New season means another new role for Terps' Feldheim

Nose tackle is his third position in three years

College Football

August 30, 2002|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - Initially, C.J. Feldheim did not enjoy the change.

As a 235-pound defensive end leaving great success behind at Hereford High School, Feldheim envisioned the fun he would have as a pass rusher after signing with the University of Maryland three years ago. But following his freshman season as a backup end, former coach Ron Vanderlinden got fired, Ralph Friedgen got hired, and the incoming coaching staff soon saw Feldheim in a new light.

The fact that Feldheim made such a smooth transition at defensive tackle last fall - when he started every game, reveled in the dirty work on the interior and helped a defense that fueled Maryland's dramatic rise from an Atlantic Coast Conference also-ran to league champion - spoke much about his discipline and drive.

All Feldheim had to do was add 40 pounds to his 6-foot-3 frame, become stronger than ever in the weight room and get used to clearing the way for playmakers like middle linebacker E.J. Henderson. All he had to do was radically alter his approach to the game.

A new season has forced even more change upon Feldheim. This year, the 285-pound junior has added 10 more pounds of muscle and is playing his third position in three seasons. This time, Feldheim has replaced nose tackle Charles Hill, who is now employed by the NFL's Houston Texans.

Not that he doesn't occasionally miss the feeling of daylong, one-on-one battles with offensive tackles, of patrolling the corner and tasting a quarterback sack. But Feldheim has come to enjoy life on the inside, where the inglorious work of tying up double-team blocks and clogging the middle is appreciated mainly by teammates and coaches.

"There's definitely a reason they call it the trenches. It takes its toll," said Feldheim, referring to the various hand, finger and forearm injuries he incurred last year. "Your feet get stepped on a lot. Your ankles get hurt when guys try to chop [block] you.

"I didn't like it at first. I was used to having all of that room to roam out on the end. Sometimes I still miss it. It was a little awkward moving inside. The view of the game is so much different. You control gaps more than you make plays. The blocks you see are different in there. But I've grown to like it. It would be hard for me to move outside now."

Said defensive end Durrand Roundtree, who plays next to Feldheim: "Whatever you need, C.J. will get it done. I'm sure he wasn't happy to move inside, but he didn't argue with the move. I trust him to do his job. I'm glad to have him on my side of the ball. I'm proud of him."

Ten games into his senior season at Hereford, which went 35-2 and won a state championship during his final three years there, Feldheim broke his left leg when he was tackled while returning a fumble he had recovered.

Luckily, the fibula break was not severe. Doctors assured Feldheim his recovery would be complete, and Maryland re-assured him of its scholarship offer. Still, seven months of rehabilitation followed before he could even begin sprinting. Feldheim went on to avoid a medical redshirt and appear in four games as a true freshman end.

Then, after the Terps suffered through their fourth straight losing season, Friedgen took over and altered Feldheim's future. Attempting to bulk up, Feldheim tried weight-gain shakes, then started eating four square meals a day, while becoming addicted to the weight room. He has since earned Iron Terp status while posting a 595-pound squat and a 330-pound clean and jerk.

Today, Feldheim, a bookish economics major who counts Tom Clancy and John Grisham among his favorite novelists, sports an evenly distributed, 285-pound frame. He has been timed at 4.85 seconds in the 40-yard dash. A year after recording 36 tackles and three sacks, he is an established player in a transformed body.

"That happens quite a bit in college football. As a matter of fact, I think the only way we're going to recruit defensive ends is to recruit big linebackers and let them grow into defensive linemen," Friedgen said. "The fact that [Feldheim] has done it and done it well, speaks a lot for him as a person and a player."

Feldheim (first name Clifford), the son of Cliff and Erica - he is a surveyor chief in Loudon (Va.) County; she is a housekeeper-envisions himself improving on last year's performance. Feldheim is now the team's most experienced interior defensive lineman.

"C.J. knows just about every position on the defense. Knowledge is power, and his strength has increased immensely," Terps defensive line coach Dave Sollazzo said. "You've got to be a physical guy who likes pain to play in there, and he fits that role.

"Defensive tackles are the hardest guys to come by. We felt like C.J. could be the guy. He had the right frame and we liked his work ethic. He put the weight on and made the move in a very professional way. Just a blue-collar, class kid. We chose the right guy."

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