After making impact in bowl victory, young Terps seek rerun

December 31, 2006|By Heather A. Dinich | Heather A. Dinich,Sun Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Maryland freshman fullback Cory Jackson has run the ball before, just not at the Division I level. In a bowl game. For a touchdown.

Jackson, the only true freshman on Maryland's roster who didn't redshirt this season, was one of several young players who made an impact in Friday night's 24-7 win over Purdue in the Champs Sports Bowl and is hoping to make similar contributions in 2007.

While a small group of their teammates have decided not to return next season - or are still mulling over their options - these potential playmakers are looking forward to making bowl appearances a tradition.

On offense, it was Jackson and standout receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, who scored a touchdown each. On defense, it was sophomore linebacker Erin Henderson, who forced a fumble that Maryland recovered, and redshirt freshman Anthony Wiseman, who broke up two passes in his collegiate debut.

"A lot of guys are going to realize they're more than capable of coming out and playing Division I football," Henderson said. "I think that's really going to make a big difference going into the offseason. We know that if we work hard and continue to get better we're going to take our game to the next level. Now that people understand that, I think the sky is the limit for this team."

Jackson, who played fullback in high school, scored on a 1-yard touchdown run in the second quarter that put the Terps ahead 14-0, and a 46-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Sam Hollenbach to Heyward-Bey increased the lead to 21-0.

Heyward-Bey has stunned opponents with his speed this season (he ran a sub-4.4-second 40-yard dash last spring), and his route running and timing have continually progressed. He had a school-record 97-yard touchdown reception against Miami, and is averaging 46.8 yards per touchdown catch this season.

He had a veteran quarterback throwing to him, though, who won't be there next year.

"That might be the best long throw I think you've ever thrown in your life," Friedgen told Hollenbach after the game. "I mean, I thought I was watching [John] Elway there."

"Thanks, Coach," Hollenbach mumbled back.

Hollenbach's position is the most glaring question mark for next season, as unproven backup Jordan Steffy has been waiting patiently in the wings for his turn, but there are also high expectations for Florida transfer Josh Portis. Also departing from the offense are linemen Donnie Woods and Garrick Clig, who have decided to forgo their final years of eligibility to pursue other interests.

Right tackle Jared Gaither turned in paperwork to the NFL to explore his draft potential, as did running back Lance Ball and nose tackle Dre Moore. Linebacker Wesley Jefferson is contemplating pursuing a career as a state trooper instead of a football player, and the status of fullback Tim Cesa remains a question.

Still, Friday's game showed hints of promise for those expected to return.

"We have a lot of talent coming back," Jackson said. "There could be a little bit of rebuilding on the line, but there's definitely a lot of skill there and the receiver position will be stacked."

Heyward-Bey, Danny Oquendo and Isaiah Williams - all second-year players - were among the Terps' top receivers this season. Also at the top of the list was tight end Joey Haynos, another first-year starter. Haynos, a junior, also caught a touchdown pass in the bowl game.

Prior to Friday night's game, Friedgen's offense included just one fullback run in the past two seasons. Against Purdue, Jackson had four carries for 12 yards and a touchdown. He also had another run that would have been at least a 20-yard gain, had it not been called back for a penalty. He also caught one pass for 23 yards.

Henderson said the players viewed Friday's game as the beginning of next season.

"I really think that's what the bowl game is all about," Henderson said. "It's not the last game of the season, but the first game of next year. Now we're going to have that confidence.

heather.dinich@baltsun.com

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