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Antoine Brooks Jr. will lead Maryland football’s defense at a new position

Defensive Backs Week focuses on one of the Terps’ top playmakers.

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

Over the past eight weeks, we’ve previewed a number of position groups at Testudo Times. After running through the defensive line and linebackers over the past two weeks, we’re transitioning into the secondary.

Antoine Brooks Jr. has been one of Maryland’s top defensive players over the past two seasons and has appeared on multiple watch lists for defensive awards over the past few weeks. After playing more of a hybrid linebacker/defensive back position, the Lanham, Maryland, native will play safety in new defensive coordinator Jon Hoke’s 3-4 scheme.

Antoine Brooks Jr., No. 25

Height: 5’11
Weight: 210
Year: Senior
Hometown: Lanham, Md.
High School: DuVal HS

Brooks played all over the field just minutes from College Park at DuVal High School, playing both quarterback and defensive back. But during an impressive senior season, a grisly leg injury put his football future in jeopardy. He didn’t have many offers heading into National Signing Day as a two-star recruit, but then head coach DJ Durkin offered him just a few days before signing day. Brooks committed to stay home and signed his letter of intent shortly after.

He’s overcome the injury and become a star.

Brooks recovered from his injury in time for Maryland’s 2016 season opener against Howard, making two tackles in his debut. He played in six games that season, appearing mostly on special teams and recording five tackles.

He had a bigger role his sophomore season and started if off with a bang by scooping up a blocked kick and returning it for a touchdown in an upset win at Texas. Brooks played mostly nickel corner and was all over the stat sheet, finishing with 77 tackles, a Big Ten defensive back-leading 9.5 tackles for loss, one sack, two interceptions, three pass breakups and a forced fumble.

Brooks stayed at defensive back for his junior season and once again started the year with a big play against Texas, sealing the victory at FedEx Field by picking off a Sam Ehlinger pass with 1:04 remaining. He continued to make plays all season, even while battling nagging injuries. His 68 tackles were third on the team and his 9.5 tackles for loss were a team high. To end the season, Brooks was voted Second Team All-Big Ten by league coaches.

He’ll be switching positions again for his final season.

It’s been a busy preseason for Brooks, who represented Maryland at Big Ten media days and was named to the Bednarik Award Watch List and the Bronko Nagurski Award Watch List for the most outstanding defensive player. He’ll also try to remain one of Maryland’s top defensive playmakers while playing a new position, switching from nickel corner to strong safety.

At the new position, Brooks will spend more time lining up further away from the ball, which could limit his ability to be a menace in the backfield. He’s been a disruptor all over the field in his time at Maryland, but has struggled at times in pass coverage. His predecessor, Green Bay Packers first-rounder Darnell Savage Jr., made tackles all over the field last season, though, and Brooks should have the chance to do the same.