For freshman Varner, a quick first read

Safety from Randallstown at ease after debut

NFL vet Glover a hit as aide

Maryland notebook

College Football

September 10, 2004|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- Every freshman football player is different. Some get a chance to adjust to the social, academic and athletic challenges of college. Others, like it or not, get thrown to the wolves right away.

Maryland safety Chris Varner, who a year ago was playing for Randallstown, experienced the latter Saturday against Northern Illinois.

"I had a little jitters coming out during warm-ups," said Varner, who saw his first collegiate action again against the Huskies. "But once I had my first contact, I was all right. I felt a little pressure, because I knew all eyes were on me, seeing as I was a freshman out there. I knew people were like, `Oh, boy, here we go.' I just knew I had to step up and show that I could stop them."

Varner performed well enough in his first game as a Terp. He had one pass completed on him, but he held his own on some others, making one tackle and giving starter Ray Custis some much-needed rest in the third quarter, when the Terps were pulling away from the Huskies. Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said he expects Varner to be better this week against Temple now that he has a game under his belt.

"He was a little tentative, which is not uncommon for a young player," Friedgen said. "He's kind of feeling his way around a little bit. He's a smart kid, and football is very important to him. Talking to [defensive coordinator Gary Blackney], I think he's made some improvement this week and he'll be even better [tomorrow]."

Varner spent most of his career at Randallstown as a cornerback and a quarterback, but Friedgen says his natural position in college is at safety. Varner has good speed, and a nose for the football, as evidenced by the fact that he once picked off four passes in a game in high school.

"The older guys have done a good job preparing me," Varner said. "I'm paying attention to [Domonique Foxworth]. Every drill we do, I watch him. Every day I learn something. I try to steal his moves, because I know he's a good person to emulate."

Glover makes impact

Friedgen said yesterday that he's been thrilled with the addition of former Terp Kevin Glover to his staff this year, and that it has freed him from countless distractions he had last year. Glover, a three-time Pro Bowl selection at center during his 15-year NFL career, was hired as Maryland's director of character education, and acts as a liaison between the school and the NFL. He handles calls from agents, advises players on their draft status, talks with scouts, and serves as a father figure for players who might have concerns they can't go to the coaches with.

"He's taken a tremendous burden off of me," Friedgen said. "Last year, I was calling all these all-star bowls for our kids and talking to Randy [Starks] about whether he should come out. He takes care of all of that, plus he deals with all of our character situations. He's mentor to the kids. It's really been a good hire for me."

Friedgen said his agent, Jack Reale, gave him the idea of creating Glover's position when he mentioned that Syracuse had a similar position. With Maryland becoming more successful the past three years, the program has also had to deal with more and more outside influences.

"We're trying meet all these needs," Friedgen said. "One of the scariest things for me is things I can't control, and yet I'm held responsible for. I've got agents I know in our dorm rooms, in our cafeterias and that have my kids cell phones. I've advised those kids, but I can't be there 24 hours a day. I feel a lot better I've got a guy looking over that while I'm trying to win some football games."

Et cetera

Friedgen said Russell Bonham is likely out tomorrow, meaning Andrew Crummey will get the start at right guard. Left guard C.J. Brooks is still recovering from a stinger in his left arm, but should be able to play.

Next for Maryland

Matchup: Temple (0-1) vs. No. 23 Maryland (1-0)

Site: Byrd Stadium, College Park

When: Tomorrow, 6 p.m.

Radio: WBAL (1090 AM)

Line: Maryland by 27

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