Terps' Jackson has big shoes to fill at linebacker

Replacing Henderson, he has 4 tackles in scrimmage

College Football

April 27, 2003|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- The burden on linebacker D'Qwell Jackson could be onerous, but it's one he thinks he's prepared to handle for the Maryland football team this season.

The mission -- and it's one he has chosen to accept -- is to replace E.J. Henderson, a player who ended his career among the most decorated talents to wear a Terps uniform.

Maryland began its spring practices looking for candidates to succeed the two-time consensus All-American, who became a second-round choice of the Minnesota Vikings in yesterday's NFL draft.

But it left yesterday's spring game with its hopes for the "Mike" linebacker position pinned to Jackson, a sophomore from Seminole, Fla., who had 51 tackles during the 2002 season.

Jackson, who made four tackles in the Red team's 27-21 win in yesterday's Red-White spring scrimmage at Byrd Stadium, sees the trick as simplifying the task as much as possible, with his teammates helping him out.

"I'll never be able to replace E.J.," he said. "The guys know that there's going to be pressure, but they do everything they can for me, so I haven't gotten any pressure. So it feels like I'm comfortable with what I'm doing."

Nearly 25 pounds lighter than Henderson, the 6-foot, 223-pound Jackson has similar instincts. Terps coach Ralph Friedgen said Jackson finds the ball carriers like his former quarterback student, Georgia Tech's Joe Hamilton, found open receivers.

"I'd like him to be bigger, but he is what he is. He's a great football player," Friedgen said. "He can find the football. One of the things you can't coach is vision -- either you have it or you don't."

Despite the absence of Steve Suter -- who tied an NCAA single-season record for punt return touchdowns but suffered a mild knee injury -- the Terps had to be happy with their return game during yesterday's scrimmage.

Sophomore Jo Jo Walker had a 45-yard punt return and averaged 30.3 yards on three kickoff returns.

"I believe that this is a chance to show what I can do if Steve Suter got hurt," Walker said, "and to show that all of our receivers are great. I just need to step up."

Safety Dennard Wilson caught a deflected Scott McBrien pass and returned it 65 yards for a touchdown.

Only 150 of the 703 total combined yards came in the first half, when the first teams played each other and the second teams also played each other. The offensive highlight in the second half was McBrien's 92-yard touchdown pass to Jafar Williams.

"I thought the defense played well, especially the first team," Friedgen said. "We didn't do a lot of blitzing. They just played straight defense and really shut the offense down."

Maryland's 2003 schedule

Aug. 28--at Northern Illinois; Sept. 6--at Florida State; Sept. 13--The Citadel; Sept. 20--West Virginia; Sept. 27--at Eastern Michigan; Oct. 4--Clemson; Oct. 11--Duke; Oct. 23--at Georgia Tech; Nov. 1--North Carolina; Nov. 13--Virginia; Nov. 22--at N.C. State; Nov. 29--at Wake Forest. (All times TBA)

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