Yannick Ngakoue fired off the line of scrimmage, gave left tackle Damian Prince a slight hesitation move to get Prince off balance and then bulled Prince over with a forceful two-handed push to Prince’s chest before touching the tackling dummy that represented the quarterback.
A year ago, Ngakoue was not ready to make an impact. He was a raw freshman who coach Randy Edsall says would have been better off being redshirted.
Now, however, the sophomore outside linebacker is shining in practice with plays like the one he made Tuesday.
“I think that young Yannick has matured and is getting better,” Edsall said Tuesday.
Star wide receiver Stefon Diggs was even more complimentary during an interview with InsideMDSports.com last week.
Asked whether any players in particular had stood out to him during summer workouts, Diggs mentioned Ngakoue, who played in high school at Friendship Collegiate Academy in Washington.
“He's been working on his weight, his speed,” Diggs said of the 6-foot-2, 250-pound Ngakoue, rated by Rivals as the fourth-best outside linebacker in last year’s recruiting class. “I think he's really going to be something special this year. When you come in raw like that, you've got to conform to the system and show that you can be coachable. He just took it in stride and has become a great student and athlete. I've seen him take strides, and I really think he's going to be something special this year, not only because of his ability but because he's putting in the work."
Ngakoue is unlikely to overtake Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil as the starter at the outside linebacker spot opposite Matt Robinson, but he could have a role regardless.
“Maybe there are packages when you can have both [Cudjoe-Virgil and Ngakoue] on the field at the same time,” Edsall said.
Cudjoe-Virgil is a pass rusher. He had three sacks in six games last year and was selected to the preseason watch list for the Butkus Award, given annually to the top linebacker in college football.
But teammates see the potential for Ngakoue to be a productive pass rusher as well.
“His motor, it kind of reminds me of myself, just going out there and it’s a nonstop motor,” Cudjoe-Virgil said. “And like myself, he has a desire to get better, so that’s what I like in him.”
NOTE: Maryland will hold a fan appreciation day Aug. 16 at Byrd Stadium. Gates open at 2:30 p.m., and Edsall and players will sign autographs after the scrimmage.
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