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Maryland's secondary will look vastly different between spring and fall

Maryland defensive back Will Likely, left, contests Bowling Green wide receiver Gehrig Dieter, right, for the ball during the second half Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015, in College Park.
Maryland defensive back Will Likely, left, contests Bowling Green wide receiver Gehrig Dieter, right, for the ball during the second half Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015, in College Park. (Nick Wass / Associated Press)

Maryland hits the field for the first time under coach DJ Durkin in less than two weeks for spring practice, which culminates in the Terps' annual spring game on April 16. With a new coach and new systems on both sides of the ball, it's a period of distinct transition for a program coming off a 3-9 season.

And while Durkin has already started putting his stamp on the program, Maryland's on-field transition starts over the next few weeks in practice. So leading into practice, we'll preview each of the Terps' position groups. After looking at the linebackers on Wednesday, it's time to look at the secondary, which will be vastly different than it was in 2015.

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Returners

Will Likely, senior: 44 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 11 passes defended, 3 forced fumbles (11 games, 11 starts)

Alvin Hill, senior: 17 tackles, 2 passes defended (12 games)

Denzel Conyers, senior: 15 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 3 passes defended, 1 forced fumble (nine games)

Darnell Savage Jr., sophomore: 12 tackles (10 games, one start)

Jarrett Ross, senior: 10 tackles (11 games)

Daniel Ezeagwu, junior: 6 tackles (10 games)

Josh Woods, junior: 4 tackles (six games)

J.T. Ventura, junior: 2 tackles (four games)

Antwaine Carter, junior: 1 tackles (three games)

Elvis Dennah, junior: No stats (two games)

Milan Collins, junior: DNP

Milan Barry-Pollock, senior: DNP

2015 reflection

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Last season marked the end of three longtime contributors' careers in Sean Davis, Anthony Nixon and A.J. Hendy, but it also showed that Maryland needed to overhaul its secondary moving forward. Bowling Green and West Virginia torched the Terps in September, and in October, Christian Hackenberg and Penn State always seemed to get that long completion they needed in a Maryland one-point loss.

But Likely continued his standout career in College Park with 11 pass breakups, even if he couldn't corral an interception during the season, and Savage saw extensive time as a true freshman, though he experienced some growing pains. Mostly, though, the backend of Maryland's defense was inconsistent during the 2015 season.

Looking ahead

That overhaul mentioned above? Yeah, the secondary was addressed in DJ Durkin's 2016 recruiting class. Maryland inked six defensive backs on National Signing Day, and one of them — cornerback Antwaine Richardson — is already on campus for spring practice. Durkin said that for how he and defensive coordinator Scott Shafer want their defense to play, the Terps are going to need many capable defensive backs, and he set out to address that.

The unit got a boost when Likely announced he was returning for his senior season.

What to watch for

Whatever look the secondary has come September will probably be very different from what Maryland puts on the field this spring, so it's going to be hard to get a real feel for what this unit will be in the future. But with a significant influx of youth coming in for fall camp, spring is an important time for the incumbents on Maryland's roster to make an early impression in a secondary with three vacant starting spots.

We'll take a look at special teams on Friday, another position group in a bit of flux moving forward.

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