COLLEGE PARK — Since he arrived at Maryland in 2012 and stepped into a full-time starting role a year later at safety, defensive back Sean Davis developed a reputation as a tackling machine in the secondary.
In the past two seasons, he recorded 217 tackles and finished fourth nationally among defensive backs with his 115 stops.
But after three years of providing support as the last line of defense, Davis is excited to move to cornerback, a new role that could put him one-on-one on the outside against some of the Big Ten Conference's top playmakers.
"I guess the biggest overall change for me is learning a new position," Davis said Monday at Maryland's media day. "It helped me coming over from safety basically being the captain of the defense."
Davis played cornerback during his high school career at Maret School in Washington, D.C., and made two starts at the position for Maryland against Penn State and Michigan State last season. So it's not a completely new move for the senior, though he'll also have to make the adjustment to the Terps' new 4-3 scheme under first-year defensive coordinator Keith Dudzinski in addition to the position change.
Davis, who's started every game the past two seasons and appeared in all 38 games of his Maryland career, will have to focus on the mental adjustments of both switches, defensive backs coach Darrell Perkins said.
"You're looking at the game from a different angle and you're just looking at different things that you didn't really look at as a safety," said Davis. "I guess just knowing the game from a different side of the field."
Terps coach Randy Edsall was intrigued by Davis' combination of size (6-foot-1, 202 pounds) and athleticism last season when he moved him to cornerback in late October after injuries piled up at the position. Perkins, who recruited Davis when he was at Connecticut, said Davis will bring a physical element to the position and has "the body of a safety, but can run and move around like a corner."
Davis acclimated to the position well in his starts last season. In Maryland's win at Penn State on Nov. 1, he broke up three passes while recording a team-high 11 tackles. A week later, he had eight tackles and a pass break-up as the Terps held Michigan State wide receiver Tony Lippett, the Big Ten's lead receiver at the time, to four catches for 46 yards despite a primetime loss.
"He's going to bring a lot of value to us by having him at that position and then the knowledge because he played one position and now he's playing this position," Perkins said. "He's going to have a lot of knowledge and really knows the parts the other guys around him are doing, so that right there has helped to speed up his learning curve."
Davis will be paired with first-team All-Big Ten cornerback Will Likely, who is on the watch lists for the Bednarik, Nagurski, Hornung and Thorpe awards, along with safeties Anthony Nixon and A.J. Hendy in the defensive backfield behind what's expected to be a young front seven.
The quartet has combined to play in 130 games and make 87 starts. Davis, Likel,y and Nixon started every game last season, while Hendy missed the season because of suspension. With the defensive front looking to replace six starters while also switching schemes, the secondary will be counted on to be a steady presence.
"We are one of the most experienced groups out on the defense, but I feel like leadership, that comes from playmaking ability," Davis said. "We have our vocal positions but I'm not really a talkative guy. I let my play speak for itself. Overall, DBs, we should lead the defense."
Davis said he's happy that the coaching staff was confident enough in him on the outside to make the position switch. He expects the Terps to play more man-to-man defense, which will give him an opportunity to show off another side of his skillset: shutdown corner.
And he already knows who he's modeling his game after.
"We know [New York Jets Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle] Revis is on Revis Island," Davis said. "I plan on making that Davis Island this year. So look for that."
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