- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 29, 2002

Giants Stadium is not exactly the recommended place to ease into a new role, especially when you're facing Notre Dame before 80,000 and a national television audience.
But that's where Maryland safety Madieu Williams will make his first Division I-A start Saturday night after transferring from Towson, a Division I-AA program at which he made a name for himself against the likes of Bucknell, Lehigh and Colgate.
Williams not only is expected to start at strong safety, but the 6-foot-1, 193-pound junior is being counted on as the backbone of a revamped secondary.
"He's one of the best safeties in the conference and maybe in the country," said Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen, who sees Williams as a smaller version of Terrapins All-American linebacker E.J. Henderson because of the way he patrols large areas and delivers punishing blows.
"We don't want to move him out of the middle because he hits like a linebacker," Friedgen said.
Thanks largely to Williams, what looked like a trouble spot after last season should remain a strength for the 21st-ranked Terps. The secondary was depleted when two All-ACC players, cornerback Tony Okanlawon and safety Tony Jackson, plus standout safety Randall Jones ended their careers in the Orange Bowl. Junior cornerback Curome Cox is the only returning starter from last year's season opener.
Williams is joined at safety by Dennard Wilson, who started three games at cornerback last season because of Okanlawon's undisclosed medical condition. Wilson is better suited for free safety because he is a physical player who prefers to play a confined coverage area rather than covering speedy receivers one-on-one.
Opposite Cox, Domonique Foxworth returns at corner. The 5-11, 175-pound sophomore was a major contributor last season after giving up his redshirt season in the 10th game. He started and played well against Clemson and N.C. State to help Maryland win the ACC.
Williams, who was born in Sierra Leone in West Africa, decided to switch to Maryland after his sophomore year at Towson. He wanted to play big-time football and be closer to his Lanham home to help care for his little brother because his parents were getting a divorce. Williams didn't get much attention from Division I-A schools when he was at DuVal High School because of his size and failure to qualify academically until late.
"I knew if I worked hard enough, I would have opportunities," said Williams, who sat out last season because of NCAA rules. "The guys here are a little stronger and bigger. These guys are much quicker, and there is much more depth. That's the only difference that I see."
Williams, who has a remarkably calm demeanor, is expected to be the glue of another strong secondary at Maryland. The versatile safety came to College Park as a walk-on in the spring of 2000 but quickly impressed coaches and earned a scholarship.
"He might be the only one in the secondary that could probably play every position," defensive coordinator Gary Blackney said. "He's big. He's physical. He's intelligent. He's really a consummate defensive back."

Henderson sits out
E.J. Henderson sat out his first practice with soreness in his back but is expected to participate in this morning's session before the team leaves for New Jersey. The ACC Player of the Year had offseason back surgery but has shown no signs of related problems before yesterday.
"E.J.'s a little sore," Friedgen said. "It's the first time all year, so we decided to let him rest."

Suter may play
Steve Suter, the team's return man for punts and kickoffs, is expected to make the trip, although his status is still unclear. The speedy 5-7, 187-pound sophomore returned to practice yesterday after missing time with a pulled quadriceps. Wide receiver Rich Parson, listed as No.2 behind Suter on punt returns, hurt his knee during the practice in the rain on the artificial turf. It was not initially believed to be severe. Freshman Jo Jo Walker will make the trip and would be the top kickoff returner if Suter is not available.

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