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Maryland’s defensive players to watch against Ohio State

Maryland’s defense is ranked last in the Big Ten in passing yards and touchdowns allowed.

NCAA Football: Indiana at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland is nothing if not consistent.

Stats-wise, Maryland’s offense and defense have been producing almost identical numbers. Maryland is No. 85 in the nation with 413.8 yards allowed per game and No. 86 with 384.3 yards gained per game. The Terrapins rank No. 77 in both yards gained per play (5.68) and yards allowed per play (5.76), and they’ve scored 266 points and allowed opponents to score 270.

The difference between the two sides lies within the Big Ten rankings, where the Terrapins’ offense rank in the middle pretty much across the board, while their defense is dead last in passing yards allowed (262.8) and touchdowns allowed per game (1.9). In case you were wondering why Ohio State is favorited by 44 points.

If the Terps beat the spread, it probably had nothing to do with their defense and everything to do with running backs Anthony McFarland Jr. and Javon Leake playing their best games of football.

Still, Maryland could surprise us and perform like they’re not the worst defense in the Big Ten. If they do, it’ll be at the hands of linebackers Keandre Jones and Ayinde Eley.

Senior outside linebacker Keandre Jones

Jersey Number: 4

Sound familiar? That’s because Jones played his first three seasons at Ohio State. Actually, “played” is a strong word. He was a backup linebacker who didn’t see the field much. In three years as a Buckeye (2016-2018), Jones tallied up 29 total tackles and one sack.

So, the Maryland native transferred to his home-state for his final season of eligibility and through nine games has already recorded 45 total tackles, one forced fumble, three pass breakups, and six sacks—which is five more sacks than anyone else on the team, making him the Terps’ best pass rusher by a landslide. He also leads the team with 11 tackles for loss.

All I gotta say is, never underestimate a transfer who has something to prove, is returning to his former school who rarely used him, and is up against former teammates and coaches as an underdog.

Sophomore linebacker Ayinde Eley

Jersey Number: 25

Eley is No. 8 in the Big Ten and leads the Terrapins with 65 total tackles, and is No. 5 in the conference with 40 solo tackles. He also has an interception, a sack, a fumble recovery, and four passes defended so far this year.

Other than the Terrapin’s 38-7 loss to Michigan, during which he only had four tackles, Eley has recorded at least five or more tackles in every game this season.

Against Ohio State last year, Eley had zero tackles and one fumble recovery. Granted he only recorded 13 tackles for the entire 2018 season, expect him to be a much more persistent pest during this year’s matchup.

Honorable Mention: Senior defensive back Antoine Brooks Jr.

Jersey Number: 25

Brooks has been one of Maryland’s top defensive players over the past two seasons and this year is no exception. Brooks leads the Big Ten in solo tackles (52), and has three pass breakups, one fumble recovery and one interception.