1st step to fill big shoes

Terps open spring practice looking to fill void of Davis, Jackson

College Football


COLLEGE PARK -- Jason Goode may not be as explosive as Vernon Davis, but if he has his way, he'll step into Davis' shoes as Maryland's playmaking tight end next fall.

Wesley Jefferson says he won't try to be the Terps' next D'Qwell Jackson, but he is eager to take his turn at middle linebacker.

More than likely, the void left by the departures of Davis and Jackson will be filled next season by Goode and Jefferson. How those two do will help determine whether the Terps can rebound from consecutive 5-6 seasons.

"Nobody can replace D'Qwell," Jefferson said after Maryland's first spring practice yesterday. "All I can do is substitute in for him. But I look forward to the opportunity to show what I can do."

Jackson, the Defensive Player of the Year in the Atlantic Coast Conference last season, will be a first-day selection in the NFL draft later this month. Davis, who averaged 17.1 yards per catch and 79.2 receiving yards per game last year, will be a top-15 pick.

Terps coach Ralph Friedgen doesn't expect to replace Davis.

"From Vernon's standpoint, we don't have anybody that can do what that guy did," he said. "And you know what? I don't know if anybody in the country does."

Friedgen's system calls for a blocking tight end as well as a receiving tight end. Dan Gronkowski, a 6-foot-6, 262-pound sophomore, is the front-runner to become the blocking tight end in a group that includes Joey Haynos and Tommy Galt.

"Those guys have to be good blockers and adequate receivers," Friedgen said.

Goode, meanwhile, is in the best position to become the playmaking tight end.

"Before, people were saying that me and Vernon had similar talents as far as stretching the field," said Goode, who played at Woodlawn High and Archbishop Curley in Baltimore.

"This year, I'm going to totally focus on filling that void and improve my blocking."

Friedgen said Goode must improve his blocking and get stronger to handle the rigors of tight end.

"He has good speed, 4.6 [in the 40-yard sprint] or maybe 4.5 and change," Friedgen said. "He's pretty good in his own right. ... He's got to be able to hold up blocking. His hands are as good or better than Vernon's."

Gronkowski has no misgivings. He's here to block.

"I think my biggest asset over Vernon is I'm bigger and [offer] more blocking," he said. "I'm never going to be as good a receiver as Vernon, no matter how much I try."

Jefferson, meanwhile, moves over from weak-side linebacker to the middle. His 57 tackles last season were the most for a non-starter, and he forced two fumbles and had one sack as well.

"I'm probably best suited for [the middle], but I'm more comfortable with [the weak-side] because I've played it more."

NOTES -- Friedgen announced the indefinite suspension of two players for unspecified violations of team rules. Suspended are sophomore fullback Matt Deese and junior offensive tackle Brandon Nixon. Nixon started 11 games at right tackle last year. Asked if he anticipated either player returning, Friedgen said, "That's hard to say." ... Friedgen was pleased with the first-practice work of quarterbacks Sam Hollenbach and Jordan Steffy, and the running of tailback Josh Allen, coming back from a serious knee injury that cost him the 2005 season. Friedgen also was happy with the performance of tailback J.P. Humber, who considered transferring after the season.ken.murray@baltsun.com

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