- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 17, 2002

Steve Suter is easy to overlook. That's what happens when you are 5-foot-9 and look like you are wearing a football uniform as a Halloween costume.

"You look at this guy and you think, 'He can't possibly be on the football team,'" said guard Lamar Bryant. "But he's fearless and he's tough."

With an 81-yard return against Akron, the compact speedster became the first Terrapin to return a punt for a touchdown since Jermaine Lewis in 1995. The sophomore from Carroll County repeated with an 80-yard return for a score against West Virginia. He leads the ACC in punt returns with a 13.5-yard average, and kickoff returns at 27.1 yards.

Suter is a big reason why the Terps (4-2, 0-1) have a swagger heading into a stretch of seven ACC games to close the season, starting tonight against Georgia Tech (4-2, 1-2) at Byrd Stadium. Maryland knew early it would have strong special teams with all-conference punter Brooks Barnard and kicker Nick Novak, but Suter's contributions have added a new weapon.

"Special teams will be big factor in this game" said Yellow Jackets coach Chan Gailey, whose Yellow Jackets feature All-ACC kicker Luke Manget and strong return man Kelly Rhino, who has a 10.6-yard punt return average and no touchdowns.

Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen noted a change in attitude with the excitement Suter has created players want to be part of big returns. All-American linebackers E.J. Henderson and fellow starters Leon Joe, Latrez Harrison and Madieu Williams are members of the punt return team.

"We have guys that actually want to get on the kickoff team now, whereas last year they wanted to hide," Friedgen said. "I felt like we had to have [strong special teams] this year because I knew it was going to take us a while offensively. If we play good defense and build our depth and play good special teams, I felt it would give us a chance. What it is doing right now is creating good field position for the offense."

Suter is making up for time lost with a broken finger that sidelined him most of last season. He has two touchdown receptions, including a 91-yard catch-and-run against Eastern Michigan. The first time he touched the ball this season he took a punt back 51 yards against Notre Dame.

"They used to call me the 'The Great White Hype' when I first came in here," said Suter, a lightly recruited high school running back who runs a 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds. "It is funny. It's rare to have a white kid be the fastest guy on the team."

Suter doesn't have planned strategies for his returns. He can see if a defender is in his face before he catches the ball, which determines his first move. But other than that, he runs on instinct. Usually, all he needs is a seam and a quick cut, then uses his speed to pull away. Against West Virginia, D'Qwell Jackson and Williams provided the springing blocks that launched him into the end zone.

"Against West Virginia, I could tell I was going to throw up if I had any kind of long run," said Suter of the regular follow-up to his first big play in a game. "I could tell I was getting so hyped. I would just be sitting, trying to relax, but I couldn't. I would be breathing heavy and think, like 'Oh, here we go.' Nobody likes throwing up."

Suter will surely be feeling tension before tonight's showdown in the national spotlight.

"It's a special feeling," Williams said of being part of the return team. "He's a threat every time he catches the ball. You just have to make sure you stay on your block. Because at any time, he has the speed and moves to take it to the house. He only needs about two or three seconds of protection. The rest he can do for himself."

Notes Maryland's basketball scrimmage will be closed tonight at Comcast Center; it was shut down due to traffic concerns. Terps tackle Matt Crawford (illness) is doubtful. Kyle Schmitt will start at center on a revamped line with Todd Wike at left guard, C.J. Brooks at left tackle, Eric Dumas at right tackle and right guard Lamar Bryant the only lineman in his regular spot.

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