- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 10, 2005

For almost three weeks, Maryland tailback Mario Merrills jokingly has delivered a one-word message to fellow fifth-year senior Ricardo Dickerson:

“Traitor!”

That’s the price of switching from offense to defense in the middle of the season as Dickerson did before Maryland’s Oct. 29 game at Florida State. The move from fullback to what is essentially defensive end is the latest — and probably the last — in a series of such swaps for Dickerson, who never seems to get through a season without seeing action on both sides of the ball.

“It’s actually fun for me,” said Dickerson, who will line up in third-down pass rushing schemes Saturday when the Terrapins (4-4) visit North Carolina. “I love playing defense, and I really didn’t think I’d get the opportunity this year to play any defense.”

Dickerson enrolled a semester early at Maryland in 2001, coming to campus just weeks after coach Ralph Friedgen was hired. He started his career as a strong-side linebacker but spent some time at defensive end.

He handled some fullback chores as a sophomore and junior, but he spent much of last year filling in for rush end Shawne Merriman in third-down passing situations. That role helped give the Terps the flexibility to redshirt Trey Covington, who has started six straight games at Merriman’s old position.

With the Terps short at fullback after last season, Dickerson asked to slide back to offense. Yet with the return of sophomore Tim Cesa from an early season bout with mononucleosis and the improvement of redshirt freshman Matt Deese, Maryland suddenly had a glut of fullbacks.

That didn’t escape the attention of outside linebackers coach Al Seamonson, who started pestering Dickerson about making a defensive encore. After the Terps lost to Virginia Tech last month, the pair discussed the idea with Friedgen, who was trying to figure out how to avoid burning freshman defensive end Barrod Heggs’ redshirt.

Suddenly, Friedgen’s problem was solved.

“He’s pretty lenient with stuff like that, especially with me,” Dickerson said. “I’m the oldest guy on the team. He knows I can handle certain situations and not be a distraction to the team. I’m not a cancer guy on the team that gets mad or starts stuff just because I’m moving.”

The transition back to defense was easier this time for Dickerson, who had to learn many of the nuances to the rush end position early last season. However, it didn’t produce the kind of playing time Dickerson had hoped for; after playing about 10 snaps at fullback against Virginia Tech, Dickerson was in for only a few plays at Florida State.

Dickerson could see more time against North Carolina, especially if the Terps can force the Tar Heels into third-and-long situations. The Terps primarily use Dickerson as a pass-rusher in their dime package, and how frequently he is on the field is a good indication of how well Maryland’s defense is playing.

“He knows his time clock is running down,” Seamonson said. “He’s got hopefully about four more games in his career, depending on how we do in these next three. He wants to play and participate and make the most of his last year in college in any phase that he can with as many snaps as he can.”

Such dizzying travels around the field might have bothered some players, but Dickerson sees his multipositional career as something few players have done in recent years.

“I don’t look at myself as a yo-yo,” Dickerson said. “I just look at myself as a utility guy, a versatile guy. I feel like I can help the team in different ways. I’m glad that I’m blessed enough that when I want to do something else I can actually be able to do it.”

Notes — Wide receiver Jo Jo Walker (left leg) said he will be ready to play Saturday. Friedgen listed the senior as questionable Tuesday. … Wideout Derrick Fenner, who has battled a quadriceps pull and a slight hamstring pull in the last two weeks, practiced without a noncontact jersey.

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