Maryland football will blend veteran leadership with fresh faces at linebacker during the 2021 season

Lauren Rush

Testudo Times

Aug 16, 2021

Ruben Number One

So far in our summer profile series on the Maryland football team ahead of the season we’ve covered quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, the offensive line and the defensive line.

In this piece, we will be looking at Maryland’s linebackers before wrapping up our series later this week with defensive backs and then specialists.

The Terps are returning some key players

Although Chance Campbell who averaged 11 tackles per game transferred to Ole Miss and Shaq Smith signed with the New Orleans Saints following the 2021 NFL Draft, Maryland is still returning some familiar faces.

Two of the most notable returners are sophomore Ruben Hyppolite II and junior Fa’Najae Gotay who both bring veteran experience to the linebacker room.

During his freshman season, Hyppolite had 18 total tackles and 2.0 sacks for loss in just four games played. Maryland football head coach Michael Locksley spoke to media following the team’s first scrimmage of preseason camp and spoke about Hyppolite’s player development since last season.

“We played Ruben Hyppolite last year about 20 plays, 25 plays a game— as much as we could. And it took some reps off of some of the other starters when you do that, but now on affords us the opportunity to Ruben isn’t a freshman this year because he’s got enough kind of game experience.”

Gotay played in four games during his sophomore season and had the third-most tackles on the Terps with 23, 12 of which were solo tackles.

The Terps are also returning juniors Ahmad McCullough and Durell Nchami.

McCullough had 15 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss while Nchami had five tackles, three for loss and two sacks. Nchami posted his biggest week against Rutgers in December when he had his three tackles for loss, including two strip-sacks in the first half of play. The performance earned him the Pro Football Focus National Defensive Player of the Week honor. His two forced fumbles led the Terps during the 2020 season.

Some high profile new faces join the group

Five-star freshman Terrence Lewis was the No. 16 player in the nation according to 247Sports and the No. 1 inside linebacker. However, he came to Maryland with a pre-existing injury of a torn ACL that he played on his senior season. After undergoing surgery to repair it, Lewis was out for the spring season and remains out indefinitely.

However, four-star freshman Branden Jennings also joined the group this offseason. The Jacksonville, Florida native was the No. 7 outside linebacker in the nation and recorded 127 tackles, 19 for loss, 12 sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery during his 2020 high school senior season.

Since arriving at Maryland early, Jennings has impressed Locksley.

“I‘ve been really pleased with Branden Jennings,” Locksley said in August. “He’s one of those heavy handed, young players man that exudes leadership and confidence at a young age, plays very physical.”

Locksley mentioned on the call following the team’s first scrimmage of preseason camp that they recently switched Osita Smith from safety to linebacker and that he was pleased with the progress there.

On that same call, Locksley expressed that he’s liked what he’s seen from former Hutchinson Community College linebacker Gereme Spraggins ahead of his first season with the Terps. The Severn, Maryland native had 70 tackles, 11 for loss, 2.5 sacks, two fumbles and an interception in 2019.

To round out the new faces in the linebacker room, Maryland also added freshman Demeioun Robinson to the roster this off-season. The Gaithersburg, Maryland native was a four-star recruit and according to ESPN, was the top-ranked player in the state.

Ruben Hyppolite II

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