It’s Defensive Backs Week here at Testudo Times. Our summer preview series has gone through Maryland’s quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, offensive line, defensive ends, defensive tackles and linebackers. Let’s move to a pair of juniors looking for their best seasons yet.
Qwuantrezz Knight, No. 3
Weight: 200 lbs.
Hometown: Quincy, Florida
High school: East Gadsden
Antwaine Richardson, No. 20
Weight: 195 lbs.
Hometown: Delray Beach, Florida
High school: Atlantic Community HS
Both Florida natives were late additions to the 2016 recruiting class, flipping from other commitments after DJ Durkin was hired in December 2015. Richardson, a three-star cornerback prospect, originally pledged to Michigan while Durkin was the defensive coordinator, but decommitted in January and committed to Maryland shortly thereafter. Knight’s previous verbal was to Eastern Michigan, but ultimately chose the Terps on National Signing Day.
Knight made the bigger contribution as a freshman, totaling 26 tackles in 10 games while Richardson appeared in two contests and recorded two tackles in the season opener. Knight’s production came in a four-game stretch from mid-October to early November, as he posted 23 tackles and made his first start in that span.
Both were solid role players in 2017.
With Will Likely and Alvin Hill graduated, the door opened for Richardson to see a more prominent role as a sophomore. The year got off to a frightening start, as Richardson suffered a head injury during the Texas game that left him down on the field for several minutes. He had recorded six tackles to that point. After missing one game and returning after the bye week, he was productive in a part-time role, as JC Jackson and Tino Ellis became the regular starting corners.
Knight, meanwhile, couldn’t improve on his freshman numbers. He entered fall camp as a strong candidate to grab the second starting safety spot alongside Darnell Savage, but Josh Woods made a surprising leap as a senior to take the job, and Denzel Conyers was still in the mix as well. Knight finished his sophomore campaign with 13 total tackles in 12 contests.
In the season finale, it was Richardson who earned the start at safety with Woods injured. He set a new career high with seven tackles that day, giving him momentum entering the offseason.
Now they’re both experienced options at safety.
Richardson played primarily safety in the spring, and he’s 13 pounds heavier than he was at this time last year. With Ellis and Marcus Lewis expected to be the outside starting corners, a position change made sense. If there’s an injury at corner, Richardson could potentially revert to his old position. For the time being, though, he’ll be competing with Knight—and a handful of young players we’ll discuss in the coming days—for time back deep.
How the staff allocates defensive snaps within this position group will be fascinating to follow. Savage has been entrenched at free safety for three years now, and Antoine Brooks is expected to move from nickel corner to strong safety, which is more tailored to his skill set. That leaves Knight and Richardson as rotational players, although both are juniors with some starting experience as underclassmen (Richardson made three starts last year; Knight made one in 2016).
Maryland hasn’t needed too much from either of these players early in their careers. With the secondary looking strong again, that might not change. When their names are called, though, both Knight and Richardson have the goods to deliver.