Fisher's a big hit for 'Pack

ACC's leading tackler faces Terps SaturdayFisher's a big hit for 'Pack

College Football

November 15, 2001|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

Who's the best linebacker in the Atlantic Coast Conference? Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen says it's the Terps' E.J. Henderson, but what he'd really like is to have North Carolina State's Levar Fisher playing along with Henderson.

Because if Henderson is No. 1, Fisher is not far behind.

"I'd like to have him and E.J. on the same team," Friedgen said. "It'd be a pretty good inside-outside combination."

Henderson, a leading candidate for ACC Defensive Player of the Year, and Fisher, last year's winner of that award, will get to watch each other work from opposite sidelines when their teams play Saturday night at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, N.C. With a victory, No. 10 Maryland would clinch the ACC title.

"He's a great linebacker, and he fits in well with the scheme they have," Fisher said of Henderson, whose 12.7 tackles per game are second in the ACC to Fisher's 13.4.

Fisher made his remarks yesterday without the addendum that he provided reporters earlier in the week: "But to compare [Henderson] to me? I think I'm the best in the ACC."

The comment seems brash, but the senior from Beaufort, N.C., may have earned the right to be so bold. Fisher has certainly made his presence felt on the field during the past two years, picking up first-team All-America honors from some after the 2000 season.

That year, Fisher made 166 tackles - the highest total of any player in the country, and was a major reason for the Wolfpack's improvement over a so-so 1999 season.

He toyed with the idea of entering the NFL draft as an underclassman, but wanted to improve his stock from the middle rounds where he likely would have been picked. He also wanted to rehabilitate a separated right shoulder that eventually kept him out of last spring's drills.

A big part of Fisher's success, Friedgen said, is his speed. Fisher runs the 40-yard dash in 4.55 seconds.

"He runs extremely well," Friedgen said. "He's a good tackler and has good vision, but he has the speed to close on people. ... I thought he was one of the best linebackers we faced all last year, and he hasn't backed off a bit."

Fisher got a scare last month during N.C. State's game against Clemson. He was on punt coverage when he twisted his left knee during a collision, the injury sending him to the trainer's table.

"We were all scared to death," N.C. State coach Chuck Amato said yesterday. Initially, everyone feared a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament.

The news got better, however, between that Oct. 13 game and the Georgia Tech game the following week. It turned out that Fisher suffered a sprained ligament, and he went on to record 17 tackles, including 11 solo, against the Yellow Jackets.

"For Levar to come back, it says everything that you want to [say] about Levar - his toughness, his character, his desire," Amato said. "He's not slowed down one bit. His motor runs just as fast as it did before he got hurt."

Fisher has averaged 10 tackles per game since then, as the Wolfpack has won its past three contests, including a 34-28 upset of Florida State last week.

In recent weeks, Fisher's biggest battle has been against the knee brace he's had to wear. It's made him feel heavy and slow.

"I'm trying to keep it strong," he said. "I haven't had time to rest my knee. Rest is the only cure for me right now."

Next for Maryland

Opponent: N.C. State

Site: Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh, N.C.

When: Saturday, 7:45 p.m.

TV/Radio: ESPN, WBAL (1090 AM), WTEM (980 AM)

Line: Terps by 3

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