Less than a week before the Maryland Terrapins season kicks off in Baltimore against Navy, injuries continue to pile up and question marks linger throughout the roster. However, the team's linebacking corps—undoubtedly the team's strongest and deepest unit—is ready to dig in
Senior Alex Wujciak, the consensus first team All-ACC inside linebacker, has led the team in tackles for the last two seasons and is the unquestioned leader of the Terps defense. Wujciak, which his trademark wacky hairdos, may not be the fastest linebacker in the country, but the New Jersey native has a nose for the ball and makes plays sideline to sideline.
His ability to strafe the width of the field will certainly come in handy in the showdown with Navy and their trademark triple-option offense. Despite battling nagging injuries last season, Wujciak managed to started all 12 games. His career average of 10.6 tackles per game leads all active NCAA FBS players.
Strongside linebacker Adrian Moten has terrorized backfields for the last three years. In 2009, the senior racked up six sacks, a mark which lead the team. His athleticism and ability to beat offensive tackles off the edge on the blitz makes him extremely dangerous and a vital asset for the Terps.
With what seems to be an even weaker defensive line than last season, Moten may be called on to blitz even more this season and will certainly be relied on as the Terps' main pass rusher.
Demetrius Hartsfield, the group's resident young'n, will man the other outside spot. The redshirt sophomore did a tremendous job in his first season with the team in 2009.
His freshman season was highlighted by his memorable performance in an upset win over Clemson, in which he forced quarterback Kyle Parker to fumble with less than a minute remaining while the Tigers were threatening to tie the game. Hartsfield has a knack for getting after the ball and excels at finding gaps blitzing.
Behind the starters, the Terps have have loads of talent and depth at the position. True sophomores Darin Drakeford and Ryan Donohue both showed promise in limited duty last season, mainly on special teams.
Drakeford's athletic ability will get him on the field and he is the heir successor to Moten on the strongside. Donohue, a hard-nosed player in the mold of Wujciak, will make an impact on special teams and could see significant playing time if the injury-prone Wujciak misses any time.
Incoming freshman David Mackall joined the team in the spring after being ranked the #5 prep school recruit in the country by Rivals.com. At 6'3" and 250 pounds, Mackall should be able to rush the passer, stop the run and even defend some receivers. His 40 time has been clocked at around 4.6 and down the road will be another dangerous speed rushing linebacker for the Terps
Maryland's linebacking core is certainly the best group on the team, but they're going to need help from their counterparts on the defensive line. They can assure that the second level of the defense will be covered, but if the D-line feels to get pressure then the backers may be relied too heavily to blitz, exposing the questionable secondary.
It could be a long season for the Terps and other units will have their ups and downs, but the linebackers are a safe bet to provide consistency.