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FB Tyler Cierski opens up the offense for Terps

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Tyler Cierski's return from a one-week hiatus was not heralded. 

It didn't attract much attention.

It still made a significant difference for the diversity of Maryland's offense.

The Terrapins were limited in their options without their starting fullback in a Sept. 15 loss to Connecticut. Gone was their lead blocker, sidelined with a concussion. Beyond sets with two tight ends (conducive for running) and four receivers out wide (typically, though not always, a passing formation), the Terps showed little against the Huskies.

A week later against West Virginia, Cierski was back and so was some variance (along with a bump in effectiveness) for Maryland's offense.

"You really can't measure it," guard Bennett Fulper said. "He's kind of the unnoticed guy. He goes in there and makes a lot of big blocks for our backs on running plays and [isolations] and stuff like that, and also in protection when he's back there he definitely helps us out. He's definitely a very valuable guy people might not notice as much."

While he's technically started just one game in his career, the sophomore could prove a significant factor for the Terps (2-2) as they venture into conference play over the next eight games. First up is a visit from Wake Forest (3-2, 1-2 ACC) on Saturday.

Cierski, who was used sparingly a year ago in former coordinator Gary Crowton's offense, hardly is a newcomer to a position that's grown less common in the past couple of decades. His family moved to Georgia when he was in the sixth grade, and there were more than two dozen kids in his neighborhood. A few played high school football.

It didn't take long for them to size up Cierski (now 6-foot and 255 pounds) as a fullback. When he took up the sport a year later, his coaches concurred.

"I fell in love with it right away, and I stuck with it," Cierski said. "I like finesse and all, but it's really not my game. If I were to have it, that would be something different. Don't get me wrong, I think I have some sort of quickness in my feet, but power's my game. That's where I'm at."

It's also what Maryland would like to have more of in its offense.

The Terps enter the month 113th nationally in rushing offense. They've played four tailbacks, started three and cracked the 100-yard barrier as a team just once.

Yet it's also noteworthy Maryland's best moments — in the first half against Temple and sporadically throughout the West Virginia game — Cierski was an influence, providing some flexibility to help the Terps mix up their looks for opponents.

"Fullback is not a glamorous position," coach Randy Edsall said. "It's just not. But it's a very important position because if you have a good running game, it's probably because you have a pretty good fullback."

Of course, it isn't a stat-stuffing position, either. Cierski drew four carries all of last season, and he has yet to touch the ball on offense.

Like any self-respecting fullback, receiving a carry on the 2-yard line is a dream scenario. But even that isn't common; the last Maryland fullback to rush for a touchdown was Cory Jackson in 2007. Cierski visited the end zone on a reception last year, but forgot about his preplanned celebration upon collecting the touchdown.

"I had one last year when I scored against Towson but I forgot to do it," Cierski said. "We'll have to see if I can bust that out this year. I had practiced it a couple times during practice but it just slipped my mind."

No matter. With Cierski back in the fold, it's unlikely the Terps will forget about his importance to their offense any time soon.

"The fullback's kind of a dying position, and nobody really pays attention to it too much," Cierski said. "That's what I try to do — I try to get the attention back on it and make people know I'm there."

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