Project 2014: The Safeties

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Image Credit: The Diamondback

Unlike a cornerback position that will see a large amount of turnover in 2014, the safety position remains very much unchanged. Last season, young sophomores Anthony Nixon and Sean Davis locked down both starting spots at safety and performed very well. They will only improve with another season under their belts, and will be integral parts of Brian Stewart’s 3-4 defense in 2014. The team also gets a large number of reinforcements at safety, both due to injured players returning and new recruits. The safety position should be in good shape for quite a few years in College Park.

2013 Pass Defense Rank: 57th (225.1 yards/game)

2013 Interceptions Rank: T-73rd (11 interceptions)

2013 Red Zone Defense Rank: 115th (90.6% scoring)

2013 Total Defense Rank: 44th (374.4 yards/game)

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A.J. Hendy - Senior
2013 Statistics: 32 tackles (1.0 for loss), 0.0 sacks, 2 passes broken up, 0 forced fumbles, 1 interception

One of the more versatile players on the Terps’ defense, A.J. Hendy can play both safety and cornerback for Brian Stewart. That versatility helped an injury-ridden secondary in 2013, as Hendy saw most of his playing time come at the nickel cornerback position, a role originally expected to be taken by Isaac Goins, who was forced into a starting spot after injuries to Dexter McDougle and Jeremiah Johnson. This season, Hendy should see more time at nickel cornerback, as the cornerback position is a bit thinner than the coaches would like. However, he is still listed as a backup safety on Randy Edsall’s spring depth chart and will see time there as well. Hendy has the size and strength necessary to play the safety position, but also has the agility to play cornerback. He’ll see a lot of playing time in 2014, and is a solid part of Brian Stewart’s nickel defense.

Sean Davis - Junior
2013 Statistics: 103 tackles (1.5 for loss), 0.5 sacks, 3 passes broken up, 1 forced fumble, 2 interceptions

The leading tackler on the Terrapins’ defense in 2013, Sean Davis was a mainstay at the strong safety position for Brian Stewart. In 2012, he played in all 12 games and gained a lot of valuable experience, preparing him for a starting role the next season. He was was one of the most underrated parts of the Maryland defense last year, as his consistency and solid tackling ability makes him the perfect strong safety for Brian Stewart’s system. He’ll try to get even better in 2014, as he matches up against the talented receiving units of the Big Ten Conference. Another reason for Davis’ success was the good play of his partner at safety, Anthony Nixon. Safeties often feed off of each other, and consistency along the unit is important.

Anthony Nixon - Junior
2013 Statistics: 60 tackles (0.0 for loss), 0.0 sacks, 0 passes broken up, 0 forced fumbles, 0 interceptions

The Terps’ starting free safety for 2014 will be Anthony Nixon, just as it was in 2013. Like Sean Davis, he gained valuable experience as a true freshman in the 2012 season. He led all freshmen on the team with 41 tackles that year, and started 5 games for the injured Eric Franklin. 2013 saw him grab the starting free safety job and play very well at the position. One of the main concerns with last season’s team was the performances of the two sophomore safeties. In 2014, the safety position will be one of the team’s biggest strengths, and Anthony Nixon is obviously a large part of that.

Zach Dancel - Redshirt Junior
2013 Statistics: 11 tackles (0.0 for loss), 0.0 sacks, 0 passes broken up, 0 forced fumbles, 0 interceptions

After sitting out the 2012 season due to NCAA transfer rules, Zach Dancel was a key contributor on special teams for the Terps in 2013. He followed offensive coordinator Mike Locksley to College Park from New Mexico, and served as the team’s backup free safety last season. He should serve the same role in 2014, and likely will not get a chance to start for this team as long as Anthony Nixon stays healthy. However, he will play a very large role on special teams for the next two seasons, a role that should not be taken lightly. He is a very aggressive tackler, and will fight for every snap available to him in 2014.

Elvis Dennah - Redshirt Freshman
2013 Statistics: N/A

When Randy Edsall first came to College Park, he expressed his desire to add a lot of speed to this Maryland team. He has done just that with the likes of Stefon Diggs, Deon Long, Jacquille Veii, and Taivon Jacobs. He also did that by adding Elvis Dennah to the team last season, a safety who runs a 4.4 second 40-yard dash. Speed is the name of the game for Dennah, who grew up in Lanham, just minutes away from the University of Maryland campus. He redshirted last season, earning scout team honors in preparation for two of the Terps’ games. He will be buried a bit on the depth chart in 2014, but could see a little playing time on special teams. He is listed as a strong safety on the team’s spring depth chart behind Sean Davis, A.J. Hendy, and Rashid Conteh.

Milan Collins - Redshirt Freshman
2013 Statistics: N/A

After missing the entire 2013 season due to injury, Milan Collins will be available to the team as a redshirt freshman in 2014. A quarterback and a safety in high school, Collins decided to come to Maryland where he was recruited as a defensive back. Like most of the Terps’ defensive backs, Collins has very good speed. He is listed as a free safety on Randy Edsall’s spring depth chart, and is a bit buried below Anthony Nixon, Zach Dancel, and J.T. Ventura. His time to contribute is likely a few seasons away, but he could see some snaps on special teams in 2014.

Antwaine Carter - Freshman
2013 Statistics: N/A

One of two safeties recruited by Randy Edsall and his staff in 2014, the 2-star Antwaine Carter will have some work to do to jump up the depth chart. Recruited after the Terps received a decommitment from Jordan Noil, he has good size that analysts believe will translate well to the college level. Maryland was his only college offer, and he committed on the spot. He is a local kid, hailing from Waldorf, MD. He’ll likely play free safety for the Terps, and will have quite a few players in his way on the depth chart. I’d expect him to redshirt the 2014 season and work to try for a special teams spot in 2015.

Josh Woods - Freshman
2013 Statistics: N/A

A player who could be the most underrated in the Terps’ class of 2014, Josh Woods was recruited as a safety after playing both safety and wide receiver in high school. Listed as a 3-star recruit, he can play both cornerback and safety, making him very valuable to the team. He’ll likely slot in at free safety, adding to the large crop of players already at the position. He has good height at 6-foot-3, but will need to bulk up a bit from 180 pounds. He has great agility and athleticism, and should get a good chance to start at safety down the road. For now, I’d expect him to redshirt his 2014 season and try to bulk up a bit before competing for a special teams spot in 2015.

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About the author


Zack Kiesel   

Terps Analyst

Zack is a full-time college student working towards a career in law and politics. The Owings Mills native focuses most of his efforts on football recruiting and individual coach and player pieces. He has previously written Terps game recaps for ACCSportsNation.


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