Terps' Roundtree taking root as defensive stalwart

Always physical, lineman weighing in with pressure

College Football

October 25, 2002|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - In the weight room, Maryland defensive end Durrand Roundtree has always been the main event. It wasn't unusual during summer lifting sessions for his teammates to gather around a bench and watch in amazement as he pressed 500 pounds of iron above his 260-pound body.

But Roundtree, probably the strongest player pound-for-pound in the Atlantic Coast Conference, hopes he'll stride toward prominence on the field by becoming a feared pass rusher to complement Randy Starks in the final half of his final season for the Terrapins (5-2).

Roundtree made a positive start in last week's 34-10 win over Georgia Tech, coming up with five tackles (one for loss) and three quarterback hurries. On the first play of the Terps' initial defensive series, Roundtree blew into the backfield to force Yellow Jackets quarterback A.J. Suggs to take a grounding call.

"It's something I wanted to try to do this year. I didn't do much of it last year," said Roundtree, who has one sack this year but had 4 1/2 last year. "As a defensive end, you have to get to the quarterbacks - sacks, hurries or something, just to make my presence known."

Presence shouldn't be problem for the senior from Lansdowne.

Carrying a 6-foot-3 frame on which fat is seemingly a rumor, Roundtree has broken the school's "strength index" record in the team's past two strength testing sessions before preseason camp - combining bench press (490 pounds), clean and jerk (352), squat (740), vertical jump (35 inches) and 40-yard dash (4.63 seconds).

Dave Sollazzo, Maryland's assistant coach for defensive linemen, predicted that such figures will earn a player at least a look from professional scouts.

"He'll get a chance at the next level, no doubt about that," Sollazzo said. "He's got the numbers in strength, speed, and he's also a good football player. And what he does in the next few months will determine that, and in what capacity."

Regardless of what comes from now, Roundtree has done more than he expected when his playing days under Frank Meehan winded down at Lansdowne.

Though he had earned All-Baltimore County honors as a senior, he only knew that he didn't want to go into the armed forces, he told his mother, Jewell Anderson. It was only near the end of 1997 when the Maryland coaching staff approached with a college scholarship offer.

"He just wanted to get a job," Anderson said of her son, who is scheduled to finish his criminology and criminal justice degree in December.

Roundtree came to Maryland in 1998 as an undersized and under-trained player. He remembered then-coach Ron Vanderlinden assisting him in his stance, because he couldn't get his push.

Even when he came to Maryland as a part as Ralph Friedgen's staff last year, Sollazzo said he found a raw junior in Roundtree. And although he started every game last year, Roundtree found some dissatisfaction with the way he was playing.

"He always graded out well, technique-wise, but the number of plays wasn't there," defensive tackle C.J. Feldheim said. "[Last week,] he put it together."

After recording two quarterback hurries against West Virginia, Roundtree decided he would go after them in practices. Though quarterbacks aren't available for tackling, that didn't mean they couldn't be harassed, and he wanted to get some hunting in.

"I just worked on getting there, breaking down and getting my hands on the quarterbacks," he said. "You can at least make them know you're there."

Whatever worked for Roundtree, he hopes that his, and team's, success will be repeated Saturday, with a trip to Durham, N.C., to play Duke.

"It gives you a lot of confidence," he said of last week's game, "because it's the something I haven't been able to do and it's something to feed off of."

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