Spring Football Previews: Defensive Backs

A preview of Maryland's defensive backs heading into spring practice.

Coming off  a season in which Terps cornerbacks did not come up with a single pick despite the presence of All American junior Will Likely, you know one of new secondary Coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim's first orders of business since coming over from National Champion Alabama will be to instill a little more ball-hawking ability in the unit.

But first many questions have to be answered as to who that personnel will be in the Terps' new defense, which will emphasize more "man" coverage on the back-line.

We know Likely (5-7, 175), who shined on special teams and even offense late last season, will be the fixture at one corner spot. Last year he led the team with 11 pass breakups, as well as three forced fumbles, and he is on everyone's pre-season All American lists once again. The pesky defender had some ups and downs against taller receivers, and deep a few times, but still was Maryland's best, and only, lock-down corner for much of the time.

Opposite him the Terps will likely be moving former starting corner and now senior Alvin Hill (6-0, 200), who was coming off a knee injury last season, to safety, the team's most unproven/shallow spot. That would lift true sophomore Darnell Savage (5-10, 192) to the other starting corner spot. Savage, as a true freshman last season, was thrown in the fire and it showed as he took his lumps in coverage. Hopefully he will be stronger for it this fall. Savage played in 10 games, with one start, and had 12 tackles for the season.

The Terps also have senior reserve Jarrett Ross (5-9, 198) who had 10 tackles in 11 games last season, but also had his share of struggles defending the pass. Hill had great upside before his injury, but still managed to play in all 12 games as a reserve last season, recording 17 tackles and two pass-breakups. The Terps need him to be a starter this season. 

The Terps lost three of their top four tacklers of a year ago in safeties Sean Davis, Anthony Nixon and A.J. Hendy, and that is the spot that will be under the microscope the most this spring.

Both starting spots have to be filled, while depth has yet to emerge, either, from a group of both youngsters and veterans that have yet to hit the mark.

After Hill (if he does make the move to safety), the next-best bet will be either junior-to-be Josh Woods (6-1, 202), who moved to safety last year, or junior Antwaine Carter (6-1, 190), who also made the same move a year ago. Both have to get considerably better against the pass and are for the most part untested. Neither juniors Elvis Dennah (6-2, 212) or Milan Collins (6-1, 200) have yet to hit stride after injuries, etc., have slowed them in their careers. The Terps also have former walk-ons J.T. Ventura (6-1, 205) and Milan Barry-Pollock (5-10, 203) returning, while they signed a large class of defensive backs in February, some who hopefully can crack the 2-3 deep by the fall. The list includes Florida 3-star signee Antwaine Richardson, a former Michigan commit who was a mid-year enrollee in January at College Park, but is coming off a knee injury.

Among all Terps positional units this spring under first-year Coach D.J. Durkin and staff, safety may be the most scrutinized, and important, of all. Not only as they re-load at three of four spots (in the entire secondary), but as they shift to more "man" coverage under new defensive coordinator Scott Shafer.

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