Schmitt's play is music to Terps' ears

Junior center stepping up to lead thin offensive line

Maryland notebook

College Football

October 02, 2003|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- Every day at practice, Maryland's football team listens to music during warm-ups. It is, according to coach Ralph Friedgen, an effort to loosen up the team. But for weeks, there was little variety. It was either rap music or alternative rock. During the week leading up to the West Virginia game, the team got to hear "Country Roads" by John Denver, but that was it.

It was enough to drive a country music lover like Kyle Schmitt crazy.

"We finally got some Garth Brooks, `Friends in Low Places' Monday night," Schmitt said with a big grin on his face. "It was great. It cheered everyone up."

The way Schmitt has been playing lately, Friedgen would probably be willing to let him spin a few George Strait discs as well. Maryland's junior center has been the glue that's held the Terps offensive line together this year, despite numerous injuries and setbacks.

Though Maryland has used four different players at right guard this year, the Terps still lead the Atlantic Coast Conference in rushing with 185.2 yards per game. When guard Lamar Bryant missed the first three games with a broken foot, Schmitt helped backups Ed Tyler, Akil Patterson and Ryan Flynn feel comfortable.

"I'm really proud of Kyle," Friedgen said. "I think he's playing the best football he's played in his life. He's really built up a credibility with our staff as far as giving us insight into what's going on out there. ... We really depend on him a lot."

Schmitt, a 6-foot-5, 300-pounder from Latrobe, Pa., spent his first two years at Maryland filling in wherever Friedgen needed him. Versatile enough to play center and both guard positions, Schmitt also established a reputation for avoiding mistakes. He played 246 snaps his sophomore year, and he wasn't flagged for a single penalty.

This year, when things aren't going well, coaches know where to go to get a straight answer. Every wide receiver thinks he's open every play, Friedgen said, even if he's not. But a lineman like Schmitt will tell it like it is.

"Coach told us at the beginning of the year, `If you get beat, you got beat. Just tell the truth,'" Schmitt said. "That's why I think we've been pretty good making adjustments during the game, because coach Friedgen and [offensive line] coach [Tom] Brattan are real good at that."

"He's a good kid," Friedgen said. "I'd like to find a lot more like him."

Suter says he'll play

Wide receiver Steve Suter said he expects to play Saturday against Clemson, and then have surgery Monday on his left knee. The surgery would keep him out of the Terps' Oct. 11 game against Duke. Suter suffered cartilage damage against Eastern Michigan, but was able to practice yesterday for the first time this week.

"He did OK today," Friedgen said. "He practiced some. I thought he was moving around a little better than I thought he would be."

Jackson expected back

Linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, who is having what Friedgen described as a "sensational" year, had to leave practice early yesterday to fly back home to Florida to attend the funeral of his grandfather.

Jackson, who leads the Terps in tackles, flew home last week after getting the bad news, met up with the team in Detriot, and made 16 tackles against Eastern Michigan. He'll fly back tomorrow and is expected to play Saturday.

Et cetera

Bruce Perry practiced for the second straight day, and Friedgen said the tailback should be ready for Saturday's game. ...

Wide receiver Drew Weatherly missed the Eastern Michigan game with the flu, but he was back at practice this week. Friedgen had hoped to redshirt Weatherly this year, but when Jafar Williams (injury) and Danny Melendez (suspension) were held out of the West Virginia game, Weatherly had to play.

Next for Terps

Matchup: Clemson (3-1, 1-0) vs. Maryland (3-2, 0-1)

Site: Byrd Stadium, College Park

When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m.

TV/Radio: Chs. 2, 7/WBAL (1090 AM)

Line: Maryland by 7 1/2

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