COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Maryland senior linebacker L.A. Goree has to laugh when he relates the nickname teammates call Terps junior safety-turned-corner Sean Davis. He said linebacker Cole Farrand coined the moniker.
"They call him 'Ducky,'" Goree said as the Terps began Michigan week with their first media session at Tyser Tower. "Maybe because he looks like a duck."
Whether it's his pointy hair or many facial expressions or who knows what, you sure don't hear any quacking out of Davis, one of the team's top pranksters and jokesters who takes everything in stride. And these days, that's a good thing for the Terps.
Davis, the Terps' top all-around defensive back and pro prospect, stepped in yet another team injury breach when three weeks ago he moved from strong safety to boundary corner when J.J. Johnson was felled by a hamstring injury.
And how has he responded? Davis leads the team in tackles with 94, leads the team with 8 pass breakups and more than has held his own against Penn State and Michigan State when thrown in the fire with little preparation and against some top wideouts. One could say the Terps defense has been at its best these last two games.
"He's done the job. He is the complete DB," Goree said. "He has good footwork, good athlete, I didn't see him make any mistakes. And on top of that, he's a guy I feel comfortable in the run game because he is a sure tackler. He leads the team in tackling for a reason."
This week Davis is also expected to get the start, though Johnson has been easing back into the lineup more in extra-man packages. Maryland is 6-4 (3-3 Big Ten), but hoping to keep its road success going this season, where they have won have four of five contests.
It may have to start with the defense again, what with the Terps offensive woes, and the versatile Davis will get his number called again.
"It's been fun," Davis said on Nov. 18. "It kinda took me by surprise. I only had like 2-3 days of practice knowing I was going to play at Penn State. But I embraced the challenge, and got into the playbook hard and think I did an OK job.
"And then going into last week, Michigan State, I had a tough challenge guarding [MSU star receiver Tony] Lippett. But for the most part of the game we held him down to only four catches, so I think we did a solid job on him."
Davis said he hadn't really played corner since Boys and Girls Club rec ball as a youth.
Randy Edsall likes what he has seen so far, Davis filling in for injured senior corner at the boundary spot, and Maryland's defense perhaps coming off its best overall performance against the No. 12 Spartans despite the loss last week.
"We had some injuries there that necessitated us to make that switch," Edsall said. "And again, when you just take a look at his skill set that he has, we felt that putting him there was the best move for us as a team. The thing is he's done well there, he's picked it up, and has really done a good job. So you see him doing some things you thought he could do....and again, I think the transition for him is pretty easy because he is a good athlete."
As thinks one of his Terps offensive teammates, too:
"Unbelievable," senior quarterback C.J. Brown said. "To be able to switch from safety to corner is pretty rare. I feel like, especially in the middle of the season, to be put on an island. You know, when you think of safeties, the downhill hitters, can't cover anyone, bad hands, and to be able to go out there and go against their best No. 1 and No. 2 and be put on an island? It just goes to show how athletic he is and how great a football player he is."
Davis said it was a bit difficult moving positions in Week Nine, but has become more comfortable with his technique points since the PSU game. He knew the basic coverages, and, again, is one of the team's better athletes as well as thumpers, be it on defense or on special teams, where he has some of the team's top hits this fall.
Davis said he always hoped to play corner someday, and the opportunity that's presented itself has been ideal despite the less than ideal injury situation. He's not sure what next year will bring, something that will be discussed at the end of the season.
"If asked to play corner I would like to, it would be fun. And to play safety, it would be fun as well," Davis said.
This week with Michigan Davis will have his hands full again in 6-5, 230-pound Wolverines junior receiver Devin Funchess, who rates third in the Big Ten with 5.6 catches per game. Funchess has caught 50 balls for 595 yards and four touchdowns this season, though the Michigan offense has been a sore point much of the way.
"Obviously they've got their wide receiver threat, No. 1 [Funchess], a big target," Davis said. "He's big target and attacks the ball, and I heard he is fast, but I got to watch the film a little bit more."
Davis can also be a terror on the edge when the Terps dial up the blitz, which they did some at PSU.
"I have been playing safety, so I am not afraid to tackle somebody being a corner," Davis said. "I feel I can have an aggressive presence on the edge of the defense. I love blitzing, I'll keep working on my timing some more I guess, but it's a good thing."
The only downside this season? Davis doesn't have a pick yet, coming off two snags last year. He got a chuckle out of that when reminded of the fact.
"Yeah, I'm not too happy with that," Davis said. "But then again, I don't want to put the extra pressure on myself, be aggressive but put my teammates in a bad position for me to try and make it happen for myself. So it's hard, it's tough not having any right now. But we still have two, three more games left, so I am keeping positive I will get one."
Davis, who leads Farrand by three tackles for the team lead, racked up 8 stops versus Michigan State to Farrand's 18. But Davis said they don't even think about that "because that's kind of a good and bad thing for me [as a safety]."
Davis said he didn't know or hear much about Michigan, at least until Maryland joined the Big Ten.
"And now I know it's called the Big House," Davis said. "One hundred and ten thousand [attendance], so I am looking forward to it. Penn State was great, that was a great experience, and I want to do the same thing, beat them at their house, the 'Big House.'"
Davis said the defense had a strong outing versus Michigan State, but "when we are out there for while it gets hard for us....but then again, if we are out there we are expected to make plays. We did do well the first three quarters, but the end of the game we kinda died off, which is a problem. If the offense can't do it, then it's our job to win the game for us and hold them under, what, 15 points? But we did do a good job, but we did die off at the end so we need to fix that."
Filling in for Davis at strong has been junior Zach Dancel, who Davis lauded for also coming in cold (off a three-week hiatus for his own hamstring injury) and holding his own both at PSU and against MSU.
Looking way down the road, Davis said playing corner, getting that experience, can only help him for the next level, where he obviously hopes to get someday.
"I don't really think about it, but I do know what's going on," Davis said. "I am happy I got the opportunity to showcase my skills and versatility, and I am pretty sure that will help me down the line if I do get the opportunity to play at the next level."
'Ducky' Davis Takes it all in Stride
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