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Tino Ellis, Marcus Lewis give Maryland football a pair of senior starters at cornerback

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Defensive Backs Week looks at two veterans who’ve traveled different paths to their current spot.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 01 Texas v Maryland Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s Defensive Backs Week at Testudo Times. We’re continuing a summer preview series that’s already focused on Maryland football’s quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends and offensive linemen, defensive linemen and linebackers. We’ll have even more in-depth coverage as fall camp begins later this week.

We’ve started this week with an overview of the position and a look at Antoine Brooks Jr., who’s drawing most of the attention in Maryland’s secondary. Today, let’s turn our attention to Tino Ellis and Marcus Lewis, who enter fall camp as the Terps’ likely starters at cornerback.

Tino Ellis, No. 7

Height: 6’1
Weight: 195
Year: Senior
Hometown: Reisterstown, Maryland
High school: DeMatha Catholic

Ellis came to the Terps as one of the top wide receiver prospects in the country, earning a four-star rating and a spot in the Under Armour All-American game. But when he got to College Park in summer 2016, Maryland needed more help in the secondary. He appeared in 12 of 13 games his freshman year, making one start and finishing with nine tackles and three pass breakups.

The last two years, Ellis has become a mainstay in Maryland’s secondary. He’s appeared in all 24 games and recorded 18 starts. His 16 pass breakups are the most on the team in that span, and he’s chipped in 50 total tackles. Ellis hauled in his first career interception last October against Rutgers, but his best performance came against Minnesota, when he broke up five passes — tied for the most in a single FBS game last season.

Marcus Lewis, No. 8

Height: 6’1
Weight: 195
Year: Redshirt senior
Hometown: District Heights, Maryland
High school: Gonzaga (previous school: Florida State)

Lewis was a two-way player in high school and a top-150 prospect in the Class of 2015, ultimately signing at Florida State (he had previously committed to Virginia Tech and then Florida). After sitting out his first season, he made seven appearances and five starts in 2016. But he finished the season injured, and facing an uphill battle upon his return, Lewis decided to transfer to Maryland. That’s a formula that new head coach Mike Locksley has begun to make commonplace, bringing in linebackers Keandre Jones and Shaq Smith and cornerback Sean Savoy just this offseason.

After sitting out 2017 per NCAA transfer rules as we used to know them, Lewis quickly emerged as a top option the following spring and started the first three games of 2018. But he made just two more appearances the rest of the season and left the program for “personal reasons” in November. It looked like Lewis’ Terps career would end with just 11 tackles and two pass breakups to his name.

Then his name resurfaced on the roster at the start of the Mike Locksley era this spring. Lewis practiced with the first-team defense in camp, split the Chad Scott Defensive Back Award with Brooks at the end of the spring and started alongside Ellis in the Red-White game.

On a defense filled with new faces, this duo can be a steady presence.

Maryland lost the majority of its 2018 defensive starters this offseason — six graduations, a transfer and an ACL injury will do the trick. Ellis’ 36 career appearances are most among active Terps defenders, and his 19 starts are third on the unit behind Brooks and linebacker Isaiah Davis. Lewis hasn’t had anywhere near the same continuity, but he’s still a familiar face to his teammates and clearly someone the new staff believes in.

There’s depth behind this twosome (more on those guys later this week), but Ellis and Lewis are the clear headliners at outside corner. Both stand at 6’1 and 195 pounds, which allows them to hold their own against most wide receivers they’ll face. Combine that with their talent and experience, and there’s a lot to be hopeful about.