The surprise spring addition to the 2014 class looks like a physical freak and played high-level JUCO ball last year. Let's take a look at his video.
A funny thing happened while we were waiting for some 2015 prospects to join lonely E.J. Donahue in Maryland's next recruiting class: the Terps surprisingly picked up a last-minute 2014 cornerback, Denzel Conyers. Even though Maryland is currently over its scholarship limit -- which means there's going to be some some attrition coming -- there's no way to look at this commit as anything other than a good thing. The Terps were thin, really thin, at corner and Conyers adds immediate depth to a unit that badly needed it. But can he be more than just depth this fall? Let's take a closer look.
Click here to see Conyers' film from his lone season of JUCO ball.
The Recruit: Denzel Conyers
High School: Boca Ciega High School, Gulf Port, Florida.
JUCO: Butte (Calif.) College, 1 year.
People take liberties with these numbers sometimes, so take them for whatever they're worth to you. If these measurables are true, Conyers is one long, strong, freakish cornerback. He's listed at 6-foot-3, 206 pounds and runs a 4.41 40. He also benches 300, squats 340, has a 34-inch vertical, runs a 10-9 in the 100 and a 49-9 in the 400. In other words, he's Richard Sherman
, only a little heavier, faster and stronger.
Conyers blew up his knee and missed his senior season of high school football, which dialed down a recruiting process that had allegedly involved more prominent Florida schools and other big dogs around the region. Boca Ciega is a middling Class 4A school in southern Pinellas County (a peninsula mostly occupied by St. Petersburg) and a very short drive away from Tropicana Field, where the Rays play baseball. Boca Ciega competes in a respectable if not great area for prep football and generally is a mid-pack, .500-ish team. The Bogies (!!) have been to the playoffs six times ever and most recently in 2007, but this is actually the second time the Terps have pulled a player from there. The first was Terrell Skinner
, who was recruited as a lengthy receiver but converted to defense and became a 2-year starting safety and an excellent player.
JUCO season: Conyers saw action in 10 of 12 games for a dominant Butte team that went 12-0, won the prestigious CCCAA state championship and was anointed JUCO co-national champs by the JCGridiron.com poll. This is a great program that counts Aaron Rodgers among its alumni. Conyers finished the season with 24 tackles, 2 interceptions (one for a TD), a forced fumble and a fumble recovery for the Roadrunners (It's no Bogies, but still a very solid mascot). He most certainly would've been in line for a serious increase in responsibility this season if Maryland hadn't come calling.
Offers: In high school, despite his injury, Conyers still had offers from UConn, Middle Tennessee, New Mexico and Western Mich. along with FIU, who he pledged to.
On film: Because there's no film from his lost senior year of high school, all we've got to go on is a couple minutes of highlights from his year at Butte College, where he saw a lot of his minutes during blowout wins and on special teams. It's not really fair to make sweeping conclusions about a player when there's not a big enough film sample and you aren't able to see him in practice or at least on film when he played a more prominent role in high school. Nonetheless, they (don't) pay me here to break down film, so all I can do is break down the film we got. Here goes:
The first thing you notice about Conyers is size. He's a tall, big corner, which is something Maryland seems to favor these days, and he uses his length to his advantage, as he's able to make big strides, close ground quickly and use his long arms both to make plays and as a disruptive force. Some of those gaudy measurables above are a little easier to believe when you see his size, thickness and speed in the open field. Both of his Butte interceptions are on this film and the common thread between them (and a few other clips too) is he has really good peripheral vision, anticipation, and ball awareness. A couple clips show him breaking out of his coverage before it's clear why he did, and then the ball comes into the picture a second or two later, suggesting he was tuned into the QB and the developing play, which is great.
Here's another thing to really like about Conyers from this film: he's a willing and physical tackler, as best seen around the 50-second mark when he leaves his man to come back to the line and lay the wood to a receiver on a screen pass. He also shows motor when in pursuit. In several plays, he is the most assertive pursuer of a guy way downfield on special teams or, in pass coverage, a guy well outside of Conyers' general area.
And speaking of special teams, Conyers played on the outside in kickoffs, based on several clips, and did a good job getting down the field quickly, finding the ball and making plays. Nobody is ever excited about special teams when we're talking about recruits, but a guy's potential ability to play all four downs plus kickoffs can't be stressed enough as a vital asset to a program. Conyers not only has experience on kickoffs, but he shows a passion for it and a dogged determination to be the first guy downfield. You have to like that.
There are some negatives, too. One thing being advertised about Conyers is he's a physical corner who will jam guys at the line, but the film doesn't really show much if any of that (though to be fair, it doesn't necessarily show that he isn't those things either). In most of these plays, Conyers is a little tentative to close ranks early and allows his receiver too much cushion in the first 10 yards, which will be unacceptable at Maryland. If you're going to be a cornerback at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, you better be a physical one out of the Sherman/Browner mold or else the shifty speedster-type WRs are going to burn you in the flat when you give them room to.
Another point of minor concern is that you so frequently hear about hips and swivel being such vital components of a great cornerback. Conyers is big, he glides and he shows great range, but you don't see the type of compact, bursty (new word!) lateral movement that gives you confidence that this is a player you can trust without safety help on a playmaker. Conyers is fast, but I'm not sure that he's quick -- at least not based on this film.
2014 outlook: It's not a surprise that Maryland chose Conyers and Conyers chose Maryland. Both of them needed each other, and because of that, I'm expecting to see Conyers on the field in some capacity this fall, whether it be in a heavy secondary role or just on special teams. He does have a redshirt year available, so that's not out of the discussion either, but the Terps need numbers at corner and just from a pure physical standpoint, this kid looks like Jeremiah Johnson's backup waiting to happen. Conyers, I think, has work to do to become a good D1 corner, but that doesn't mean he can't be useful right away in a pinch or in certain packages -- I just don't want to see him on an island just yet. That's OK, though, because without naming names, there's another emerging secondary star who Will Likely be the island guy for the next few years. Should Maryland get the injury bug again, Conyers' role could rapidly grow, but let's just hope for a healthy year (for once!) and not think about that right now.
Longterm outlook: When you're a 6-foot-3, 205-pound, young, fast and strong athlete who plays on the outside, the sky is the limit really. Let's go back to that other Terp out of Boca Ciega HS, Terrell Skinner. He was the exact same type of tall, slender, buildable athlete when he was recruited as a Bogie (you get a mascot like that to work with, you just have to drop it twice) and Maryland recruited Skinner as a receiver. Well, Skinner didn't make it at receiver, but became a great two-year starter at safety just because he was the type of athlete you could do a lot of different things with. Conyers fits that description to a tee.
Don't be shocked if he makes it at corner because he's that nice of a specimen. But also don't be shocked if he winds up at safety (that's what he looks like to me), linebacker or receiver someday. He's got the tools and raw athleticism to help the Terps in any number of ways provided he buys into the system, he's patient and he's coachable. He does have three years of eligibility remaining, which gives both himself and Maryland plenty of time to work with. Denzel Conyers will go down in history as the last member of Maryland's 2014 recruiting class, but his position and his physical profile make him a candidate to be one of the first first-year guys to play a meaningful role. Whether that happens or not, this enticing athlete is a great addition to the program with limitless potential. Can't wait to see him on Saturdays!
How do you feel about Denzel Conyers' immediate prospects for playing time?