Tall order for Terps

UM corners could have difficulty measuring up to some Florida State receivers


College Park -- At 5 feet 10, Maryland cornerback Josh Wilson doesn't exactly stack up against Florida State's towering receivers. Nobody said Wilson doesn't talk big, though.

He described the Seminoles' receivers as "big, tall and ugly."

"They have a guy almost a foot taller than all of us," Wilson said, referring to freshman Greg Carr, who is 6-6 with his shoes off. "This might be one of the best receiving corps in the nation. Every time I look at the film, they got a different number on the field, and they all can play."

Florida State's receivers will undoubtedly present a size and speed mismatch today that will force Maryland's secondary to fight for position.

The visiting Terps (4-3, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) haven't faced a team like the 10th-ranked Seminoles (6-1, 4-1), who line up four wide-outs and throw the ball an average of 41 times a game.

Maryland players and coaches agreed the ABC-televised game will be the defense's biggest challenge to date - albeit a welcome one.

"That's a DB's dream," said Maryland safety Christian Varner, a former standout at Randallstown. "We love to play against a passing team. We're licking our chops right now because we get a chance to make plays. We just have to show up."

They're on the verge of being fashionably late.

With four games remaining - including three on the road - Maryland needs to win two to become bowl eligible.

Coach Ralph Friedgen said he expects a little more. Mathematically, the Terps still have a shot at playing in the ACC championship game. But they have to knock off Atlantic Division leader Florida State to do it.

"This is a big game," Friedgen said. "If we don't win this one, we're probably out of it."

The focus at practices this week has been the health of junior quarterback Sam Hollenbach, who is questionable for today's game because of a sprained joint in his left shoulder.

The quarterback on the other side of the field, though, is also a concern for the Terps.

Redshirt freshman Drew Weatherford, who leads the ACC in total offense and passing yardage, has at least six different athletes he can throw to, all capable of earning significant yardage.

With a wingspan that measures 6 feet 7 from fingertip to fingertip, Carr is the most notable.

His eight touchdowns lead the ACC, and his reception-to-touchdown ratio is nearly 2 to 1. Carr enrolled early and began working out with the Seminoles' basketball team.

Some of Bowden's best receivers have been more than 6 feet tall, but he said they're a rare breed.

Carr is the coach's tallest receiver since Weegie Thompson, who went on to play for the Steelers from 1984-1989 and was also listed at 6-6. Bruce LaSane, who was part of the Seminoles' 1989 receiving corps dubbed the "Fab Four," was 6-4.

"You don't see as many of them, but they are a valuable commodity if you have one," Bowden said.

How about three?

There's also 6-3 sophomore De'Cody Fagg, who injured his shoulder at Virginia and is out for today's game. And 6-4 freshman Fred Rouse has scored one touchdown on two catches.

Chris Davis, a 6-foot junior who has a team-high 26 catches, has started every game and scored three touchdowns.

Senior receiver Willie Reid, who is listed at 5-10, is the shortest of the bunch, but is averaging 54.8 yards per game.

"They've got a quarterback who's putting the ball in their hands right now," Wilson said. "I would pass 50 times a game if I had those receivers, too."

It's not just the receivers, though, who are catching the ball.

Running backs Lorenzo Booker and Leon Washington, the team's top two rushers, have also combined for 40 receptions and two touchdowns.

And senior tight end Matt Henshaw has caught at least one pass in each of the past six games.

"Usually when you look at any team, you say, `Who do we have to try to control, or try to stop to win the game?' " Maryland defensive coordinator Gary Blackney said.

"Usually there's one guy with 46 catches, or you gotta take out the tight end, or the flanker. But they distribute the ball so equally, going into this game, you can't say if we can take this guy out, we got a chance to win."


Today's game

Maryland (4-3, 2-2) @Florida State (6-1, 4-1)

Site -- Doak S. Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, Fla.

Time -- 3:30 p.m.

TV/Radio -- Chs. 2, 7/1300 AM, 105.7 FM

Line -- Florida State by 17

Series -- Florida State leads 14-1

Last meeting -- Maryland won, 20-17, last year in College Park.

Maryland offense vs. Florida State defense -- Regardless of whether an injured Sam Hollenbach or his backup, Joel Statham, is lined up under center for the Terps, the offensive line is going to have a tough job protecting him. Florida State is tied for seventh nationally with 24 sacks, including seven by defensive end Kamerion Wimbley. Senior weak-side linebacker A.J. Nicholson and junior strong-side linebacker Ernie Sims were among 10 semifinalists named for the Butkus Award.

Maryland defense vs. Florida State offense -- Maryland senior linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, a native of Largo, Fla., and the ACC's leading tackler, will be looking for a career performance in front of the nearly 30 family members he got tickets for. Senior offensive guard Matt Meinrod, the strongest player on the Seminoles' roster, was injured Oct. 8 against Wake Forest and will miss the rest of the year. He was a major factor in paving the way for Leon Washington and Lorenzo Booker, who have combined for nine 100-yard rushing performances for the Seminoles.

Heather A. Dinich

Maryland@No. 10 Florida State Today, 3:30 p.m., chs. 2, 7, 1300 AM, 105.7 FM Line: Florida State by 17

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