Terps' Kelley still hoping to stay awhile

Senior petitions NCAA for medical hardship, aims to extend his eligibility

College Football

October 07, 2004|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

Despite everything he has been through, Maryland safety Chris Kelley has never spent much time wondering, what if.

He will admittedly, though, spend some of his free time the rest of this season wondering: What next?

Kelley - a former quarterback who recovered from three major knee injuries to start at strong safety this year - has been playing so well in his senior season for the Terps that it has made plenty of fans lament that he's nearly out of eligibility.

But if Kelley has his say, this might not his last season. He said he has petitioned the NCAA for a medical hardship year, and he expects to hear back within the next few months.

"It's not something I can control, but I hope they'll approve it," said Kelley, who missed nearly two full seasons after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee twice and his right knee once. "You kind of feel like something has been taken from you. All I can do wait and see."

The NCAA rarely grants athletes a sixth year of eligibility, but it did so recently in the case of Oklahoma quarterback and last season's Heisman winner, Jason White, whose injury situation is similar to Kelley's. White missed the 2001 and 2002 seasons with ACL tears.

Getting Kelley an extra year might not have seemed like a big deal before this season, because last year the Germantown native saw little action outside of special teams. But this season, he has been one of Maryland's best defensive players, according to Terps coach Ralph Friedgen.

"You can almost see the smile in his helmet," Friedgen said. "He's just having a lot of fun, flying around hitting people. He's so enthusiastic. He's had such a tough career. To finally see him really enjoying himself is good."

Kelley, who is tied for third on the team in tackles with 23 and is second on the team in tackles for a loss with 4 1/2 , is also proving to be one of Maryland's hardest hitters. Against Duke on Sept. 25, drilled Blue Devils quarterback Matt Schneider from behind, forcing a key fumble.

"It's been great just being out there," said Kelley, will start his fifth career game Saturday against Georgia Tech. "It's something I've been waiting for my whole life."

Around the conference

Georgia Tech: Yellow Jackets coach Chan Gailey said yesterday he isn't sure how healthy running back P.J. Daniels will be for the game against Maryland, but Gailey is confident that Daniels, who led the league in rushing in 2003, will play some despite a bruised quad.

"I don't know if he can make it 100 percent," Gailey said. "But the question we'll have to ask ourselves is what percent he is at, and how much can he play. He went out and tried to play against Clemson, and he hurt himself, so we'll see."

Daniels didn't play in last week's 27-3 loss to Miami.

Miami: The Hurricanes have lost starting left tackle Eric Winston for the year with a knee injury, coach Larry Coker said. The 6-foot-7, 310-pound Winston was Miami's top lineman and considered by some to be a lock for a high spot in the 2005 NFL draft - assuming he decided to leave Miami a year early. He was injured in the fourth quarter of Miami's victory over Georgia Tech.

Virginia: It's hard to pick out the most impressive thing about the Cavs' 4-0 start this season, but the play of quarterback Marques Hagans is certainly a candidate. In four games, Hagans has completed 76 percent of his passes, and is second in the league (behind Maryland quarterback Joel Statham) in total offense with 909 yards.

"It's a very positive start for a guy in essentially his first four games as a starter," said Cavs coach Al Groh, whose team plays Clemson tonight on ESPN. "He's done about as well as a rookie quarterback could do."

End zone

Maryland's Steve Suter needs just four yards to become the ACC's all-time leading punt returner. ... Fourth-ranked Miami, which is off this week, has been ranked in the top five of the Associated Press poll for 57 of the past 68 weeks. ... N.C. State leads the nation in pass defense, giving up an average of 92.2 yards a game. ... Virginia Tech, which blocked a field goal in its 19-13 victory over West Virginia, has blocked 104 kicks in 206 games under coach Frank Beamer.

Next for Maryland

Matchup: Georgia Tech (2-2, 1-2) vs. No. 23 Maryland (3-1, 1-0)

Site: Byrd Stadium, College Park

When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m.

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

Line: Maryland by 12

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