Terps Football: 2017 Season Preview – The Cornerbacks
For the first time since 2012, Maryland fans will not see William Likely roaming the defensive backfield in College Park. After the phenomenal do-it-all cornerback tore his ACL against Minnesota last season, the Terrapins’ defense was forced to move into its post-Likely era. While his departure to the NFL leaves a large hole at the cornerback position in 2017, there ought to be enough young talent to fill it fairly well.
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JC Jackson (Redshirt Junior)
2017 Projection: Starter (Field)
2016 Statistics: 40 tackles (1.0 for loss), 1 INT, 1 fumble forced, 6 pass breakups
When Jackson announced his transfer from Riverside Community College to Maryland before the start of last season, fans were elated. Rightfully so, as the team was able to add a former 4-star cornerback from Florida with three years of eligibility remaining. He started immediately alongside Likely and Alvin Hill, and led all Maryland cornerbacks in tackles and pass breakups.
I have projected Jackson to start at the field cornerback position for the team in 2017. He is the Terrapins’ best cover cornerback, and will be matched up against opposing offenses’ best wide receivers more often than not.
Antwaine Richardson (Sophomore)
2017 Projection: Starter (Boundary)
2016 Statistics: 2 tackles (0.0 for loss), 0 INT, 0 fumbles forced, 1 pass breakup
Richardson came to College Park as a 3-star recruit from the state of Florida in head coach DJ Durkin’s first recruiting class. While he only played in two games last season, he has apparently impressed coaches enough that he is receiving reps as a starter as the team heads into their fall camp.
I have projected Richardson to start at the boundary cornerback position for the team in 2017. This is a tough position to project, as there are a number of players who could rotate through it at any given time. However, it seems as though Richardson will be given the first crack at it as a starter.
RaVon Davis (Redshirt Junior)
2017 Projection: Starter (Nickel)
2016 Statistics: 24 tackles (1.0 for loss), 0 INT, 0 fumbles forced, 4 pass breakups
When Likely suffered his season-ending injury last season, Davis stepped in and did a very good job as the team’s nickel cornerback. With the plethora of spread offenses in college football today, Durkin’s defense typically bases out of a nickel set. Davis transferred to Maryland from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College before the start of the 2016 season, and didn’t earn a scholarship until just before the season began.
I have projected Davis to start at nickel cornerback for the team in 2017. While this position could be a rotating door of young defensive backs, Davis will probably get the majority of the reps to begin the year.
Tino Ellis (Sophomore)
2017 Projection: Second-Team (Field)
2016 Statistics: 9 tackles (0.0 for loss), 0 INT, 0 fumbles forced, 3 pass breakups
Ellis came to Maryland as a 4-star wide receiver, but Durkin’s coaching staff moved him to cornerback in order to fill a need and to give him an opportunity for early playing time. The move was clearly a smart one, as he played in all twelve games for the Terrapins and excelled as a cornerback. His coverage skills were very impressive whenever he was on the field, and he even started over Jackson against Minnesota.
I have projected Ellis to serve as Jackson’s primary backup at field cornerback in 2017. However, with the way that Durkin likes to rotate his defensive backs, Ellis will likely see time spelling both Jackson and Richardson, and may even win a starting job with an impressive fall camp. Regardless, his future is clearly bright as a cornerback and he will see plenty of the field this season.
Deon Jones (Freshman)
2017 Projection: Second-Team (Boundary)
2016 Statistics (High School): 24 tackles (1.0 for loss), 0 INT, 0 fumbles forced, 3 pass breakups
Jones comes to College Park as a 4-star recruit from nearby Potomac High School in Oxon Hill, MD. He was one of the better high school cornerbacks in the country in last year’s recruiting class, and enrolled early at Maryland to get a head start on his fellow freshmen.
I have projected Jones to serve as Richardson’s primary backup at boundary cornerback in 2017, but he could also see time as the nickel cornerback. He has excellent physicality, making him the perfect candidate to match up against opposing offenses’ flanker, slot receiver, or tight end.
Elisha Daniels (Sophomore)
2017 Projection: Second-Team (Nickel)
2016 Statistics: 4 tackles (0.0 for loss), 0 INT, 0 fumbles forced, 0 pass breakups
Daniels came to College Park with his twin brother Elijah before the start of last season, and played in six games, primarily on special teams. While Elijah is a safety, Elisha fits well as a nickel or boundary cornerback.
I have projected Elisha to serve as Davis’ primary backup at nickel cornerback, a position that could feature a rotation of a few different players.
Kenny Bennett (Freshman)
2017 Projection: Third-Team (Field)
2016 Statistics (High School): N/A
Bennett is one of three freshman cornerbacks in Durkin’s 2017 recruiting class, and comes to College Park as a 3-star recruit from Philadelphia, PA. He has excellent size at 6’2”, and fits well into the new trend of taller, longer cornerbacks in football today.
I have projected Bennett to serve as the team’s third-string field cornerback in 2017. There is a chance that he could redshirt this season behind Jackson and Ellis, but he could probably provide some good value on special teams.
Alex Woods (Redshirt Junior)
2017 Projection: Third-Team (Boundary)
2016 Statistics (Lackawanna Community College): None
Woods transferred to College Park from Lackawanna Community College before the beginning of this season, and enrolled early in order to participate in spring practices. He was a 3-star recruit out of high school, and was ranked as one of the better cornerbacks in the country. Like Bennett, he has excellent size at 6’2”.
I have projected Woods to serve as the team’s third-string boundary cornerback in 2017. However, he ought to be able to compete with Richardson and Jones for the starting job immediately. Regardless, all three players should see playing time unless one of them runs away with the job.
Fofie Bazzie (Freshman)
2017 Projection: Third-Team (Nickel)
2016 Statistics (High School): 37 tackles (0.0 for loss), 1 INT, 0 fumbles forced, 0 pass breakups
Like Woods, Bazzie also enrolled early and participated in spring practices. He comes to College Park as a 3-star recruit from Quince Orchard High School in Gaithersburg, MD. While many teams were recruiting him as a wide receiver, he’ll play cornerback for the Terrapins.
I have projected Bazzie to serve as the team’s third-string nickel cornerback in 2017. He is smaller in stature at 5’11”, and his aggressive nature should help him in tighter coverage with slot receivers and running backs. While he may be second or third on the depth chart, this position ought to be a revolving door between Bazzie, Daniels, and Davis.
J.T. Ventura (Redshirt Senior)
2017 Projection: Fourth-Team (Boundary)
2016 Statistics: Did Not Play
Ventura has been on Maryland’s roster since the 2013 season, when former head coach Randy Edsall recruited him as an unranked athlete from the state of Pennsylvania. His only game action has come in 2015, where he played in the final four games of the season on special teams.
I have projected Ventura to serve as the team’s fourth-string boundary cornerback in 2017. His best chance for playing time in his final season in College Park will likely come on special teams.
Dimitri Lee (Senior)
2017 Projection: Fourth-Team (Nickel)
2016 Statistics: Did Not Play
Lee transferred to Maryland from Coastal Carolina before the start of last season, and didn’t see any game action.
I have projected Lee to serve as the team’s fourth-string nickel cornerback in 2017. Like Ventura, his best chance for playing time will likely come on special teams.
Allen Corbin (Senior)
2017 Projection: Fifth-Team (Nickel)
2016 Statistics: Did Not Play
Corbin is a walk-on to the Maryland football program from Winters Mill High School in Westminster, MD.
I have projected Corbin to serve as the team’s fifth-string nickel cornerback in 2017. His best chance to make an impact this season will likely come either on special teams or on the scout team.