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Terp tries for hold
Question of the Day
The assurance of a three-way competition for Maryland's starting quarterback was sure to keep everyone around the Terrapins' program guessing throughout the summer.
Everyone, that is, except for the No. 4 quarterback.
Jamarr Robinson, though, has no interest in standing sentry on the sideline. So he did what countless other Terps have done under Ralph Friedgen - try to find a home on special teams.
The redshirt freshman invested much of his summer working as a holder with kicker Obi Egekeze and snapper Dewey Schmitt, a decision that led to some work this month during camp and eventually could give Maryland its first quarterback-holder since Trey Evans in 1999.
"It means a lot to me because sitting and watching, I'm not too fond of that," said Robinson, who is the backup to Travis Baltz as the Terps' holder. "I want to take part other than sending in signals or practicing or anything else. I want to step foot on the field."
That's a common sentiment, which is why spots on Maryland's special teams can be just as competitive as a battle for wide receiver or linebacker.
It's a legacy inherited by new special teams coach Danny Pearman, who landed in a place where special teams were scrimmaged live and players with starting spots elsewhere value their extra roles.
Safety Jeff Allen could work with as many as five teams this season - kickoff, kickoff return, punt, punt block and field goal block. Linebacker Moise Fokou has a slightly lighter load, working on all the same units except kickoff return.
"It all starts with the importance the head coach puts on it, and Coach Friedgen definitely stresses it," Pearman said. "Any time that he has a stress or some type of influence on how important it is, kids want to play on that. I haven't asked anybody to do something they said they wouldn't do or they couldn't do."
The Terps have enough success stories stemming from early special teams work to provide encouragement to younger players who don't win starting jobs. Former special teams coordinator Ray Rychleski was impressed with Fokou, a transfer from Division III Frostburg State with a knack for chasing down ball-carriers, and quickly found places to use him when he became eligible in 2006.
From there, Fokou took over at strong-side linebacker last year.
"A starting spot on offense or defense is never guaranteed," Fokou said. "I think finding your way through on special teams is a very good step. It shows you can be relied on."
There are other bonuses. The biggest might be what Fokou calls "making that bus" - earning a spot on the travel team. It ensures players are invited to road games and have a slight chance of making it in at their regular positions if an injury occurs.
It's also a coping mechanism, especially for freshmen trying to adapt to college. Unlike most of his recruiting class, Allen immediately landed a special teams role and has not missed a game in his career.
"It made it a little easier for me," Allen said. "I didn't have to go to scout team. I was in the game plan and knew everything that was going on each day. That made me feel part of the team."
Robinson is seeking the same thing. Pearman approached the athletic Robinson in the spring about holding, a situation that would expand the Terps' options in field goal situations.
Realizing he was unlikely to play quarterback this season with Chris Turner, Jordan Steffy and Josh Portis ahead of him, Robinson agreed after spring practice to give it a try.
"Now that my eligibility is on the clock, I want to do something," Robinson said. "We have a lot of guys, and some cases special teams is about all you can do. That's a way to get on the field and then get your way on at other positions. Special teams for me is going to be a start - I hope."
So do a lot of others.
Note - Defensive tackle Dean Muhtadi suffered a left shoulder injury in practice Wednesday and sat out Thursday. Friedgen said he expects the senior to be back at practice when the soreness dissipates but anticipates Muhtadi will wear a harness upon his return.
About the Author
Patrick Stevens has covered Maryland and other Mid-Atlantic college sports for more than a decade. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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