Maryland's 2013 season did not exactly end the way it started. After four straight wins and a berth in the Top 25 poll, the Terps lost five of their last eight games, stumbling into bowl eligibility. A 31-20 Military Bowl loss to Conference-USA opponent Marshall in Annapolis left a bitter taste in the mouth of players and fans alike after an up-and-down season that saw the Terps make their first bowl game under third-year head coach Randy Edsall.
It would be understandable if some players took some time to decompress and relax after such a bitter end to the year. Sean Davis is not one of those players.
"The Military Bowl was December 26. On December 27, I was on film," he said at Maryland's Media Day last week. "During spring ball I was in there, cutting up film at least an hour every day. Taking it on the iPad, when I went home on the weekends I was still cutting up film."
One of the key components of Davis's offseason study was learning more about the positions and roles on the defense outside of my own.
"I really just learned the playbook, and learned everyone's position, not only mine, but the whole defense's. That definitely gives me great confidence, knowing everyone's role on the team."
That hard work has paid off, as Davis has consistently excelled this preseason, culminating in an interception and a fumble recovery for a touchdown in Saturday's open scrimmage.
"I think Sean Davis has made tremendous growth, he's a hard worker, a guy you need to tell to back off," Edsall said at Media Day. "From what we've seen out of Sean, I believe he's focused, he's ready to have a great year. You can watch a guy on the practice field and understand how much they get it or not based on how much they talk. You can feel and see that Sean's confident, he's focused, he's playing fast and I'm really proud of him in terms of how he really went out and attacked it."
Despite Edsall's compliments on his growth in the area, Davis admitted that being a vocal leader is "really not my aspect," but it's something he has worked on since talking with strength coach Drew Wilson.
"It's been a work in progress," he said. "I've just been trying to put the work in and make sure the young guys communicate so we can have a flawless defense this year."
In his first season as a full-time starter, Davis recorded a team-high 103 tackles as a sophomore in 2013 (next-best on the team was Cole Farrand at 84). How can Davis exceed leading the team in tackles in 2013? He told us his goals for the season, and they are lofty:
- All Big-Ten first team
- All-American selection
- Under 100 rushing yards allowed per game
- Undefeated season
Much of Davis's growth and the improvement of the secondary in general can be attributed to the camaraderie between players in the unit. Maryland only has one new starter in the unit -- junior cornerback Alvin Hill, but Davis expects big things from his good friend.
"That's my boy," Davis said. "He's been kind of low on the radar, but that kid can fly around. He's one of my best friends on the team, us on the same side I think is going to be a deadly combination."
Hill isn't Davis's only close friend in the secondary -- safety mate Anthony Nixon has been his roommate since freshman year. Both started games as true freshmen before taking over their respective starting jobs last season.
"We're roommates, locker buddies, we eat lunch together, we're basically brothers out there on and off the field," Davis said. "We have different communication, hand signals for different stuff. "
Maryland opens the season August 30 against James Madison, and faces two tough passing offenses in their first two Big Ten games when they'll face Indiana and Ohio State.