Soft-spoken Anthony Nixon evolving into leader for Terps defense


Anthony Nixon makes a tackle against Wake Forest in 2012. (Associated Press)

The Maryland football roster is full of outspoken players, but safety Anthony Nixon isn’t one of them. Coach Randy Edsall doesn’t hear much from Nixon off the field, because the junior is a self-described “humble person” who makes a point to keep a quiet.

But Nixon seems to morph into something different on the field, because communication is often demanded of players at his position. Nixon has evolved into a quarterback of sorts for an experienced defense, a player who has been reliable and started in 17 games over his first two seasons.

“Communication is key to have a good defense,” Nixon said after Tuesday’s practice. “I try to get every body on the same page as a free safety.”

Maryland’s camp has been strict about players being responsible for their own assignments, which helps Nixon home in on his responsibilities on the third level of the defense. But there is much leadership expected from Nixon and junior Sean Davis, who don’t necessarily have to speak to each other to develop chemistry.

“Me and Sean, sometimes we don’t really speak. We just use hand signals so we can communicate non-verbally sometimes, so we can practice for those loud stadiums,” Nixon said.

Nixon said he’s been coaching up freshman Antwaine Carter and junior college transfer Denzel Conyers during camp, a response to his growing role as an upperclassmen. Edsall said earlier this week that the team is still in the process of building depth at both safety and cornerback, and Conyers is expected to be a key piece.  Edsall has also praised freshman corners Daniel Ezeagwu and Josh Woods, both of whom had standout scrimmages last Saturday.

[Related story: Edsall says tough decisions in setting depth chart are a sign of team's progress.]

But whether those players are ready to step into the rotation is another matter. One idea Edsall said he wasn’t considering is moving veteran safeties A.J. Hendy or Zach Danzel to corner. They will continue to play at safety, a position that Nixon has impressively grown at.

“I’ve seen a couple times this preseason where he’s been a little bit more vocal and a little more energetic. Not to say he wasn’t energetic, but you see a little bit more of a vocal leader out there than what I saw before,” Edsall said. “He’s playing faster because he’s got another year under his belt. He’s a guy that can make all the checks and knows everything out there. He keeps everybody together and I’m expecting him to take his name to another level this year.”

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