Maryland football uses JC Jackson's absence to help build depth in secondary

COLLEGE PARK — RaVon Davis started spring practice at Maryland as a walk-on after spending last season at a junior college in Mississippi, worked his way up to second string, earned a scholarship during preseason camp and found himself starting at cornerback in Saturday's season opener against Howard.

An undisclosed "academic matter" kept another sophomore transfer, JC Jackson, on the sideline during a 52-13 win at Maryland Stadium and could keep him off the field when the Terps play Florida International in Miami on Friday night.


As of Tuesday, Jackson's status remained unchanged. The likelihood is that Davis, who grew up in Fort Washington, will make his second start, with true freshman Tino Ellis, who is also a backup wide receiver, playing behind him.

"He went from a guy that we didn't even know his name to starting at corner for us," Maryland coach DJ Durkin said of Davis on Tuesday. "That's tells you a lot about his ability, but more than that, how he's worked and what he's done. Regardless of what the situation is [with Jackson], he's always going to be able to help us."


Davis and the others who got their first chance to play college football Saturday — including more than a dozen freshmen — will help give Maryland depth as the season unfolds. It also gave Durkin and his assistants what the new coach called "teachable moments" with his relatively young team.

As well as Davis played in an emergency start, he and some of the other newcomers also showed their inexperience at times.

After building a 28-0 lead early in the second quarter by scoring seemingly at will and having the defense force five straight three-and-outs to start the game, and after seeing a 35-0 halftime lead grow to 45-0 early in the fourth quarter, the Terps surrendered two touchdowns in the final 10 minutes.

The letdown came against a Football Championship Subdivision team that didn't score against two Football Bowl Subdivision opponents a year ago.

"We didn't finish the way we need to, coasted in there a little bit and didn't need to do the things we needed to do," Durkin said during a teleconference Monday with reporters. "We didn't execute at the same level as we did at the start of the game, at the end of the game."

While acknowledging that the one-sided nature of the game had an impact, Durkin said that it also helped he and his staff convey a message to the reserves, particularly the freshmen, that they won't be able to have the same letdown later in the season.

"It's a good situation to be in [giving up two touchdowns with a comfortable lead], but we want to make sure we know how to do it right and not ... be up on a team and allow them back in the game because of that approach," Durkin said Monday.

Senior cornerback Will Likely said it was "exciting" to watch some of his younger teammates get on the field.


"They've been talking about it all [preseason] camp," Likely said Tuesday. "Just seeing the things they were going through, it brings excitement. As senior, because you've got depth behind you, guys that are willing to compete, that's always a good sight to see."

Durkin said he and his staff spent much of their time with the team Sunday going over "specifically where some of the breakdowns were and what the mindset should have been."

"You've got to learn from these things," he said. "Obviously you always hope you're in that situation."

While Durkin would love to see Jackson, who grew up on the West Coast of Florida, back on the field in Miami on Friday, the first-year coach knows he might have to adjust to playing another week without him. Durkin said Monday that "several players" are affected by Jackson being sidelined.

"RaVon was the one that got the nod, got the start [against Howard], and I think he did a good job with that," Durkin said. "That means more reps for him. We're leaning on Alvin [Hill] a little more. Tino played about 40 snaps in that game and did well with those. He will continue to get more rep as will Antwaine Richardson."

Said Likely: "We're all together, and we know what any person can do. It's always the 'next man up' mentality. [Jackson will] be back soon. You can't worry about things like that. You can only control what you can control. We've got some great depth. We're not worried."