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Maryland football spring positional preview: Will Likely captains young defensive backfield

The Terps are looking for three new starters in their secondary.

Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Maryland football program is eligible to start spring practices under DJ Durkin on March 8. Over the next few days, we'll be previewing where the Terps stack up at every position heading into the offseason's regular season.

The players

Returning starters: Will Likely

Other contributors: Darnell Savage, Alvin Hill, Jarrett Ross, Denzel Conyers, Josh Woods, Antwaine Carter, J.T. Ventura, Elvis Dennah, Daniel Ezeagwu

Coming off redshirts or haven't played yet: Milan Collins

Incoming freshmen: Antwaine Richardson (enrolled early), Travon Stott, Elisha Daniels, Elijah Daniels, Tyrek Tisdale, Qwuantrezz Knight

The overview

Maryland's secondary didn't have a very good season in 2015, and the Terps graduate three of that unit's four starters. However, the one guy they did keep isn't half bad. Cornerback Will Likely was a first-team All-Big Ten selection this past season, tallying 11 pass break-ups. He didn't record an interception, but that's harder to do when quarterbacks avoid your side of the field, as they often did with Likely in 2015.

DJ Durkin recruited a whole lot of Floridian freshmen to populate Maryland's future defensive backfield, but they won't be here this spring, and can't necessarily be relied upon to contribute right away in 2016. Darnell Savage figures to slide in opposite Likely as the team's second cornerback, while Alvin Hill, who played corner and safety last season, should fill in at safety. Corner Antwaine Richardson enrolled early and is on the roster this spring, but his availability is unclear as he continues to rehab from a knee injury.

Key question

Who's playing safety?

Maryland enters 2016 with just a shocking lack of experience at this position. Assuming Hill takes one of the open spots,  the other safety position is very much up in the air. Per our scholarship chart, Milan Collins, who just redshirted his freshman season, and seldom-used junior Elvis Dennah are the only two scholarship safeties. This could mean we see some true freshmen thrust into the spotlight in the fall, but also means we could see someone make the switch from safety to corner this spring.

Breakout player

Darnell Savage

Relied upon late in the season to spell Likely when he split his duties between offense and defense, Savage got burned a few times, but showed potential in coverage in 2015. In a perfect world he wouldn't have to start next season, but he'll surely be working against the first-team offense this spring. That'll be a great opportunity for him.

Spring depth chart projection

1st unit Will Likely Denzel Conyers Alvin Hill Darnell Savage
2nd unit Jarrett Ross Milan Collins Elvis Dennah Antwaine Carter