TT's Summer Football Thoughts: Secondary

Like wide receiver a year ago, Maryland's greatest position of strength heading into the 2015 football season is the defensive secondary. But unlike receiver, don't expect this star-laden, hard-working unit to falter or underachieve as the other did.

Like wide receiver a year ago, Maryland's greatest position of strength heading into the 2015 football season is the defensive secondary. But unlike receiver, don't expect this star-laden and hard-working unit to falter or underachieve as the other did.

Maryland has two future pros and loads of veteran experience manning the back-line, led by senior honors candidate and former safety Sean Davis now at corner. After playing a dual role at times late last season when J.J. Johnson was hurt, Davis took his lumps at times in 'man' coverage, but also showed his versatility and range, all in that imposing 6-1, 200-pound frame. In the spring he transitioned full-time to corner, after gauging his pro value last winter, and now will be a more versatile threat for the next level in pro scouts' eyes.

His corner mate will be mighty-mite junior (and another high honors candidate), Jim Thorpe Award watch-list standout Will Likely, who ranked nationally last season in picks, passes defended and interception returns for touchdowns. Likely is at times both the heart and soul of the secondary, a steely, quiet leader who does not back down despite his 5-7 frame. Sticky in coverage and unyielding, Likely also returns as Maryland's best return game weapon, too. The top reserves are senior and former starter Alvin Hill, who tore his knee last season and missed the year and would start at many schools, and junior Jarrett Ross, who must improve in coverage to gain more reps.

The safety position is also veteran, with three-year starter Anthony Nixon back, as well as senior A.J. Hendy, who sat last season for a school suspension and returned in the spring to wrest the job from Zach Dancel, who is now at Wake Forest. It is a solid but unspectacular unit, one that makes a few plays here and there, something which needs to see an up-tick. Hendy is a big hitter, but both players still need to fine-tune their technique in coverage.

With Dancel gone, the Terps lost their best nickel and dime back of a year ago, but now they hope former JuCo transfer Denzel Conyers, who sat last year due to an NCAA transcript issue, can put his rangy, 6-3, 200-pound frame to use. Several other reserves such as sophomore Milan Collins, junior Milan Barry Pollock, converted sophomore corner Josh Woods, sophomore Elvis Dennah, among others, are all looking for to find their niche in the rotation. Among the top up-and-comers on the unit are freshman corner Daniel Ezeagwu, who got on the field last year as a true freshman before an injury shelved him late, and intriguing sophomore 6-1 corner Antwine Carter, who shined last spring and in the Spring Game with a pick, also at corner.

The promising newcomer is three-star corner signee Darnell Savage out of Delaware, who may have been the steal of the 2015 recruiting class, after breaking his leg as a junior and some of the elites backing off.

Thanks mostly to Likely, this unit enjoyed a breakthrough last season when it came to more passes defended, sudden-change plays and the like, something lacking in recent years as the unit was often exposed. That should change this fall, and it must as the Terps will be in more 'man' coverage in their new 4-3 scheme.

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