Spring Football Rewind: Secondary

While the secondary had its fair share of busted plays in the annual Red-White Game on April 11 (see receiver Marcus Leak’s career day thanks to it), not to mention some turnover/attrition this spring, it was one of the better performing units of the spring.

While the secondary had its fair share of busted plays in the annual Red-White Game on April 11 (see receiver Marcus Leak’s career day thanks to it), not to mention some turnover/attrition this spring, it was one of the better performing units of the spring.

Under new unit coach Darrell Perkins, the Terps ushered in the change of senior safety to corner Sean Davis and for the most part that was a rousing success. Davis, who we know brings physicality to the defensive backline, any position, fine-tuned his technique and became an even better ball-hawk, with multiple picks and PBUs last month in camp.

Opposite him was the spring’s most consistent performer, junior Will Likely, who will also star for UMD in the special teams return game. Likely played with even more confidence than he had the last two seasons, a disruptive force with the ball in the air as well as a big hitter for such a diminutive talent. With last year’s starter Alvin Hill (knee) still out rehabbing this spring, it allowed both of those players to get extended reps, as well as impressive newcomer DeAndre Payne, the freshman Tennessee transfer, who first must sit out a season. But another mighty-mite like Likely, Payne was making plays all month in his first Terps camp. His coverage skills look tight, and he seemed to always be in the right spot to break up passes or take out receivers with the ball despite standing just 5-foot-9.

Sophomore Jarrett Ross also returns, but he still needs work on the coverage element, as he was on the wrong end of several big plays/scores in spring scrimmage situations, including the Red-White. Youngsters to really keep an eye on include freshmen corners Daniel Ezeagwu and especially Antwine Carter, the 6-1, 185-pounder who had something of a break-out game in the Red-White with a pick and a blocked kick, among some other big plays. Ezeagwu is back from two injuries last fall. Another corner, walk-on J.T. Ventura, got several reps in the spring as well.

Meanwhile, at safety there was three-year starter Anthony Nixon locked in at strong, while the battle at free between A.J. Hendy, who missed last season due to suspension, and Zach Dancel was tight, but Hendy emerged “1A” at the end of camp. That led to Dancel checking out, in search of a school to start his final year, and Maryland’s safety depth, and extra-man packages, a little light.

Dancel was Maryland’s best nickel and dime back, and a heady, cerebral player. Some of the other reserve safeties plying their trade this spring, like newcomers Josh Woods (who was moved from corner), JuCo transfer Denzel Conyers, and Milan Collins, are just not there yet, especially in coverage. Conyers missed last season due to a NCAA Clearinghouse issue. Conyers had a few camp moments late in the month, but is still a bit raw.

Hendy also enjoyed, for the most part, a good spring, with little effects of his missing season, as he remains a big hitter on the backline, while also an improved technician of late. All in all, it was a good spring (sans the Dancel loss), as the Terps move ahead in their new 4-3 defensive scheme, and with more man coverage on the backline in the new look.

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