Spring Football Preview VIII: Defensive Backs

Spring football began March 4, and we're breaking down each position. Next up are the defensive backs.

Yet another Maryland spring positon in flux is the defensive secondary, for as of this writing the backline was still in search of a new position coach, what with Brian Stewart moving on to Nebraska last month. Randy Edsall said he hopes to have a hire in place shortly.

And that’s not the only change this month, as junior safety Sean Davis, who played some corner last season when Jeremiah Johnson got hurt and shined at times, will begin the spring at corner opposite starter Will Likely, the former freshman All American and sophomore all Big Ten selection who had six picks in 2014, including two returned for scores. Davis ranked second on the team in tackles with 108, while he was tied for the team lead with 8 pass breakups. Likely was fourth on the team with 76 tackles, to go with 8 pass breakups as well.

That means more time for senior Jeremiah Hendy to try and shine at safety, opposite starter Anthony Nixon, after serving a year suspension for off-the-field issues. Hendy is a big hitter who has become better in coverage, and this is his last go-round. Nixon has been a solid three-year starter and had 54 tackles, one pick and 3 pass breakups a year ago.

But senior Zach Dancel (15 tackles, 2 pass breakups) won’t go quietly in the night in his final go-round either, and in addition to him battling for time will be junior college transfer Denzel Conyers, a big and rangy defender at 6-foot-3 who mid-way through the season, just as he was about to debut due to injuries, the NCAA deemed him ineligible.

Also watching from the sidelines this spring will be former starting corner Alvin Hill, who tore his knee last fall, but could see limited work late in spring camp. The Terps are also very high on two rookies who burned their shirts last season, corners Josh Woods (seven games in 2014, mostly on special teams) and Daniel Ezeagwu (four games before season-ending injury).

Meanwhile, junior reserve corner Jarrett Ross (11 games, 9 tackles, 2 pass breakups) has to tighten up in coverage to get in the top rotation.

Sophomore Milan Collins (foot) will be limited this spring, while another promising freshman is Antwaine Carter. Sophomore reserve Elvis Dennah will also be on the shelf this spring following winter surgery.

With everyone back but Jeremiah Johnson, this is the Terps strongest unit with two All American candidates in Davis and Likely. The unit will play a lot more man coverage in the new 4-3 defensive scheme, which should make Davis, and especially the aggressive Likely, very happy.

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