also tallied at least eight tackles-for-loss in seven games.
One of the most surprising producers throughout the season was defensive end Chandler Burkett.
The Panama City, Fla. native accumulated 35 tackles (27 solo), three defended passes, two sacks, and two fumble recoveries in eight starts. Burkett’s two fumble recoveries led the team and were tied for third in the Big Ten.
Burkett was a relentless force that always play till the whistle blew. His best game came against Indiana when he tallied a season-high nine tackles (1.5 for loss).
Maryland’s defensive line did struggle to defend the run quite a bit this season.
The year didn’t get off to a good start. Over the first four games, the Terps held opponents to 141 rushing yards per contest.
Maryland completely stifled Purdue to the tune of just 10 rushing yards. Star running back Markell Jones had just 23 yards on the ground on 12 carries.
Unfortunately for the Terps, the next nine games were not nearly as kind as the first four.
Maryland finished 11th in the Big Ten in rush defense as they surrendered 214.8 yards-per-game. The Terps also gave up 4.8 yards-per-carry, which was only a lower average than Purdue and Rugers.
Saquon Barkley (202 yards and a touchdown), Terrell Newby (98 yards and three touchdowns), and (Rodney Smith (144 yards and two touchdowns) were among the opposing backs that did the most damage.
Maryland definitely displayed their ability to rush the quarterback much like they did in 2015. The run defense was an issue, but coach D.J. Durkin and his staff should have a very talented recruiting class coming in.
The building blocks are definitely there for success for Maryland football and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if this unit improved in 2017.
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