Maryland football’s secondary was a question mark for much of the offseason leading into 2016, but the pass defense turned out to be one of the team’s strengths. The Terps battled plenty of injuries and relied heavily on young defensive backs, but seemingly everyone who was pressed into duty stepped up.
Will Likely and Alvin Hill (and perhaps Denzel Conyers) won’t be on the team in the coming season, but most of the other contributors are back. Because so much was asked of so many players last season, this should end up being one of Maryland’s most experienced groups.
The Terps also put together one of their best defensive back classes in recent memory, highlighted by four-star corner Deon Jones and safety Markquese Bell. Both of these two are talented enough to start right away, and it helps that they both enrolled a semester early.
In fact, four of Maryland’s five recruits at defensive back are early enrollees. Jones and Bell are joined by Fofie Bazzie, a three-star corner from Gaithersburg, Md., and Alex Woods, a junior college transfer who comes to College Park as a redshirt junior. The Terps also have Kenny Bennett coming to campus in the summer.
Maryland signed five defensive backs this recruiting cycle. That’s the second-most additions of any position, trailing only the six new wide receivers. Some will contribute immediately, and all have promising futures.
Who will the newcomers have to contend with?
Maryland returns two consistent starters from 2016 in junior corner JC Jackson and junior safety Darnell Savage. The Terps also bring back senior Josh Woods, who started a handful of games at safety in the middle of the season. It’s possible that safety Denzel Conyers’ appeal to play one more year after a season-ending injury is granted, in which case he’d most likely start alongside Savage. For what it’s worth, Conyers isn’t currently listed on the official roster.
Beyond that, there are plenty of underclassmen who saw significant time last season, including RaVon Davis, Qwuantrezz Knight, Antwaine Richardson and Elijah and Elisha Daniels. There’s also Tino Ellis, who came to College Park as a four-star wide receiver but was able to fill in at corner. It’s unclear which side of the ball he’ll play on in 2017; he might be able to manage both.
Here’s the full squad, walk-ons included:
What’s the impact for 2017?
Aside from Jackson and Savage, who will most likely keep their starting jobs, pretty much everything here is wide open. It could very well come down to who’s the best fit in whatever system the team runs. Jones, Bell, Bazzie and Woods all gave themselves the advantage of an extra semester to learn the ropes, and that could very well pay dividends.
Bennett won’t get on campus until school lets out, so he’ll be behind the eight-ball. With all the talent ahead of him, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he redshirts, although it’s also possible that Durkin finds a role for him immediately.
Maryland was in good position in the secondary even before Signing Day, and the Terps might have made a bigger splash here than anywhere. They picked up two potential impact players for 2017 in Bell and Jones, and at a spot where their depth was tested last year, they’ll have plenty of answers in the coming season.