Sean Davis has an old notebook with pages filled with detailed notes outlining each of his bad plays from last season.
On paper, Davis had a productive sophomore year in 2013. He earned a starting job at safety, led the Maryland football team with 102 tackles and established himself as a key member of the Terps' defense.
But coach Randy Edsall and Davis saw a lot of room for growth.
So once Maryland's season ended in December, Davis' self-evaluation began. He watched each play he was on the field for last year, jotted down notes about every mistake and talked to defensive coordinator Brian Stewart about what he could have done differently.
The result? Davis said he feels smarter, more refined with his technique and poised to be a more impactful player than he was last season.
"I think Sean Davis has made tremendous growth," Edsall said. "He's a hard worker, a guy you need to tell to back off. He spent a lot of time in the film room to get better. From what we've seen out of Sean, I believe he's focused. He's ready to have a great year."
A three-star recruit, Davis signed with Maryland in 2012 after playing at the Maret School, a small private school in Washington. He had just a handful of offers from power-conference schools, and none from big-name programs such as Alabama, Ohio State or Florida.
But Davis grew from a 5-foot-8, 125-pound high school freshman to a 6-1, 175-pound college freshman. He's now up to 200 pounds after putting on 15 pounds of muscle after last season.
"I'm long, cover a lot of field, aggressive when I can [be], take chances when I can, and nasty," Davis said. "I like to hit."
The physical part of Davis' game was never his problem.
He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds in high school, and he consistently delivered big hits last season, even at just 185 pounds — probably none bigger than the shot he laid on Heisman Trophy finalist Andre Williams despite the running back's outweighing Davis by 45 pounds.
Williams ran for 263 yards against the Terps. But late in the second quarter, Davis flew up from his safety position and delivered a shoulder to Williams' chest that knocked Williams onto his back. The hit drew an enthusiastic reaction from the game's announcers.
"For Sean, it was all about him understanding what it takes to be a defensive back in terms of your eye discipline, in terms of your angles and approach to the ball and recognizing personnel groupings, knowing down and distance and knowing formations and being able to really narrow down the numbers of options you're probably going to see from the offense," Edsall said. "It had nothing to do with his physical abilities. It was more from a mental and preparation [standpoint]."
So Davis took to learning.
"Last year, I was battling for the safety job and just focusing on myself," Davis said. "Now I secured the job and feel more as a leader, more vocal, know the playbook in and out, worrying about the linemen stunts for my run fits and stuff like that. I feel like this year to last year, I'm more confident, more of a vocal leader and playmaker."
He has shown the capability and athleticism to stick with wide receivers in man-to-man coverage during preseason practice. He has broken up passes and has rarely, if ever, stuck out for negative reasons during the first two weeks of camp.
The physical skills are still there. Now there's an increased confidence, a more refined technique and the better overall understanding of his position.
"Sean looks good, man," sophomore cornerback Will Likely said. "This is his third year, and he knows everything, so he [isn't a] stranger to the playbook. He's just ready to go out there and play."
NOTE: Maryland is holding its Fan Appreciation Day today at Byrd Stadium. Gates open at 2:30 p.m. The Terps will hold a scrimmage beginning at 3:30 p.m. Edsall and players will be available for autographs after the scrimmage.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun