2016 Terps Season Preview: Safeties
Last week, I took a look at the cornerbacks that will be on Maryland’s roster for the 2016 season. This week, I’ll preview the other half of the defensive backfield. After a 2015 season that saw two seniors starting at both safety positions (Anthony Nixon and A.J. Hendy), the Terrapins will need to find two new players to fill those holes. This isn’t a new challenge for the program, as they were faced with a similar situation after a 2012 season that saw Eric Franklin graduate and Matt Robinson move to linebacker. It was then that Nixon and Sean Davis (who later moved to cornerback) step into those roles and perform very well.
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2016 Terps Season Preview: The Series
Running Backs: http://baltimoresportsandlife.com/2016-season-preview-running-backs/
Wide Receivers: http://baltimoresportsandlife.com/2016-terps-season-preview-wide-receivers/
Tight Ends: http://baltimoresportsandlife.com/2016-terps-season-preview-tight-ends/
Offensive Tackles: http://baltimoresportsandlife.com/2016-terps-season-preview-offensive-tackles
Offensive Guards: http://baltimoresportsandlife.com/2016-terps-season-preview-offensive-guards
Defensive Ends: http://baltimoresportsandlife.com/2016-terps-season-preview-defensive-ends/
Defensive Tackles: http://baltimoresportsandlife.com/2016-terps-season-preview-defensive-tackles/
Josh Woods (Junior)
2016 Projection: Starter (Free)
2015 Statistics: 4 tackles (0.0 for loss), 0 interceptions, 0 passes broken up
During Woods’ first two seasons with the Terrapins, he has seen occasional playing time on special teams. However, his third season is setting up to be much different, as he enters fall camp as the assumed starter at the free safety position for new defensive coordinator Andy Buh. Woods came to College Park in former head coach Randy Edsall’s 2014 recruiting class as a 3-star recruit from the local high school powerhouse McDonogh School.
I have projected Woods to serve as Maryland’s starting free safety in 2016. Early reports out of fall camp suggest that he is impressing the new coaching staff, making it all but a certainty that he will start for the Terrapins when they open their season in early September.
Denzel Conyers (Redshirt Senior)
2016 Projection: Starter (Strong)
2015 Statistics: 15 tackles (2.0 for loss), 0 interceptions, 3 passes broken up
Conyers was one of the bright spots for Maryland in an otherwise disappointing 2015 season. He impressed interim head coach Mike Locksley enough towards the end of the season that he wound up with more and more playing time on the defensive side of the ball. His best game came against Indiana, where he recorded 8 tackles (0.5 for loss). Conyers came to College Park in 2014 as a transfer from Butte College in northern California.
I have projected Conyers to serve as Maryland’s starting strong safety in 2016. Like Woods, he is a near lock to claim the starting job.
Jarrett Ross (Senior)
2016 Projection: Second-Team (Free)
2015 Statistics: 10 tackles (0.0 for loss), 0 interceptions, 0 passes broken up
During his three seasons with the Terrapins, Ross has solely been a reserve cornerback. However, the new coaching staff seems to like him at the safety position, as that is where he has been receiving the majority of his playing time in practice. He appeared in all 12 of the team’s games last season, primarily on special teams and as a nickel cornerback.
I have projected Ross to serve as Woods’ backup at free safety in 2016. However, with Durkin and Buh expressing a desire to use plenty of nickel and dime formations, Ross will be on the field a lot for the Terrapins this season. Having a player with the versatility to play both cornerback and safety will be a great asset to the team this year.
Luke Cheswick (Junior)
2016 Projection: Second-Team (Strong)
2015 Statistics: N/A
Cheswick walked onto the Maryland football team this spring after a two-year hiatus from sports. He played his high school football locally at Glenelg High School. In normal circumstances, I would not be projecting him as a second-string player. However, Durkin and Buh seem to really like him, as he got plenty of playing time during the team’s Red-White Spring Game. As I went through the team’s crop of strong safeties, he stood out as the best option to back up Conyers.
Therefore, I have projected Cheswick to serve as Conyers’ backup at strong safety this season. With that being said, he will certainly get plenty of competition for the job from players like Milan Barry-Pollock and Elijah Daniels.
Milan Collins (Redshirt Junior)
2016 Projection: Third-Team (Free)
2015 Statistics: None
Collins is entering his fourth season with the Terrapins, but has yet to see the field in a collegiate football game. He was an excellent high school athlete at nearby Bishop McNamara High School, playing both quarterback and defensive back. He came to College Park as a 3-star recruit in Edsall’s 2013 recruiting class.
I have projected Collins to serve as the team’s third-string free safety in 2016. However, the team has a lot of talented young free safeties, so he may be pushed for the job by players like Qwuantrezz Knight, Dionzae Foote, or Dimitri Lee.
Milan Barry-Pollock (Senior)
2016 Projection: Third-Team (Strong)
2015 Statistics: None
Like Collins, Barry-Pollock has never seen the field in a collegiate football game. He walked onto the Maryland football team for the 2014 season, and has received multiple scout team honors over the past two years. He played his high school football at Eastern Technical High School in Baltimore.
I have projected Barry-Pollock to serve as Maryland’s third-string strong safety in 2016. However, he will likely be given the opportunity to compete for the backup job with Cheswick and Daniels.
Qwuantrezz Knight (Freshman)
2016 Projection: Fourth-Team (Free)
2015 Statistics (High School): N/A
Knight comes to College Park as a 3-star recruit from East Gadsden High School in Greenville, Florida. He was initially committed to Eastern Michigan, but Durkin offered him a scholarship late in the recruiting process and he flipped his commitment to the Terrapins.
I have projected Knight to serve as Maryland’s fourth-string free safety in 2016. He will most likely spend his fall camp competing with Collins, Foote, and Lee for the third-string job.
Elijah Daniels (Freshman)
2016 Projection: Fourth-Team (Strong)
2015 Statistics (High School): N/A
While his twin brother Elisha competes for a job at the cornerback position, Elijah will be fighting for a position with the safeties. The brothers both committed to Maryland after Durkin was hired, with his Florida ties coming through once again.
I have projected Elijah to serve as Maryland’s fourth-string strong safety in 2016, but he will likely be given an opportunity to compete for the backup job with Cheswick and Barry-Pollock during fall camp.
Dimitri Lee (Redshirt Junior)
2016 Projection: Fifth-Team (Free)
2015 Statistics (FCS): 2 tackles (0.0 for loss), 0 interceptions, 0 passes broken up
Lee has spent the past three seasons at Coastal Carolina University, but has transferred to Maryland for the 2016 season. His relationship with new defensive backs coach Aazar Abdul-Rahim from their time together at the Friendship Collegiate Academy in Washington, D.C. certainly had a role in his decision.
I have projected Lee to serve as Maryland’s fifth-string free safety in 2016. He is a bit buried on the depth chart, but will be given an opportunity to compete for a reserve job with Collins and Knight.
Dionzae Foote (Sophomore)
2016 Projection: Redshirt (Free)
2015 Statistics (Junior College): N/A
Foote spent last season playing for the North Dakota State College of Science, but hails locally from Potomac High School in Oxon Hill.
I have projected Foote to redshirt during the 2016 season. He will likely be given a chance to compete for a reserve job at free safety, but ultimately I expect him to redshirt.
Zack is a financial analyst for a defense contractor in Washington, DC. The Owings Mills native focuses most of his efforts on Maryland Football recruiting and individual coach and player pieces; but also covers Terps Basketball. He has established relationships with Big Ten beat reporters across the conference, which he utilizes in his game previews. Now a Sr. Terps Analyst for BSL, Zack can be reached at: [email protected]