One of the most underrated adjustments Maryland players had to make to the new defensive scheme was in coverage, as Don Brown used less of a Chris Cosh-ian sit back and wait zone and more of an attacking press man or tight Cover 2. With athletes better suited to the zone, corners were occasionally hard-pressed to make the transition.
Actually, Carroll's injury is a bit underrated. I don't think he'd be changing the outcome of too many games, but he was all set up to have a breakout year, and a shutdown corner can never hurt. As it turned out, he got hurt, and Maryland was again searching for a #1 CB.
After a great spring and fall practice period, Nolan was set to be the man in the secondary and was already a defensive leader. He was perfect for Don Brown's scheme and looked to make exciting plays without getting beaten deep. While he showed flashes in his first game, no one was all that good against Cal, and it wasn't long after (against JMU) that he broke a bone in his leg, ending his year.
A similar fate doomed another senior cornerback for Maryland last year, Kevin Barnes. Hopefully they'll have better luck in the future.
Originally the #2, Wiseman was forced into the starting spot directly after Carroll's injury, and the results were...middling. Despite a few big plays every once in awhile, he tended to be one of the worse corners in the secondary. Really, though, it's not his fault: his skill set just wasn't good for this defense, and he looked to have trouble man-to-man. The real blame falls on the coaches for keeping him in too long.
Like Carroll, though, I don't think Wiseman cost Maryland any victories on the year, at least not directly. He had a rough go of it, but I have nothing against him.
Ah, now this is exciting. Chism put out one of the best performances by a sophomore CB I've seen from a Terp, and showcased everything you could want: he got better as he went along, was able to shut down a few guys, and didn't drop interceptions. He had his problems - fade routes were especially rough on him, and he got bailed out by safeties more than once - but the future is bright.
You could see his progression throughout the year, too. Early on, QBs were picking on him, sending a lot of balls his way. Later, they went more toward Wiseman, avoiding Chism.
Chism will almost certainly be the #1 corner next year, and deservedly so. He's a good fit for the defense and is a playmaker.
Despite there being an open nickel spot in the secondary, Hughes didn't see all that much memorable playing time. That's actually a good thing: also an inexperienced sophomore, he managed not to get burned and stayed in front of his man in most instances. Even though he didn't really make any great plays and there were passes completed to his side, I was moderately impressed with his performance.
He'll be the frontrunner in a very interesting battle for CB next year. He has the experience and he's nutty fast, but he's on the skinny side and an ultra-talented, bigger guy like Travis Hawkins or Dexter McDougle might serve them better.
The senior member of the group, Taylor is a sixth-year senior who was actually in grad school. Despite receiving almost no playing time in any of his previous five years, he saw major PT toward the end of the year and started rotating the nickel corner spot with Hughes. He ended up with his first INT in a clutch situation against North Carolina State, and was one of my favorites.
At the same time, he was as flawed as the rest. He consistently held his own, but that's not to say he was never beaten or that he was a shutdown corner. When Wiseman was off the field and he was on it, he tended to get balls thrown his way.
Ever since last year's break-out campaign for Terrell, he's quietly been one of the best players on defense. He doesn't get a lot of talk as a pro prospect or as a great safety, but he didn't beaten nearly as much as his strong safety counterpart and racked up the tackles. This was his last year, and he did performed admirably with an occasionally shattered secondary. Maryland will miss his presence.
Skinner's backup, Tate is a polarizing figure. Some miss the potential he showcased on the offensive end, because he started out at safety instead of his natural WR position and decided to stay there. It makes sense, but his first two years have shown that he is a little out of place. His instincts have never seemed quite there and he made a lot of mistakes.
That said, he has a ton of talent, and two years of experience can only help. Get him out on the field as a starter and coach him up on the finer points of the position, and he has the ability to dominate. I wouldn't mind seeing him out at punt returner or even a few offensive packages including him, either.
I will always love Jamari if only for his UNC interception. The emotion from that game, even though it wasn't all that important, was simply incredible. Luckily for us, he turned out to be a pretty good strong safety, too. Despite battling injuries all year long, he showed up and, even though he got beaten deep occasionally, was great against the run and solid in short zones. Like Skinner, he will be missed.
McCollough's probable replacement, Perez has to be one of the most exciting players on defense. A former five star transfer from USC, he hasn't seen the field much in his time at Maryland despite clearly having a huge amount of talent. Like McCollough, his finest moment came against UNC, and he showed a ton of potential late this year. If he can put together an entire year along the lines of these past few games - which I believe he can - Maryland could have one of the better safety duos in the ACC.
A true freshman who had to fill in for Perez at first and then Tate thanks to a late-season injury, Franklin didn't see a lot of playing time, and was average in the time he did see. He did have an important sack in his debut, but a few games later he allowed a big TD run after taking a bad angle. All in all, it was pretty good for a freshman safety. He'll be the primary backup at both spots next year, barring something unexpected.
Despite being surrounded by unnecessary, useless burnt redshirts all around, the defensive backs saw only one burn, and a reasonable one at that. Thus, I'm pretty excited for next year.
The good news is that Maryland will have more talent in the defensive backfield at any time next year than they had all of this year. There's more depth at the corners and more experience at the safeties than before, and you can add more talent to both of those spots. The ceiling is high.
On the bad side, there's not a lot of experience. Chism has half a year as a #1 corner. Hughes is the only other corner with any other experience, and not very much of it. Neither Tate nor Perez have been starters for any period of time. They'll have to learn quick.
The 2nd CB position won't be the most high-profile battle of the spring and fall (that'd be QB), but it will be the most entertaining (okay, maybe 2nd most there). Hughes, Hawkins, McDougle...three very talented guys fighting for the same spot. My money is on Hawkins, but that's just a guess.
The first few games will be rough as the secondary works out the kinks and figures out the right lineup. As they gain experience, though, this group will be very dangerous. When combined with a hopefully improved DL and a returning LB corps, this defense could be quite good.