By Daniel Chavkin
The Maryland football team lost many key contributors from last year either to the draft or graduation. As a result, head coach Randy Edsall is looking for some players to step up in order to replace these talents. After the spring game, it became clear as to which positions are in good shape and which positions still need work.
Caleb Rowe is the presumed leader to replace C.J Brown as the quarterback of this team. However, Rowe is still recovering from an ACL injury that he suffered last October. Therefore, Perry Hills and Shane Cockerille took all the snaps during the spring game. Both struggled at times during the game, and if they want to overtake Rowe as the starting quarterback, they have to show much more to Edsall and the rest of the coaching staff.
Stefon Diggs and Deon Long, arguably the two best players on the team last year, left for the NFL draft. However, this position is still one of the strongest on the team. Marcus Leak takes over as the first receiver, and he showed why with his dominating performance in the spring game. His combination of size and speed will make it easy on whoever the quarterback is.
After Leak, the group is both deep and talented. Jacquille Veii isn’t a true wide receiver, but he proved last year that he can play in the slot as a hybrid option. Amba Etta-Tawo played in every game last year, and showed that he has the size and speed to be a contributor. However, he will have to overcome his drops tendency to take the next step. Other names to watch are Juwann Winfree, Malcolm Culmer, Taivon Jacobs, and DeAndre Lane.
With the losses of Andre Monroe and Darius Kilgo, Maryland lost two of their best defensive players. Still, just like with the wide receivers, Maryland have enough talent to be able to replace them. It all starts with Yannick Ngakoue, who played in all 13 games and had six sacks last year. Ngakoue is a hybrid linebacker-defensive end type with explosiveness that he displayed with a dominant spring game performance.
Quinton Jefferson returns from a season-ending injury for his senior season, bringing a veteran presence to the locker room. Last year, Jefferson had eight tackles in three games before getting injured. In 2013, he played in 13 games recording 47 total tackles. Other names to watch include Roman Braglio, David Shaw, and Kingsley Opara.
Finally, the majority of the linebacker position will be new as most contributors from last year are gone, including Cole Farrand and L.A Goree. Jermaine Carter Jr. leads the new group, as he played in 13 games last year with 27 total tackles and 2 forced fumbles. Jalen Brooks will start at outside linebacker after a successful 2014 where he played in 12 games and totaled 21 tackles. Ngakoue will probably see time at outside linebacker as well as defensive end. Other names to watch include Cavon Walker and Abner Logan.