COLLEGE PARK -- Last year, safety Sean Davis, outside linebacker Marcus Whitfield and wide receiver Levern Jacobs all went from unheralded players for Maryland to major contributors.
Here are seven Terps who are poised to break out this season (listed alphabetically):
Senior outside linebacker Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil
The Towson High graduate had 18 tackles and three sacks in six games as a rotational player last year. The Terps are depending on him to help replace the pass rush production of Whitfield, who had nine sacks last year. Cudjoe-Virgil originally joined Maryland as a walk-on, but he has become one of the leaders of the defense and is consistently praised by coaches for his work ethic as well as his relentlessness and motor as a pass rusher. Cudjoe-Virgil was one of just three outside linebackers from the Big Ten selected to the preseason watch list for the Butkus Award, which is given annually to the top linebacker in college football.
Junior safety Sean Davis
Davis technically broke out last year with a team-high 102 tackles and two interceptions, but he appears poised for an even bigger season in 2014. Davis, at 6 feet 1, is up to 200 pounds from 185 last season. He also is more confident, more savvy and has been consistently talked up by teammates and coaches during the summer. He had an interception during Maryland’s scrimmage Saturday, as well as a forced fumble on a punt return that he recovered and returned for a touchdown.
Redshirt sophomore left tackle Michael Dunn
In two years, the 6-foot-5 Dunn has gone from a 265-pound walk-on to a 300-pound left tackle who coaches believe has the potential to be a high-level player at that position. Dunn started the first nine games last year at right guard before starting the final four at right tackle. Dunn then played well enough during spring practice that coach Randy Edsall moved him to left tackle, and Dunn has rarely stuck out for negative reasons during preseason practice.
Junior cornerback Alvin Hill
Hill has been mostly a reserve during his time with the Terps, but he has made some big plays during preseason camp, including two interceptions of quarterback C.J. Brown last week. Edsall said Hill has to improve as a tackler but said Hill is “getting better all the time.” Hill appears set to start at the cornerback spot opposite Will Likely. At worst, he will be the third cornerback behind Likely and Jeremiah Johnson.
Sophomore tight end Andrew Isaacs
Isaacs was a four-star recruit coming out of high school. He played primarily on special teams last year, but he has trimmed down from 258 pounds to 247 and said he feels stronger, faster and more fluid than he was last year. He has flashed some of the receiving skills that the Terps liked when they recruited him, but Edsall and offensive coordinator Mike Locksley also have commended Isaacs for improving as a blocker and becoming a more complete tight end. Isaacs began the summer in a three-way competition for Maryland's starting tight end job, but he is the clear No. 1 at hte position right now.
Redshirt freshman wide receiver Taivon Jacobs
Ask any Maryland offensive player which young Terp has impressed them during the summer and Jacobs is usually the first name mentioned. Edsall and other coaches have consistently raved about Jacobs as well. Terps star receiver Stefon Diggs has referred to Jacobs as the fastest human he has ever seen in person, and Jacobs has shown his speed, elusiveness and playmaking ability at times during camp. Maryland is deep at wide receiver, but the Terps plan to find ways to incorporate Jacobs into the offense. Jacobs, the younger brother of Levern Jacobs, may also get a chance to return kicks.
Sophomore outside linebacker Yannick Ngakoue
Ngakoue has consistently stood out as a pass rusher during camp and had a strip-sack, multiple other pressures and a pass deflection during the Terps' scrimmage Saturday. Maryland has Matt Robinson and Cudjoe-Virgil at outside linebacker, but Ngakoue was used as a situational pass rusher during the scrimmage and likely will be used in a similar way during the season. Ngakoue was rated by Rivals.com as the fourth-best outside linebacker in last year’s recruiting class and the 88th-best player nationally.