NEWPORT, R.I. - Marshe Terry is either a rather big safety or a rather small linebacker.
Actually, that could be phrased differently.
The UConn football team’s defense either features three down linemen, three linebackers and five defensive backs as its base look, or it utilizes three down linemen, four linebackers and four defensive backs to start most plays.
The Huskies are going with the latter definition of both this season, not that a change in labels will cure what ailed them last season.
On paper, the Huskies are switching back to a more traditional look on defense. But Terry’s move from safety to linebacker means the personnel groupings on the field probably won’t look a whole lot different to fans or even some opponents.
Terry is one of just two players, along with Windsor’s Tyler Coyle, who were regular starters on defense for the Huskies last season and are back this year.
UConn head coach Randy Edsall and his staff will be counting heavily on the 6-foot-4, 220-pound junior from Columbus, New Jersey, to provide leadership, stability, and whole bushel of tackles, in the upcoming season.
Edsall said Tuesday that he’s been impressed with Terry’s work in the offseason and the leadership he’s shown so far. Terry is one of the members of UConn’s leadership council, the 13-member group Edsall has put together on the team in lieu of naming captains.
For all intents and purposes, however, Terry is the captain of the defense. And that doesn’t matter that he’s called a linebacker now.
Terry made 60 tackles and started 11 games last season as a sophomore, and the coaching staff believes he’ll do well in his new role this season as well.
“We saw a guy that’s a really good athlete. That has the ability to play that position because it’s a unique position in our defense,” Edsall said of the hybrid linebacker/safety position that Terry will play.
Terry will have some duties usually taken on by linebackers and others that fit with a more traditional safety role.
“He gives you range, he gives you length, he gives you toughness, and the ability to match up on certain receivers and big enough to take on a tight end,” Edsall said.
Edsall can see Terry playing at the next level. He would join a growing list of former UConn defensive backs to play in the NFL including Obi Melifonwu of the Raiders and Byron Jones of the Cowboys.
Melifonwu in particular, mostly because they are former teammates, is someone Terry has tried to emulate.
“Watching him go through his last two seasons when I was here, yeah he was definitely a guy I watched,” Terry said.