Men In Motion

The Maryland Football Team Will Count On Several Players This Season Who Came To College Park At One Position Before Finding A Better Fit At Another

August 16, 2009|By Jeff Barker | Jeff Barker,

COLLEGE PARK -- Drew Gloster was a linebacker waiting to happen. At least that's what Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen hoped when he summoned the bulky third-year player to his office in the Gossett Football Team House near the end of last season.

Gloster was a tight end, but Friedgen knew it was the final season for five of his top eight linebackers. Friedgen needed replacements, and he believed Gloster, a Montgomery County police officer's son with a tough-guy reputation, might be a good fit. Said Gloster, who delights in describing his jarring practice tackles in colorful detail: "Even when I was on offense, the guys on defense always said, 'Oh yeah, you're a linebacker.' My father always said, 'Be the hammer, not the nail.' "

Eight months later, Gloster is among more than a half-dozen Terps who have switched positions. While Friedgen has never been reluctant to move players around, this year's converts are noteworthy because they include so many front-line players. Three key members of the secondary - cornerback Nolan Carroll and safeties Terrell Skinner and Kenny Tate - began as receivers. Receiver LaQuan Williams (Poly) was a defensive back, and center Phil Costa was a guard. Friedgen has been experimenting this month with moving freshman defensive lineman Cody Blue to the offensive line.

Changing positions can be delicate - coaches need to make sure players are truly on board - and challenging. "On offense, I was always used to moving forward instead of backward," said Skinner, a fifth-year player who moved from receiver as a redshirt freshman and is likely to start at free safety for the second straight season. "I had to get my body acclimated to backpedaling and using my hips. You've got to have really good hips."

Since most Terps are recruited for one position, Friedgen is cautious about shifting a player who might consider the move a breach of trust by the coaches. Friedgen said he makes switches based on need and instinct. He said he has been assessing talent since he was a graduate assistant at Maryland 40 years ago "and I have a pretty good idea about it."

Sometimes, players make the decision for their coach. "Actually, with Skinner and Carroll, I didn't want them to switch. They wanted to switch," Friedgen said.

Skinner just wanted to get onto the field. "I went to [former secondary coach] Tim Banks and told him, 'Either I'm going to transfer or I can switch positions.' He actually had recruited me as a safety," Skinner said. Skinner had played offense and defense at his Florida high school.

Carroll, also in his fifth year at Maryland, made the request after a 2006 season in which he had dropped two potential touchdown passes in a game at Boston College. He felt his size (6 feet 1, 202 pounds) and speed were well suited to defense.

Tate, a 6-foot-4 sophomore, recalled how serious it felt when he and his parents were called in before last season to talk to Friedgen about his move.

Tate, expected to get plenty of playing time this season at strong safety, had been recruited as a receiver out of DeMatha and was rated by almost every scouting service among the top 25 in the nation at the position. In recruiting him, Maryland assistant coach James Franklin showed Tate a PowerPoint presentation on how the Terps could be expected to spread the ball around to a variety of receivers. The presentation helped persuade Tate to choose Maryland over Penn State, Illinois and other schools.

But Tate was eager to make a positive first impression. So he didn't balk when Friedgen asked him to switch to defense, saying the move could get Tate more playing time during his freshman season.

"It's about getting the best players on the field," Friedgen said last week. "I recruited Kenny as a wide receiver and had every intention of playing him at wide receiver."

But Maryland was relatively thin at safety, and Friedgen knew Tate had starred in the secondary - as well as at receiver - in high school. "It was really his decision. It wasn't a mandate by any stretch," Friedgen said. "He's a very unselfish guy."

A year later, Tate said he's satisfied with the move, which has helped him stand out - literally - among his peers. "You don't usually see a 6-4 safety," Tate said. "I have enough speed for my size, and I can check a tight end because I'm as big as they are."

Gloster, too, said he has no regrets. He had once tried to model himself after Vernon Davis, the former Maryland tight end now with the NFL's San Francisco 49ers.

But Gloster made 10 tackles in the Red-White spring game and felt transformed. "In that game, [redshirt freshman running back] Gary Douglas caught a swing [pass] and ran 30 yards upfield and I left my feet and hit him so hard his chin strap came off," said Gloster, smiling and sounding very much like a linebacker.

2009 Maryland schedule

Date Opponent Time

09/5 at California 10

09/12 vs. James Madison 6

09/19 vs. Middle Tenn. St. 3:30

09/26 vs. Rutgers TBA

10/3 vs. Clemson TBA

10/10 at Wake Forest TBA

10/17 vs. Virginia TBA

10/24 at Duke TBA

11/7 at N.C. State TBA

11/14 vs. Virginia Tech TBA

11/21 at Florida State TBA

11/28 vs. Boston College TBA

Note: All times p.m.

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