The top 10 Maryland football players you need to know for the 2016 season.
1. CB Will Likely, Sr.
One of the most electrifying all-around players in the Big Ten, he’s an all-star return man averaging over 18 yards per return with two scores, and averaging 22.5 yards per kick return with a touchdown. Also used a bit on offense, he ran for 93 yards averaging close to 8.5 yards per try, and now he might get the ball a whole lot more – at least that’s the plan. He has a day job, too, on the defensive side.
While he’s only 5-7 and 175 pounds, he’s a feisty baller with 35 of his 44 tackles coming in the open field with 11 broken up passes. The Florida native will see plenty of time on both sides of the ball, but he’s at his best whenever he has the ball in his hands. With his elite quickness, he’s a shutdown defender who can handle himself against the bigger targets when he has to, but no matter where he is, the other team will have to know where he is at all times.
2. LB Jermaine Carter, Jr.
At 6-0 and 240 pounds, Carter is a big inside presence with the quickness to be used as a pass rusher inside or out. An Honorable Mention All-Big Ten performer, and the cousin of Vince Carter, he led the team with 103 tackles with 14 tackles for loss and even did a decent job in pass coverage at times. A strong, disciplined player, he came up with 38 tackles in a three game stretch early on, and cranked up 13 more late against Indiana and was consistent throughout.
3. OT Michael Dunn, Sr.
The All-Big Ten tackle on the left side is the leader of a veteran front five with 6-5, 312-pound size and anchor ability. While he’s built like a pass blocking outside blocker, he can get nasty and can pound away when he needs to. Very smart, he wasn’t a top recruit, but he grew into a starter early on beginning as a guard and then moved to tackle where he’s played on both sides. The experience is there up front, but starting with Dunn, the Terps have to be better in pass protection – he’ll do his part.
4. WR Levern Jacobs, Sr.
The team’s leading receiver only came up with 35 catches for 425 yards and three touchdowns, but that’s more because of the quarterback play than any problems he had. Suspended as a junior for a violation of team rules – and was later found not guilty of assault charges – and started six games last season. He’s a shifty weapon who needs the ball in his hands more, and the coaching staff will make sure he finds ways to get it in open spaces with room to move.
5. DT Azubuike Ukandu, Sr.
The occasional anchor of a talented line, doing a lot of the dirty work, Ukandu stood out even with two future NFL draft picks up front. At 6-0 and 307 pounds he’s built for the interior and did his part, coming up with 24 tackles with 2.5 sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss. There’s promise at tackle with the potential for a decent rotation to help replace Quinton Jefferson, but it’s Ukandu who has to be the dominant factor to build around.
6. WR D.J. Moore, Soph.
The team’s second-leading receiver catching 25 passes for 357 yards and three scores, he had a nice get spreading out his production and showing excellent upside averaging 14.3 yards per try. At 5-11 and 205 pounds he’s got good size and No. 1 receiver ability with the talent hit the home run when he gets his chances, and with the physical style to attack the ball in the air. He should be more than just a complementary target for Levern Jacobs.
7. LB Jalen Brooks, Jr.
The Georgia native has been an all-star in the classroom over his first two years, and last season he started to show off the upside that should get him on the All-Big Ten team from what he does on the field, too. Smart enough to be wanted by the Ivy League, he’s a leader who’ll eventually make the defense his. He came up with 64 tackles last season with two interceptions once he got a bigger role on the weakside, and this year he’ll be used more as an attacking pass rusher.
8. DE Roman Braglio, Sr.
Built more like an undersized tackle than a true end, the 6-2, 262-pound senior is versatile enough to be used in a variety of ways. A decent reserve over the first part of his career, he was a steady starter last season comping up with 35 tackles with three sacks. Consistent more than flashy, he’s not a speed rusher and is better against the good ground games. He’s got the motor to get into the backfield from wherever he works.
9. QB Perry Hills, Sr.
A mobile option, the 6-2, 210-pound veteran was a great get for the program, but it took a while to get his chances. While he ran for 535 yards and three scores and threw for 1,001 yards and eight touchdowns, he also gave away 13 interceptions and couldn’t get into much of a groove. His seven interceptions in three games in the middle of the season were a problem – particularly the three against Penn State – but Maryland wasn’t going to beat Ohio State or Iowa even if he didn’t throw all the picks. With his dual-threat skills he’ll see time, even if he isn’t the starter.
10. QB Caleb Rowe, Sr.
Can Rowe be more accurate and cut down on his interceptions? At 6-3 and 220 pounds he’s got the size, and he’s got the arm, but he makes way too many mistakes giving up a whopping 12 picks in an early four game stretch. However, he came up big late in the year throwing for 239 yards in the win over Rutgers – now he has to prove he can be consistent. He also has to prove he can stay healthy after getting knocked out of both the 2013 and 2014 seasons.