Wall's early returns are encouraging

November 12, 1991|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Evening Sun Staff

COLLEGE PARK -- The call came just as Raphael Wall was about to chalk up his first season at Maryland as a redshirt year.

Mark Mason went out for the season with a broken leg, senior Troy Jackson often left the field limping and fellow freshman Larry Washington already had been tossed into the fray when Wall saw the picture taking form. Tailbacks were getting banged up and the Terps were going to need him after all, and pretty soon.

Two weeks ago against North Carolina, Wall played for the first time. Saturday against Penn State, in his second exposure to college football, all the whippet from Wilde Lake High did was break two school kickoff return records and accumulate 215 all-purpose yards.

No one can quarrel with the fact that any team that loses big, as Maryland did to Penn State, 47-7, is going to have kickoff return opportunities in abundance. The Terps got nine, and Wall had them all.

Indeed, his nine returns broke the school record of seven set by Bren Lowery in West Virginia's 55-24 thrashing of the Terps in 1988.

His 159 yards wiped out the record of 153 established by Tom Brown on only five returns against Miami in 1962. Brown went on to play as a defensive back for the Green Bay Packers and Washington Redskins and, in baseball, as a first baseman for the Washington Senators.

Wall added 26 yards rushing (including 11 for a touchdown) in six carries and 30 on two pass receptions for his all-purpose total of 215. By way of comparison, Mason, when he burst into prominence as a freshman in last year's regular-season finale against Virginia, had 180 all-purpose yards, including 116 rushing, 31 on receptions and 33 on kickoff returns.

"Wall is a major talent," athletic director Andy Geiger said.

As Maryland's dreary season winds down, with Clemson coming up next and then North Carolina State, Wall surely will be even more active.

The way running backs coach Paul Castonia lines up his tailbacks now, Jackson is No. 1, Washington No. 2 and Wall No. 3 ahead of Doug Burnett. That is, Washington is No. 2 unless his shoulder continues to plague him.

The pride of Randallstown High re-injured his shoulder in the second quarter against Penn State and played little after that. He wound up with 15 yards on three carries.

"Larry says it's still sore," Castonia said last night. "If he can't go, Raphael will move up behind Troy."

Co-captain and center Mitch Suplee says he wishes "we had Wall sooner," but he knows why the Terps didn't.

"He hurt his knee and ankle in the preseason and didn't get into the early games," Suplee said. "Anybody, especially a young player, has to work his way back. That's the way it is and should be."

Castonia agreed. "He missed a week of practice and wasn't in the best shape when he came back," Castonia said. "At that point, we had Mason, Jackson, Washington and Burnett."

Wall resisted the blandishments of Notre Dame, Tennessee, Rutgers and Georgia Tech for the chance to play for his home state university. He was swayed by the Terps' big win over Virginia last fall and the renovated athletic facilities.

Wall considers speed and vision as his main assets, the affinity to sense when he is about to be hit and cut out of harm's way.

"He sees it all happening," Castonia said. "He varies speed nicely and uses his blockers well."

Wall isn't mourning over the fact that what might have been a redshirt season will be limited to four games.

"I have a little regret about that," Wall said. "But what I really don't like is all this losing."

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