Tommy Akingbesote Ascending in Second Season with Maryland Football

Maryland’s defensive line features a pair of returning starters with Mosiah Nasili-Kite and Ami Finau set to make their fourth consecutive start on the season against Michigan. Transfer nose tackle Henry Chibueze has immersed himself into the rotation while Taizse Johnson and Tank Booker saw increased snaps vs. SMU. But second-year defensive tackle Tommy Akingbesote, a one-time local blue chip prospect, has played in all three games this season and become a bigger rotation piece in year two with the program. With Michigan’s offensive identity still centered around its running game, all eyes will be on Akingbesote and the defensive line this weekend.

Akingbesote’s growth from freshman to sophomore year

Tommy Akingbesote came out of Charles Herbert Flowers High School as a four-star recruit in the 2021 class and a member of the ESPN 300.

As a blue-chip recruit, he learned quickly that the college level wouldn’t be easy.

“To be honest, as a freshman, I thought it was gonna be cake. I was a highly recruited four-star [athlete]. I had to realize those stars don’t mean anything. It’s a fast game [we] play.”

His transition has been smooth from year one to year two, and he’s focused on getting better every day and taking the next step in his development as a defensive lineman.

He wants to help his team win, whether it’s a sack, tackle for loss, or a big hit. Whatever comes his way, he’s happy with it.

He played in seven games last year, and the Penn State game was memorable for him.

“It was really Penn State because I got up there and wasn’t sure I was really gonna play. Coach called my number, and I had to step up. I was ready, and I did good; I had two tackles. It felt good as a young buck.”

Stopping the run and Michigan’s offensive line

This week’s focus in Maryland football practice has been stopping the run. Why? The No. 4 Michigan Wolverines are second in the Big Ten in rushing yards with 231.3 per game.

“Our defense is really based on [what happens] upfront, stopping the run. We emphasize teamwork; that’s our favorite period [in practice] as a D-line. So yeah, I feel good about this one and stopping the run this week against Michigan.”

Akingbesote believes that the tackles and guards stick out.

This game is likely going to be won in the trenches. Michigan’s experienced offensive line won the Joe Moore Award for the nation’s best offensive line. They have three returning starters who anchor the line in left tackle Ryan Hayes and guards Trevor Keegan and Zak Zinter.

They help running back Blake Corum earn the 6.91 yards per carry he has and the seven touchdowns which lead the nation.

“They have big offensive linemen, so this week, we’re big on the stretch plays. We’re really locking in on their stretch plays and truck plays,” Akingbesote said about the challenges the Wolverines will present offensively.

Pressuring Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy

McCarthy will get the start Saturday, with Cade McNamara out due to injury. McCarthy is a threat passing the ball and using his legs when he needs to. He was an accurate 30-of-34, 488 yards and three touchdowns in the two games he started.

Akingbesote knows that getting pressure on him will be important, especially on the road.

“It’s very important because we take the stress off our DBs, and they don’t have to cover as much. We can make [the quarterback] get the ball out with pressure, throw it away. That’s really important.”

The defensive performance against Southern Methodist last week

Maryland football needed to empty the tank defensively and give it everything it had to beat SMU. The Mustangs were 10-of-21 (48 percent) on third down, 2-of-5 (40 percent) on fourth down, and 3-of-6 (50 percent) in the red zone.

“I feel like we played as one. We played sound, the defense was rolling, kept the good energy, trusted our brothers, did our one in 11, and played great. So, we need to take that into Michigan.”

He added that that red zone defense is a game-changing situation, and the defense needs to make sure they get off the field and give the ball to the offense.

Terps’ defensive line chemistry, Ruben Hyppolite’s impact

Akingbesote sits behind Mosiah Nasili-Kite at defensive tackle and is inspired by how hard he and other guys in the defensive line room work.

“My brother’s a great role model. Our vets, Ami Finau, Mo [Nasili-Kite], Austin Fontaine, and G Rose [Greg China-Rose], [are] great leaders. I wanna follow in their footsteps of what they’re doing here at Maryland.”

There’s no competition in the defensive line room. These guys work together and play for one another.

“It’s really like a brotherhood in our D-line room. We don’t look at each other as competition. We just look at each other as we’re gonna go out here and dominate whoever steps in front of us. We’re going to keep that same mentality the whole year.”

Finau, Nasili-Kite, and China-Rose set the tone for the group, and everyone else feeds off that energy.

Ruben Hyppolite will be a game-time decision for the Michigan game after suffering an ankle sprain against SMU.

“When I tell you he’s the heart, he’s the heart of the defense. Like he brings energy, he communicates, and he’s the quarterback of the defense. He plays his role perfectly. I love Ruben, and it’s hard to have him not playing, but he’ll be back soon. He’s still out there at practice, coaching up and everything.”

Akingbesote added that Hyppolite does a great job of picking up guys when they’re down, keeps a smile on everybody’s face, and shows people the right thing to do.

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