Record haul wouldn't suit Simon Terp WR targets TDs following off year

September 13, 1996|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- Don't give Mark McGwire the bunt sign, don't enter Michael Johnson in a marathon, and please don't ask Geroy Simon to be a possession receiver.

Simon is the Maryland senior who, by season's end, could replace former Terp and current Raven Jermaine Lewis as the Atlantic Coast Conference's career receptions leader. Simon, however, leaves the impression that he would trade that record for a half-dozen touchdowns this season.

One of Maryland's fastest and most accomplished players, Simon is trying to make amends for a junior season in which he didn't get the ball as often as he wanted and did little with it when it did come his way.

"I didn't see myself as a playmaker last season," Simon said. "I was just an average player, which is something I'm not. That's why last week was kind of a relief to me."

Maryland needs to be at full strength to play at No. 22 Virginia tomorrow, and Simon said that his psyche was ailing before last weekend's game, when he had nine catches for a career-high 136 yards against Alabama-Birmingham. There was an acrobatic, 33-yard catch on a fly pattern and a cathartic, 27-yard touchdown in answer to a blitz.

It was Simon's first trip to the end zone in 14 games and 71 catches.

His previous touchdown came two years ago, at Virginia, near the end of a breakthrough sophomore season. Simon's 77 catches were an ACC record, but his production suffered a steep drop last year. Sixteen of his 54 catches came on a series of dinks in the season finale at Florida State, and as much as any Terps player, Simon symbolized the offense's malaise.

"You know what he did two years ago," said Dennis Goldman, who coaches Maryland's receivers. "After the catch, he would make the first guy miss and run a long way. He did not do that last year. After he caught the ball, he got tackled."

Simon is at a loss to explain last year's tentative play.

Maybe defenses jammed the inside men in the four-receiver run-and-shoot. Maybe he was so focused on catching the ball, he was too uptight to do anything once he got it. Simon is still bothered by a drop against Clemson in front of the Terps bench last October, even though he came back on the next play with an 18-yard catch across the middle.

"I had slipped, my hands were soaking wet and the ball slipped through my fingers," Simon said. "That play stuck with me. Every time I see that play, it hurts. I catch the passes thrown to me."

Simon said that play affected him in 1995 more than another, more noticeable gaffe. After a rocky first half at Georgia Tech, the 4-0 Terps appeared to draw within a touchdown of the Yellow Jackets on a screen to Lewis that went 80 yards for a touchdown, but Simon got whistled for an illegal block and the play was called back.

After that Thursday night disaster on ESPN, Simon spent the long weekend at his home in Johnstown, Pa.

"I went home, and that's all people wanted to talk about," Simon said. "I went to see my high school play, and 50 people came up to me and said, 'It wasn't a clip.' That play didn't necessarily stay with me. What hurt is that it was the first time the people in Johnstown ever saw me on TV, and we got whipped."

Maryland will play at least twice on national television this year, and the folks in Johnstown will notice a different Simon.

When Simon arrived as a late signee in August 1993, Maryland was top-heavy in outside receiver talent. He soaked up information from inside receiver Russ Weaver, found a niche in the slot and stayed there. After three years of curls, screens and shovel passes, he was ready for some upfield action.

"When I was a freshman, I was just happy to be on the field," said Simon, who turned 21 two days ago. "By last year, I was saying, 'When is it going to be my chance to be on the outside?' That's where the big plays are. I didn't get too many of those, and that was pretty frustrating. I've got the speed and quickness to play outside."

Simon, 6 feet and 183 pounds, wasn't a national prep sprint champion like Lewis, but he was a Pennsylvania runner-up in the 100 meters, with a best of 10.6 seconds. He needs 33 catches over his last nine games to better Lewis' ACC career record of 193, but it's just as crucial that Simon better his yards per catch and make some noise on the Terps' career touchdown list.

"In the run-and-shoot, there were times when I was more like a running back than a wide receiver," Simon said. "Get a few yards here, a few there. I want to remind people that I can catch it and run with it."

NOTE: Malik Campbell, the only quarterback recruit signed by Maryland this year, has re-enrolled at Turner/Carroll High School in Buffalo, N.Y. Earlier this month, the NCAA's Initial Eligibility Clearinghouse determined that Campbell did not meet the core course requirements needed to accept a Division I-A scholarship.

Campbell is again free to sign a letter of intent with another college next February, but he said he plans to come to Maryland next year.

Next for Terps

Opponent: Virginia

Site: Scott Stadium, Charlottesville, Va.

When: Tomorrow, noon

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)

Simon at Maryland

....... .... .. yards

Year .. Rec. .. per rec. .. TDs

1993 ... 19 ..... 10.2 ...... 2

1994 ... 77 ..... 11.6 ...... 5

1995 ... 54 ...... 8.1 ...... 0

1996 ... 11 ..... 13.9 ...... 1

Totals 161 ..... 10.4 ...... 8

Pub Date: 9/13/96

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