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Previewing Maryland football vs. UCF with CBS Sports Network’s Corey Chavous

He’s calling the game, and has a few things fans should look out for.

NCAA Football: Howard at Maryland Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Ahead of Maryland football’s matchup with UCF, we talked to Corey Chavous, who will be providing color commentary for the game on CBS Sports Network. Corey played defensive back in the NFL for 11 seasons, and currently works as an NFL Draft analyst in addition to his work with with CBS Sports Network.

Here’s our interview, lightly edited for clarity:

Testudo Times: What jumped off the tape for you when you studied Maryland?

Corey Chavous: Offensively, the number of different running backs that they can come to the table with. I think their running game has been diverse in terms of the launch points for the defensive linemen and also the linebackers. They really put stress on you to have your eyes right with as much as they do with their offensive linemen on the move. I believe that they have just enough on the outside to have some sort of balance as long as Perry Hills can just be good enough. But I really like the combination of Trey Edmunds, Ty Johnson, Lorenzo Harrison, maybe even throw in a little Jake Funk as he develops, and I think that, along with what they’re doing with everything off the play-action pass game makes for a good combination.

TT: What do you think UCF did well to prevent Michigan’s rushing attack, and do you think the Knights can repeat that performance against the Terps?

CC: They’ve got to be able to maintain, get over the top and use their speed at the linebacker position. They’re probably a lot better than they were a year ago. There’s about a 97 yards-per-game difference, just looking at the first couple of games, in terms of their rush defense, and a lot of that has to do with their speed. I like some of what they have at the linebacker position with Mark Rucker, he’s a smaller player, but he definitely tracks things down. And a lot of what Maryland does actually is the perimeter run game, so that would, as long as their eyes are right, maybe give them a chance. Team him along with Chequan Burkett, and I think Shaquem Griffin has been a welcome addition as well at the outside linebacker spot. Their top six tacklers are all linebackers, so they’ve got a good rotation there, and then at defensive back, particularly T.J. Mutcherson has also been a big factor in their run defense early in the season. So that combination is going to be an interesting matchup in terms of whether or not you’re going to be able to get them blocked at the second level if you’re the Maryland offensive line.

TT: Looking at the game from the perspective of Maryland’s defense, UCF only completed six of 22 passes against Michigan. As a former safety yourself, is it tempting to cheat against the run when facing a team like this, and how to you counteract that instinct?

CC: I think you play man coverage. I think that’s the key. That’s what Maryland’s been doing a lot of early in the year, mixing in some zone blitz stuff with a little zone overall. They’ve been mixing up just enough of what the do on the back end to give you some different looks. They’ve been disguising very well, so I do believe at the end of the day you’re going to get Darnell Savage Jr. involved a little in the run game from the safety spot and I would expect Denzel Conyers to be back deep for the most part. They do such a good job, to me, of gathering a good run support nickel from Will Likely. He’s a player, to me, who’s really an extra linebacker when they’re in nickel. It gives you the freedom to do whatever you want to do, because he’s adequate in run support. I think he’s going to be a big factor in stopping the run as well.

TT: As a broadcaster, what goes into your preparation for each week’s game? How do you get familiar enough with the teams you’ll be covering?

The No. 1 thing I do is I create my own board, and when I get the assignment, I normally download the All-22 and high end-zone film and then I go through and create my own board. A lot of times you can get the game notes, but they might not have everyone on them. So I write everyone I see on my board directly across from the people they’re going to be lined up against on the other side. So I have the entire offensive basic formation lined up against the defense on one side of the board, and then I flip it over and do the same thing. Then I have a mini scouting report on every player going into the game. There are certain boxes I have that talk about the schemes of each team and how I anticipate them going to react. Then I have other boxes talking about where they’ve been strong, like for example, “third-down defense,” “third-down offense,” or “sacks.” It could be “how many times they’ve thrown on first down,” “what’s their tendency on second-and-10?” “are they more of a run team on second-and-one-to-three or are they more of a passing team on that down?” So I’ll have notes that correspond to each box on the board, and I do that pretty similar each week. So I kind of have an idea going into the game in terms of what I’m expecting, and once I call the game I let it call itself. So I’ll be expecting one thing and something else might happen, but regardless, you have to have notes on each player, which takes time. It takes days, so I might spend, on just the offense alone, I might spend 18 hours. You can’t just watch one game. You have to watch three games, so it takes a while to get ready. I normally keep it to a three-game breakdown.

TT: As an announcer, do you find it tough to talk about Xs and Os stuff while also making your message engaging for casual fans?

CC: I think you have to dumb it down, in a good way. The football fan today is smart, so you want to talk to them the same way they’re talking to their friends at the water cooler, at the barbershop. But at the same time, there’s nothing wrong with giving them a little extra to talk about. You can give them a little more inside the game, so that when they are talking at the barbershop or talking with their friends, maybe they can make a point they didn’t know before. But you have to keep that limited. You have to just be talking in a conversational tone and try give them a feeling of why what’s happening is happening. They can always see what’s going on, but you want to give them the how and the why.

TT: Since much of your work has come as a draft analyst, is there anyone you’re excited to see in this game from an NFL Draft perspective?

CC: In terms of players I’m looking for, certainly Will Likely. Jermaine Carter Jr. is a very interesting player to me, only a junior. I think that, down the road, Kingsley Opara reminds me of Darius Kilgo a little. I also like Azubuike Ukandu, a little bit smaller, but he’s also somebody. Jesse Aniebonam is another player, Alvin Hill, if he can put it all together. I think down the road, Damian Prince at right tackle is a guy to keep an eye on. I’m very excited about Trey Edmunds in terms of his special teams potential. He struggled at Virginia Tech a bit and is probably only the third back, but he might get a shot as an undrafted free agent depending on what kind of year he has. And then Michael Dunn is an experienced player that is probably going to get some looks because he’s a decent technician and he’s got the necessary footwork. If not on the left side, then the right.