Welcome back to the Testudo Times job preview series. With the defensive line and linebackers already previewed, we take a look at Maryland’s secondary to wrap up the defensive side of the ball.
The Terps had the second-worst scoring defense in the Big Ten last year, and their secondary certainly deserves blame. Maryland allowed 22 passing touchdowns — a conference last-four mark — and had just six interceptions, which tied for 109th overall in FBS.
However, the Maryland secondary chained two great games against Rutgers and Virginia Tech to end the 2021 season. The Terps allowed just 150 passing yards and zero touchdowns in their final two games of the season. . By comparison, in the Terps’ first 11 games of the season, they allowed 267.6 passing yards per game.
First-year safety coach Wes Neighbors will have to replace 2021 NFL Draft pick Nick Cross and consistent starter Jordan Mosley, while cornerbacks coach Henry Baker brings top talent back to his bedroom.
Maryland defensive depth in 2022
|Jakorian Bennett||Senior||24 tackles, 2 tfl, 3 int, 16 pbu|
|Tarheeb again||Junior||55 tackles, 3 tfl, 2 sacks, 11 pbu|
|Deonte Banks||Junior red shirt||6 tackles, missed most of the season|
|Dante Trader Jr.||Second year||16 tackles, 1 tfl, 1 pbu|
|Beau Brade||Junior||14 tackles, 1.5 tfl, 1 sack|
|Corey Coley Jr.||Second year||14 tackles, 1 pbu|
|Isaiah Hazel||Senior||18 tackles, 2 tfl|
|Glendon Miller||Second year in red shirt||8 tackles|
|Shane Mosley||Second year in red shirt||6 tackles|
|Rex Fleming||Junior||5 tackles|
|Venerable Jayon||Second year||Appeared in 4 matches|
|Lionel Whitaker||First-year student||3 star rookie|
|Gavin Gibson||First-year student||3 star rookie|
|Yeast Scruggs||First-year student||3 star rookie|
|Chantz Harley||Second year||Transfer from Villanova|
|Owura Berko||Junior red shirt||DNP|
Maryland will depend on their proven cornerbacks
Starting all 12 games he’s played, Jakorian Bennett has had a massive breakout year in 2021. Bennett’s 16 pass breakups led all power conference players and were the most by a defensive back in the Maryland in 18 years.
The Mobile, Alabama, and Hutchinson Community College native’s transfer became a stud for the Terps and was honored with All-Big Ten honors by the conference and Phil Steele. While Bennett has had a fantastic year, he knows he can improve, and that starts with turning some of those head-turning pass-breaking numbers into interceptions.
“Understanding, trying to follow the ball better,” Bennett said of what he’s looking to improve on this season. “That’s what I worked on in the spring, it’s just looking for the ball. If you get the ball, we get turnovers. That’s a big part of…we have a better chance of winning. .
Tarheeb Still joins Bennett as a dependable starter in Maryland’s defensive field. Still started in all 17 games he played during his college career. He was named Freshman All-American by Athleticism in 2020 and turned that truncated season into a viable 2021 campaign. Still leading the nation in pass breakups per game in 2020, and his 11 total pass breakups in 2021 were sixth in the Big Ten.
Although Still also shone as a punt returner, he needs to continue his solid play at the corner for the Terps to improve as a defensive unit.
“I worked a lot on the attacking part of the football, trying to really create a lot of turnovers for the team,” Still said. “And then just footwork. Pay attention to that because – you will always need it. And then one thing is to really try to be more vocal. I’m just working on it so I can talk to guys more, guys can come see me, stuff like that.
Deonte Banks, who started Maryland’s first two games of 2021 before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery, also returns to Maryland’s strong cornerback core. Banks attended spring practices in Maryland and told media he felt “really great” in April. Banks has shown what he can do as an aggressive tackle out of high school, and a healthy Banks provides another positive layer to a cornerback room that has the mold to succeed.
Although the vanguard of Maryland’s cornerback position has a positive outlook, the Terps lose two hard-hitting pieces of depth. Occasional starters Kenny Bennett and Lavonte Gater both entered the transfer portal this spring, dealing a blow to Baker’s group. A young player like Corey Coley Jr., who caused a stir as a true freshman last season, should get enough playing time and make a bigger impact this fall.
Can Maryland’s new starting safeties hold their own?
From a leadership and talent standpoint, it would be naive to underestimate the losses of Cross and Mosley in this Maryland program. Simply put, Maryland safeties are an inexperienced bunch. Cross and Mosley combined for 47 career starts and left a massive hole in rookie defensive coordinator Brian Williams’ side of the ball.
Second Dante Trader Jr. and junior Beau Brade are expected to be the starters, and it’s a bit more of a blur after that. Trader, who reportedly once played football and lacrosse in Maryland, is a spectacular athlete who made his impact felt in 12 of the Terps’ competitions last season. He and Brade had virtually the same stats in 2021 and could prove to be a formidable duo in 2022. Whether that can come to fruition, however, remains unanswered.
“Still a bit worried,” head coach Michael Locksley said after the April spring game. “With Dante and Beau, they both played meaningful minutes for us last year. The guy I really thought had a really good spring for us and someone I’m looking to be one of those playmakers for us in defense [is Glendon] Miller, being added to the mix there as a security and a nickel.
Miller, a former three-star recruit in the Class of 2020, will have a chance to prove himself within a group that remains to be proven as a whole. Locksley also mentioned Shane Mosley, the younger brother of former Terp Jordan, as a background piece.
The youth of the safeties was on public display during April’s spring game, but the group have had nearly four months since to prepare. Either way, Locksley knows the challenge ahead for this group and hopes they can turn some heads.
“They have to grow fast,” Locksley added.