It’s Linebackers Week at Testudo Times. Our summer football preview series has already covered Maryland’s quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, offensive line, defensive ends and defensive tackles. Let’s look at the favorite to anchor the defense at middle linebacker this year.
Isaiah Davis, LB, No. 22
Weight: 245 lbs.
Year: Redshirt junior
Hometown: Temple Hills, Maryland
High school: St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes
Davis was recruited as a three-star linebacker despite playing on both sides of the ball in high school (he rushed for 1,206 yards and 11 scores as a senior). He committed to Maryland in August 2014, choosing the Terps over NC State, Virginia Tech and Boston College.
In College Park, he joined his older brother Sean for one season. They never shared the field, though, as Isaiah redshirted his first year, which was Sean’s senior campaign. The Pittsburgh Steelers took Sean Davis in the second round, and he’s started 25 games in his two pro seasons. He led the team in tackles last year—69 solo, 21 assisted—while also recording three interceptions and a forced fumble.
As a redshirt freshman in 2016, the younger Davis played in 11 games, mostly on special teams. He made headlines in early October for a hit on Penn State kicker Joey Julius that got him suspended. But when Shane Cockerille was ruled ineligible for the Terps’ bowl game against Boston College, Davis slid into his starting linebacker spot and posted seven solo tackles.
Davis took advantage of his chances last year.
Maryland’s base 4-2-5 defense can make it tough for linebackers to break through if there are more established players ahead of them on the depth chart. Both Cockerille and Jermaine Carter Jr. returned in 2017, but Cockerille was in and out of the staff’s doghouse all season. He played only six games and finished with just 34 tackles after tallying 108 the year prior.
That allowed Davis to pick up nine starts and record 70 total tackles, the third-highest total on the team behind Carter and Antoine Brooks. He was particularly productive down the stretch, picking up 11 tackles at Rutgers and 12 at Michigan State in the last month of the season. Davis also notched two tackles for loss.
Now he’s a veteran leader at his position.
Carter, Cockerille and Jalen Brooks were all seniors last fall, which leaves Davis as the most established returning presence among Maryland linebackers. Juniors Brett Shepherd and Nick Underwood combined to record 12 tackles for the Terps last year, and Bryce Brand—who played BUCK and was included in Defensive Ends Week here—had 13. Everyone else is either new to the position group or didn’t produce last year.
One of those newcomers, Tre Watson, is a grad transfer with a strong track record at Illinois, so he and Davis are the favorites to start alongside each other. In our post-spring depth chart, we projected Davis to line up in the middle and Watson to play strong-side linebacker. Things can still shuffle before Week 1, and one of the youngsters can enter the conversation, but Davis is in pole position with fall camp less than two weeks away.