- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 19, 2001

Maryland football coach Ralph Friedgen is searching for playmakers.

After the Terrapins' first intrasquad scrimmage of the fall yesterday, the first-year coach may have found one: freshman receiver Maurice Shanks.

Shanks, playing with the first-and second-team offenses, caught two passes for 43 yards and displayed great skill when the ball was in the air as his 6-foot-4 frame proved too much for the smaller secondary.

Asked if Shanks is his team's top playmaking threat, Friedgen replied, "Probably. I'm going to find playmakers, and they're going to be in the lineup."

Shanks redshirted last season and is listed behind receivers Guilian Gary and Scooter Monroe on the depth chart. However, this didn't stop Friedgen from playing the athletic Hampton, Va., product with the first team yesterday.

"I'm starting to be able to see the defense more," Shanks said. "I feel if the ball is thrown in the air, anywhere in my vicinity, I'm going to go up and get it… . I have a lot of stuff to learn, but when the games open, I'll be ready to go."

Said strong safety Tony Jackson: "He's a big receiver and can go up and get the ball with anybody. He can get open. He's a nice possession receiver, and if you need him to go downfield, he can go downfield. He's a terrific athlete. We need kids about his size."

Shanks' performance was all the more impressive because he was matched up against sophomore Curome Cox, the Terps' most physical cornerback and one of the defensive bright spots yesterday. Once Shanks solved Cox's bump-and-jam style, he made his two downfield receptions.

"He's a physical guy he likes to get up and jam," Shanks said of Cox, who had an interception and the biggest hit of the day while crushing receiver Rob Abiamiri and jarring the ball loose. "If I can get his hands off me and get my big body on him, it's pretty much [my ball] to get."

The Cox-Shanks matchup was a microcosm of the Terps' new defensive philosophy. Maryland showed a plethora of blitz packages in which it alternately sent the strong safety, cornerbacks and linebackers.

With Cox and DeMatha High School product Tony Okanlawon both returning starters at cornerback, along with experienced safeties Jackson and Randall Jones, Maryland's coaches are confident enough in the group to play a lot of man-to-man coverage.

"We're not out there getting picked apart anymore," Cox said. "We feel really comfortable in man-to-man coverage. As far as knowing each other, this is the tightest we've been as a unit, as far as knowing where each other is going to be and where we have help from and wanting to help each other."

Said Jackson: "We've always had the skill to go one-on-one with any team in this conference. We just needed the confidence to do it. Over the years, you gain experience and then you gain the confidence. And when the coaches let the defense loose, and put everyone out on the island, we perform, knowing we will get pressure on the quarterback.

"[The defense] is much more aggressive. We're not sitting back and playing zone coverage all the time. We're mixing it up, throwing in little details here and there."

Notes With 13 days left until North Carolina visits Byrd Stadium for the Terps' season opener, Friedgen said he is pleased with his team's progress. In yesterday's scrimmage, the defense looked ahead of the offense, except in the team's goal-line packages, where the offense scored on almost every play. Friedgen said he anticipated the short-yardage success.


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