|Kenny Tate, who missed most of 2011 with a knee injury, is expected to be Maryland's top NFL prospect. (US Presswire)|
In preparation for the 2013 NFL Draft, NFLDraftScout.com will profile the top draft-eligible prospects from FBS-level programs. This summer series will run until the start of the college football season.
NFL Draft picks the last five years: 10
2012 NFL Draft picks: 0
Under former head coach Ralph Friedgen, Maryland sent 26 players to the NFL via the draft as the Terrapins had moderate success over the past decade. Maryland even had back-to-back first round picks in the 2005 and 2006 NFL Drafts (Shawne Merriman and Vernon Davis) for the first time in 50 years. However, current head coach Randy Edsall struggled in his first season at the helm of the Terps last year, finishing with a 2-10 record with only one conference win.
The Terrapins should be better in 2012, but a .500 record would be considered a positive season in the second year of the Edsall era. Although Maryland is still a young team, they do have senior talent who could get looks from the next level, especially on defense. Leading the way is Maryland's Kenny Tate who missed most of 2011 with a serious knee injury, but is expected to be back for the season opener.
Top-five prospects for the 2013 NFL Draft
1. OLB/SS Kenny Tate (6-4, 220)
After recording 100 tackles and earning All-ACC honors in 2010, Tate was considered one of the top seniors in the country last season. However after four games, he was lost for the rest of the 2011 season because of a serious knee injury that also required surgery. Tate was given a medical redshirt and will return to the Terrapins' defense in 2012, but isn't expected to be football-ready until August. Originally recruited as wide receiver, he picked Maryland over Illinois and Penn State and moved to defensive back soon after arriving in College Park. Tate saw four starts at strong safety over his first two seasons before becoming the full-time starter at free safety in 2010. He finished his junior season with 100 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and three interceptions, earning All-ACC and All-American recognition. Tate moved to the “STAR” linebacker/safety position in 2011, but redshirted after knee surgery in October, a procedure that takes around nine months of rehab. Tate enters the 2012 season still on the mend, but is expected to contribute at strongside linebacker for the Terrapins. He is a smart player with a versatile skill-set to line up all over the field, but is an inconsistent tackler and lacks the strength to routinely disengage blocks. Tate is a Taylor Mays-like defender because of his athletic ability and range, but is an undisciplined football player and might be an athlete without a natural position for the next level. Nonetheless, he has the physical skill-set and chase skills to be a top-100 draft pick, if healthy.
2. DT Joe Vellano (6-1, 285)
It's not often that defensive linemen get near triple digits in tackles, but Vellano came close last season, totaling 94 stops as a junior in 2011. A naturally strong and powerful player, he also plays smart and disciplined, getting the most out of his ability while trying to live up to his family's legacy. Vellano, who was also recruited by Penn State and Boston College, committed to the Terps the moment he was offered a scholarship, the same institution where his father starred at defensive tackle. In fact, the Vellanos are the first father-son All-America combo at the same school in ACC history. After redshirting, the younger Vellano was an injured back-up in 2009 before becoming a starter as a sophomore in 2010. He started all 25 games the past two seasons at defensive tackle, but will move to defensive end as Maryland transitions to a three-man front in 2012. Vellano is a productive player because of his nonstop motor, quickness off the snap and hard work as the coaching staff raves about his dedication on the practice field, in the weight room and in the film room. And if he can build upon his All-American season from last year, look for Vellano to be a riser leading up to the 2013 NFL Draft.
3. OLB Demetrius Hartsfield (6-2, 240)
The Terrapins' leading tackler from a year ago, Hartsfield took over as the leader of the defense last season after Tate went down with his knee injury. Entering his fourth year as a starter, he has done a nice job bulking up and steadily improving since enrolling at Maryland. Hartsfield was only a two-star recruit out of high school in Raleigh, NC, but impressed the coaching staff during a camp visit and earned a scholarship offer. He started 20 games at weakside linebacker as a redshirt freshman and sophomore before moving inside to middle linebacker last season, leading the team with 108 tackles despite missing three games due to injury. Hartsfield will stay inside for the Terps in 2012, but with the defense moving to a 3-4 formation, he will be asked to do a few different things. He is an impressive athlete for the position and has done a nice job getting stronger in the weight room, adding over 30 pounds since high school. Hartsfield needs to clean up some mental lapses on the field and show the same consistency and energy on every snap, something he didn't always do in the past. He currently projects as a mid-round linebacker, but the NFL will always find room for linebackers who averaged double-digit tackles at the college level (Hartsfield averaged 12.0 tackles per game in 2011).
4. DT A.J. Francis (6-5, 305)
Although he was only a part-time starter last season, Francis might be the linchpin to Maryland's transition to a 3-4 defense in 2012. The big 305-pounder is expected to command the nose tackle spot in the middle of new defensive coordinator Brian Stewart's scheme, a not-so-easy task. After committing to the Terrapins as a high school junior, Francis started 10 games as a redshirt freshman, followed by his best season in 2010 as a sophomore, recording 44 tackles, 7.0 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. He was in and out of the line-up last season as a junior, making only four starts and finishing 13th on the team in tackles. However, Francis is expected to become a more integral part of the Maryland defense in 2012. The coaches admitted that he wasn't used correctly last season, asking him to do things that weren't his strengths. Francis went as far as to say during spring practices that he felt the last three months were so much better than the previous 15 because of the cohesion and design of the defense. Whether or not the change in formations will help his draft stock, Francis is definitely an underrated player to watch in 2012.
5. TE Matt Furstenburg (6-4, 245)
With Clemson's Dwayne Allen jumping to the pros, Furstenburg is the ACC's top returning tight end from a year ago when he set career-bests on the football field. Entering his third year as a starter, he has 24 starts under his belt and understands that more is expected of him as a senior as one of the leaders on the roster. Furstenburg was a four-star tight end recruit out of New Jersey and joined the Terps after a year at a prep school. After redshirting in 2008 and seeing limited action in 2009, he became a starter as a sophomore (11 starts) and set career-highs last season as a junior (12 starts). He finished 2011 with 31 catches for 348 yards (11.2 average) and a pair of touchdowns, which tied for second-best on the team. Furstenburg is a good athlete for the position and has the hands to be a reliable option in Maryland's 2012 offense. He probably won't reach the stats that Dwayne Allen did last season for Clemson, but Furstenburg has a chance to surpass his junior statistics and grab the attention of scouts.
HB Devonte Campbell
WR Kevin Dorsey
WR Kerry Boykins
OT Justin Gilbert
OLB Darin Drakeford
CB Dexter McDougle*
S Eric Franklin