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Maryland's defensive backs struggled with preventing big plays again in 2015

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Long passes haunted the Terps for the second year in a row.

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

During the course of our season in review, many units on Maryland's 3-9 team recieved positive grades. Our final unit, the secondary, isn't one of them. The Terps got torched by opposing quarterbacks for most of the year, and gave up a ton of long receptions.

What we expected to happen

Before the season, we said that Maryland's defensive backs needed to avoid giving up big plays to improve in 2015, and thought they would. We figured the defensive backfield would be one of the team's few solid units as all of its players were experienced. We thought that Maryland's veteran secondary would be trying to make up for its young defensive line. Yeah, nope.

The players

Name Pos Ht, Wt Year Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Sean Davis CB 6'1, 202 SR 79.0 11.1% 5.5 1.0 3 3 5 0
Anthony Nixon S 6'1, 205 SR 68.5 9.6% 4.5 0.0 3 4 1 0
A.J. Hendy S 6'0, 208 SR 62.0 8.7% 1.0 0.0 0 4 0 0
William Likely CB 5'7, 175 JR 39.5 5.6% 4.0 0.0 0 11 3 0
Alvin Hill DB 6'0, 200 SR 15.5 2.2% 0.0 0.0 0 2 0 0
Denzel Conyers DB 6'3, 212 JR 12.0 1.7% 2.0 1.0 0 3 1 0
Darnell Savage, Jr. DB 5'10, 192 FR 11.5 1.6% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Jarrett Ross DB 5'9, 198 JR 9.5 1.3% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Daniel Ezeagwu DB 6'0, 207 SO 5.0 0.7% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0

The numbers

Team Rk Nat'l Average
Std. Downs Run Rate 61.2% 53 60.1%
Pass. Downs Run Rate 30.6% 97 33.8%
Overall Havoc Rate 16.8% 51 16.5%
Passing Success Rate 40.3% 91 40.3%
Passing IsoPPP 1.66 118 1.48
DB Havoc Rate 6.6% 54 6.5%
PD to INC 29.4% 92 32.8%

The basics

Maryland's secondary didn't perform very well in 2015, and its easy to see why: The Terps gave up big plays without being aggressive. That's a horrible combination. If you look beyond the team's already-bad 77th rank in passing S&P+, you'll see its 92-ranked passes defensed-to-interceptions ratio. PD-to-INC measures how aggressive your pass defense is, because teams that take risks and try to get their hands on passes tend to have some success doing so. That usually comes with a tradeoff, as taking those risks makes it more likely you'll give up big plays. Maryland didn't take those risks, but still managed to give up big plays.

The Terps finished the season 118th in defensive passing isoPPP, a stat that measures explosiveness. As in, how easy it was for other teams to get long gains through the air against Maryland.

Easily the standout in the secondary and one of the team's most valuable players, Will Likely was the only glimmer of light in this unit. He was a true shutdown corner for most of the season, as opposing quarterbacks tended to avoid throwing in his direction. Likely didn't record an interception, but had as many pass break-ups (11) as the rest of the starting secondary combined.

As with all defensive statistics from this team, it must be noted that a defense's job is much harder when its offense can't stay on the field. Maryland's offense wasn't the root of its secondary problem, but it still worth mentioning.

The future

For 2016, it ain't pretty. Likely is the only starter from this season who has any eligibility left, and it's not clear what the secondary will look like next year. DJ Durkin and new defensive backs coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim have clearly taken notice of this, as Maryland has offered four defensive backs since Durkin took over.

Freshman Darnell Savage was first off the bench whenever Likely needed a breather, and started in his place when Likely sat out against Rutgers with an injury. He should play a big role in the secondary next season, as should Jarrett Ross, who saw limited action this year. Beyond that, it will probably be a combination of players we haven't seen much of yet and true freshmen.