While the competitions at running back, tight end and left guard stole the story lines from the first day of Maryland football’s preseason camp, veteran outside linebacker Matt Robison noted that his group also has plenty of upperclassmen fighting for positions.
Alongside Robinson, a converted safety who has blossomed into one of the team’s best defensive players the past two seasons, the Terps return Cole Farrand and L.A. Goree at the inside spots. Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil is expected to start at the other outside spot that was occupied last season by Marcus Whitfield (nine sacks in 2013).
But Cudjoe-Virgil has a talented young player behind him in Yannick Ngakoue, a local product out of Friendship Collegiate that had a quiet reserve role last season. Robinson doesn’t expect the same this fall.
“He’s definitely really maturing, really maturing. Getting in the film room a lot, asking a lot of questions, always trying to get better,” Robinson said. “I really think he’s just getting better at pass rushing. That’s what he loves to do. I think you’re really going to see the results this year.”
The returning starters in the group were among the three most productive players on the defense a year ago, including Robinson, who had 73 tackles and 10 for losses. Farrand (84) and Goree (75) posted the second- and third-most tackles on the team last year.
Robinson, who has pushed through a long list of injuries since 2011, said that the defense improved as the first day wore on. Getting to the ball and keeping pace with the up-tempo nature of the practices will be a key this week, he said.
“Just fighting every day, grinding every day is going to bring out the best in everybody because you know the person behind you could take your spot,” Robinson said.
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