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How Maryland football patched together a cornerback group in just 2 years

The Terps had to be creative to bring this group together in a short time.

NCAA Football: Purdue at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

There are four primary ways that big-time college football teams bring players in to position groups. Most are recruited to play the position out of high school. Others sign with different schools, but transfer in afterward. Some play on the junior college circuit before enrolling at the bigger schools. Others still switch positions with their own teams, essentially turning into different players.

None of Maryland’s eight scholarship corners were on the team before 2016, so DJ Durkin and his staff had to take advantage of all the options above. Four members of the group joined the team as freshmen, which is the lowest percentage of any group on the defense—13 of 17 defensive linemen, eight of 10 linebackers and six of seven safeties were recruited from high school.

Putting this group together required some creativity on the part of the coaching staff. Here’s how it’s happened.

Recruited from high school: Deon Jones, Antwaine Richardson, Fofie Bazzie, Kenny Bennett

Three of these four are from the Class of 2017, with only Richardson from the year prior. Maryland’s 2014 and 2015 commits at cornerback have primarily shifted to safety (like Darnell Savage) or left the team (like Daniel Ezeagwu). Elisha Daniels was recruited as a corner, but seems like he’ll join twin brother Elijah as a safety in College Park. It’s unclear how the four names listed here stack up against each other right now, as none of them have a track record at this level, but there’s certainly promise in the group.

Recruited from junior college: JC Jackson, RaVon Davis, Alex Woods

Jackson originally signed with Florida in 2014, but legal troubles derailed his time with the Gators and sent him to Riverside Community College. He transferred to the Terps last year, and although he wasn’t academically cleared in time for the season opener against Howard, he was a steady presence last year.

Davis came from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College last year, initially as a walk-on. He earned a scholarship in the offseason and became Maryland’s primary nickel corner when Will Likely went down. In a three-cornerback formation, it’s likely he and Jackson fill two of the starting spots.

Woods is a new addition from Lackawanna Community College; he’ll be a redshirt sophomore in his first year at Maryland. If he can make anywhere near the immediate contributions Jackson and Davis made, it’ll be another strong pickup for Maryland.

Converted to defense: Tino Ellis

Ellis is the wild card here. He was a blue-chip wide receiver prospect in the Class of 2016, but his best opportunity freshman year was on defense. He’s still there now, and with a full offseason to prepare with a focus on this side of the ball, Ellis could be poised for a breakout year. Three members of the defense are in-college converts: Ellis, linebacker Shane Cockerille and defensive lineman Andrew Isaacs.

What’s next?

The Terps have two cornerback commits in the 2018 class in three-star H.D. Woodson teammates Noah Boykin (.8668) and Vincent Flythe (.8536). They’re also a very possible suitor for Florida State transfer Marcus Lewis, who was a four-star prospect at Gonzaga. Lewis announced his departure from the Seminoles earlier this month and visted College Park on Thursday. Although he’d have to sit out this season per NCAA transfer rules, he could potentially be an impact player in 2018 and beyond.

Maryland won’t need to do much, as all eight corners on the current roster will be eligible next year. The group was assembled quickly, but before long, this could be one of the most loaded positions on the roster.