Maryland entered last season with experience through the transfer portal to round out the outside linebackers as Shaq Smith (Clemson) and Keandre Jones (Ohio State) locked in starting positions. Now the Terps are tasked with replacing both as Jones is off to the NFL, Smith moved to inside linebacker ahead of 2020 while the transfer of Bryce Brand takes away the depth at the JACK. But their replacements won’t be new names for Maryland fans as a former 2018 signee enters the starting rotation.
Big boost for the unit with the return of sophomore Durell Nchami in 2020 as the Paint Branch alum likely slides into the starting spot at the JACK. The confidence in Nchami played a role in Shaq Smith’s move to inside linebacker as the underclassman has all the tools to make an impact this season. Even out of high school Nchami was pegged as an athletic yet raw athlete who had the measurables and flashes to be a disruptive force off the edge and his ten games played his true freshman season gives him a block to build off heading into year two on the field.
NC State transfer Joseph Boletepeli is eligible for the 2020 season and could loom large for the defense. Since his arrival Boletepeli has lined up both at defensive end and linebacker so far, though the official Maryland roster has updated his position from defensive line to linebacker as of late. Still, Boletepeli has the length to put his hands in the dirt if the Terps go with four down linemen while a potential pairing of Boletepeli and Nchami on the left side gives Maryland ample confidence in run support.
True freshman Frankie Burgess has all the measurables to make the transition into the Big Ten and could flash into the rotation at the JACK alongside redshirt freshman Deshawn Holt. Baltimore native Ahmad McCullough has had two years with the program and added size and will be called upon in a season where developing the entire roster looms even more critical.
The outside linebackers give the Terps good pairings alongside what’s expected to be a strong inside linebacker unit. Linebackers were the heart and soul of the Maryland defense a season ago and saw their responsibilities amplified due to poor play in the trenches. New position coach Brawley Evans will work through camp to iron out the two-deep but no doubt the Terps have replenished talent through a young core heading into 2020.