Maryland freshman Tino Ellis making early impression on defense

Tino Ellis is playing at WR and CB, but might be making more of a mark on defense.

Tino Ellis came to Maryland last summer from nearby DeMatha High hoping to work his way into the rotation at wide receiver as a true freshman this season.

Ellis, the second-highest-rated prospect in DJ Durkin’s first recruiting class, has played a little at receiver and a lot at cornerback.

A former high school safety, Ellis is expected to make his second straight start when the Terps host Michigan State on Saturday.

After beating out sophomore transfer JC Jackson in practice leading into last week’s 31-10 loss to Minnesota, Ellis has apparently maintained that edge.

“Tino did a great job earning that job last week and he played well in the game, too,” Durkin said on a teleconference Thursday. “We’re going to continue to go with that.”

Jackson, who came to College Park with a lot of fanfare last summer after playing briefly at Florida, could also be impacted this week by the status of senior cornerback and return specialist Will Likely.

Likely injured his knee early in the second quarter against Minnesota after muffing a fair catch and did not return. He underwent tests this week and Durkin said Thursday that he would have an update Friday.

Defensive coordinator Andy Buh said Wednesday in College Park that while Ellis is still being thought of as “a two-way player,” his short-term and perhaps long-range future is at cornerback.

“For his first start, he played unbelievably well,” Buh said. “We’re really excited about him and his growth and where he’s at. He’s going to be not only a major contributor but you’ll see a lot of Tino in the future here.”

Buh said that Maryland has some options if Likely is unable to play against the Spartans, or is out for any considerable length of time.

True freshman Elijah Daniels filled in for Likely at the slot corner against Minnesota, and the Terps also used junior linebacker Jalen Brooks in a number of packages.

Asked if he has the flexibility to use more experienced players at slot corner, or go with the kind of formation that brings an extra linebacker such as Brooks in to make up for Likely’s absence, Buh said, “Those scenarios always come up. It doesn’t matter if it’s Will or one one our linebackers or D-linemen.”

Buh said that he and Durkin “feel really good” about the players they used last week against Minnesota, even though at times it seemed as if the Gophers attacked a part of the field usually occupied by Likely, an All-Big Ten cornerback last season.

“We expect the guys who go out there and play to respond even if they’re getting attacked or not,” Buh said. “But we do have some capabilities to move some guys around, too. We do that constantly in practice. We have to be prepared for those situations and as the season goes on, even more so because injuries happen.”

don.markus@baltsun.com

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