- The Washington Times - Friday, November 22, 2002

Randy Starks was running like a jalopy or a junker.

The Maryland sophomore defensive tackle remembers one of his first practices in College Park when he couldn't complete sprints at the end of practice without assistance. The drill calls for the team to run the width of the field and back in an allotted time or the whole defense will be punished.

"One gasser and I would be tired," Starks said. "The only reason I made it was that people pushed me, physically pushed me."

Now the 6-foot-4, 302-pounder is not only pulling his own weight but carrying teammates with his dominating play. The prize recruit from Waldorf, Md., who chose Maryland over Penn State, has gone from being a big kid lacking conditioning to being an undeniable force in the trenches.

"If he keeps improving the way he is, he'll be playing on Sundays [in the NFL]," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said after Starks was a fixture in Clemson's offensive backfield last Saturday. "He has really matured."

Starks is a major reason why the 18th-ranked Terrapins (9-2, 5-1 ACC) have an eight-game winning streak heading into tomorrow's game at Virginia (7-4, 5-2). The border war has serious bowl implications, and Maryland can claim a share of the ACC title if it wins its next two and N.C. State upsets league-leading Florida State.

Starks is third on the team in tackles despite his primary job of occupying blockers and allowing linebackers to make plays. He also is second among the Terps with five sacks and has a team-high 16 quarterback hurries.

"I didn't realize he was that big for quite some time from watching the tapes," Virginia coach Al Groh said. "The thing that struck me the most was his movement and his athletic ability. He's very sudden inside. He's got a good knack for avoiding blocks and getting penetration. As a result, he's in the backfield a lot and is quite disruptive. I got to looking at the roster and saw this guy is 6-4, 6-5 and weighs 305. I kind of thought, 'Whoa, this is kind of the complete package.'"

Starks certainly has been that lately. In Maryland's comeback victory against N.C. State, he was in for 78 plays, an unheard of number at the rigorous position. Defensive line coach Dave Sollazzo tried to take him out in the fourth quarter, but Starks convinced the coach to leave him in.

The defensive tackle proceeded to wear out the Wolfpack. In the final quarter, he knocked away a fourth-down pass by Philip Rivers and stuffed another pass after getting into the backfield on third down. Maryland's game-winning field goal came after the resulting punt. Starks was named ACC Defensive Lineman of the Week after recording nine tackles (four solo) and four quarterback hurries.

"He's gotten mentally tougher," Sollazzo said. "He's always been tough, but physical toughness is different. He is playing the toughest position on the field where he is getting hit every play. He is starting to make big plays when we need it the most. That's the mark of a great player."

Starks continued his dominance last week. On a third-down play as Clemson tried to mount a comeback in the third quarter, he tossed the tailback for a 5-yard loss, and the Tigers had to settle for a field goal. He also had three quarterback hurries and two pass deflections.

Starks is living up to his billing as one of the country's top recruits coming out of Westlake High School. He has the rare combination of athleticism and size at what is regarded as the hardest position to find players. Starks went back and forth deciding between Penn State and Maryland before shocking many when he made his late choice.

"I felt more comfortable around the players here," Starks said. "I thought I had more of a chance of playing here. It was close to home, too. I just knew if I went to Penn State, my mom wouldn't have a chance to go to Wisconsin or places like that to see my games. Here she has a chance pretty much to go to all of them."

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide