Terps' Wimbush eager to get in flow after delay

Still burning a little after missing big year, he aims to make grade

College Football

August 07, 2002|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - Classifications aside, Marcus Wimbush does not feel like the true freshman he is.

Like 25 other football players going through drills yesterday at Maryland, the next football game will be the first since high school for Wimbush, who played at Dunbar in Washington.

Strength trainers told the defensive back how he should stretch. The coaches made him run the length of the field five, six, seven times, as if to say, "Are you ready for this?"

They taught him alignments and stances, "drills that they'll encounter when the varsity comes in," according to defensive coordinator Gary Blackney, who had to remind Wimbush not to ambush receivers, who wore no pads.

"I'm kind of old for a freshman," the 19-year-old said the day before, waiting to get on with the football career that would have started a year ago at this time if he had cleared academic requirements. "I'll be 20 in November. I'm the same age as some sophomores or juniors."

He originally signed with the Terrapins over Tennessee and Nebraska, back in the fall of 2000 when Ron Vanderlinden was still Maryland's head coach. But before Ralph Friedgen's first spring practice had even begun, people wondered if Wimbush's grades and test scores would be able to earn him a spot on the 2001 team.

Those doubts were affirmed as he failed to reach the SAT score required by the NCAA. As if it weren't bad enough that he couldn't join his teammates, their success was salt in a festering wound.

Excitement came for his "fellow" freshmen, part of a 10-2 team that won the Atlantic Coast Conference title and went to the Orange Bowl. Wimbush would only describe his life as a student at Montgomery College in Takoma Park as boring.

"I wish I would have been here, and I was sitting there thinking `that could be me,' " he said. "When I chose [Maryland]... it was a program on the rise.

"No one expected it to be [10-2]."

If he hadn't been able to achieve the entrance standards, he said he would have tried going somewhere else, even if it meant going against the wishes of his mother. She wanted him to stay closer to home.

But while taking classes at Montgomery and working out at his old high school, he met the NCAA's academic qualifications during the spring, and Friedgen said he intends to monitor Wimbush's progress at Maryland.

"I'm going to stay all over him, and a couple of others," the coach said.

Otherwise, the player hopes he can make something of an impact this season. The Terrapins lost three of the defensive backs who started most of 2001.

"Hopefully, I can play right away. If not, it's cool," he said, thinking about where he might fit in. "Maybe nickel or dime. By the time I get the pads on, maybe they'll think something different."

NOTES: The first day of practice was typically tough for the freshmen, despite weather conditions more breezy than sticky. "I'm anxious to see how they develop," Friedgen said. "Some guys are not in very good shape, but they just don't know."... Wideout Jo Jo Walker of Carrollton, Texas, gained the coach's attention - "Jo Jo's quick as heck. ... He's just a little jitterbug." - as did Pascal Abiamiri of Mount St. Joseph. Abiamiri checked in at 210 pounds, heavier than the "gangly" youth Friedgen saw last June at football camp. "Once he develops and turns into a man, he ought to be a pretty good player."... Friedgen was also impressed with City College player Nate Clayton, who recorded a 27-inch vertical leap, despite weighing well over 300 pounds. ... Radio station WBAL, which has broadcast Maryland games since 1984, extended its deal with the school through the spring of 2005.

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