Defensive Coordinator Brian Williams Breaks Down Coaching Alignment, Young Linebackers, Depth

With all the buzz surrounding Maryland’s offense heading into the season, defensive coordinator Brian Williams knows he’ll need to retool a defense that is looking to replenish talent within the front seven. After taking over play calling duties during the final two games of the 2021 season, Williams has a foundation to build off with the 2022 Terrapin defense.

“We want to take everything we did well from a fundamental and technique standpoint, bring a physicality, but play together,” he said on Wednesday. The benefits of Maryland’s extra practices due to the bowl game have been a common theme throughout the offseason as Williams is looking to gel “our defense as one.”

“We want to take everything we did well from a fundamental and technique standpoint, bring a physicality, but play together.” It helps that the defensive staff has chemistry heading into the season as alignment was a frequent description of the current regime.

“We have tremendous alignment in our defensive staff room”, Williams added. ” LT [Lance Thompson], he’s been around the block a few times, very experienced in the defense we are trying to implement and install, understands the reasons why and why not to. Wes Neighbors in the same type of system down at Alabama. Coach Henry Baker, who is a former player who has been around here for a while, has developed our cornerback room into one of the best in the country. We have James Thomas who was around here last year as a special teams guy. But we have a lot of experience, a lot of youth, and we are able to touch every gauntlet in terms of being able to connect with our players and being on the same page.”

Maryland returns Ami Finau and Mosiah Nasili-Kite along the defensive line while incoming transfer Quashon Fuller will help mitigate the production from Sam Okuayinonu one season ago. After Locksley highlighted the benefit of improved depth in the trenches, Williams added the goal is “to be able to play as many guys as we can up front.”

“You’ve got to have fresh legs out there for four quarters up front, and the only way you do that is to develop enough depth.” Williams pointed out how he knows in the Big Ten, games are won and lost in the fourth quarter. While building up the depth to overcome inexperience behind the former JuCo duo, Williams had high praise for incoming transfer Vandarius Cowan as well as freshmen linebackers Jaishawn Barham and Caleb Wheatland.

“Vandarius is a guy that brings a lot of position flexibility” Williams added. “He is tough, instinctive, and he is experienced as well. The young freshman coming in, Caleb as well as Jaishawn, those guys obviously benefited from January up until now”, said Williams on the two true freshman. “They showed more instincts than I anticipated and we’re just going to continue to develop them, give them things that they can handle and as they continue to grow and get better, give them more.”

After South Carolina saw elite linebacker Jaishawn Barham flip to Maryland on the morning of national signing day, the former four-star linebacker out of St. Frances has made a name for himself in short order. “We had to teach guys what to do, how to do it and understand why it’s important. He’s in that phase of learning those things but while he’s doing it, he’s showing instincts, he’s showing toughness, he’s showing athleticism. A lot of the things he showed in high school.” Fall camp will give Barham a chance to acclimate himself further to the speed of college football as he’ll be leaned on to replenish Maryland’s depth. “I think he’s in the stage of really knowing how to do it. He spent a lot of time this offseason knowing what to do and I think the way he was brought up and the way he was coached in high school, he understands why working hard is important.”

Even junior linebacker Ruben Hyppolite has watched Barham make an instant impact. “The way he dissects plays, how he moves in the box and how he makes plays. He’s always around the ball, he’s very special with that.”

While Maryland’s backend will feature a pair of new starting safeties, the cornerback room returns a trio of starters in Deonte Banks, Jakorian Bennett and Tarheeb Still but Williams knows the big plays were the Achilles heel of the defense last fall.

“We gave up a ton of explosive plays last year. It’s been a goal of ours to eliminate that, and the first thing you can do to eliminate that is you have to be fundamentally sound together.”