- The Washington Times - Friday, September 12, 2003

E.J. who?

Maryland linebacker D’Qwell Jackson quickly has made 2002 All-American E.J. Henderson a pleasant memory. Henderson’s name recently was added to the Byrd Stadium mezzanine Jackson passes en route to practice, and the sophomore has proven a worthy successor.

With a 58-yard interception return for a touchdown and blocked field goal against Florida State last week, Jackson already has become an impact player as Maryland (0-2) prepares for The Citadel (1-1) tomorrow night at Byrd Stadium.

“I don’t even think about [following Henderson],” Jackson said. “I think I’ve earned [my teammates] confidence.”



Before the season, coach Ralph Friedgen was a little skeptical that Jackson could move from weakside linebacker to the more physical middle, fearing that 300-pound guards would wear him down. But Jackson, who reached 230 pounds after he added 15 in the offseason, opened with 15 tackles and three quarterback hurries against Northern Illinois on Aug. 28. He followed with 11 tackles, an interception, a forced fumble and a blocked field goal at Florida State.

“I think he’s turning into a leader on this team,” Friedgen said. “He does the little things. I see a lot of the defensive players now doing the little things.”

The touchdown came before 30 friends and relatives of the Largo, Fla., native, who grew up as a Florida State fan. The two-time all-state high school pick made 51 tackles as a reserve last season, including 12 in his debut against Notre Dame. He was moved inside partly because of his instincts — an asset demonstrated by his interception on the Seminoles’ first snap last week.

“It happened so fast I didn’t have time to react,” Jackson said. “I just had to get in the end zone.”

Suter healthy again

Returner Steve Suter’s strained hamstring, which cost him nearly a month before he returned against Florida State, appears to be healed. Suter didn’t have much room to work against the Seminoles, though his opening 17-yard punt return to the Florida State 34 set up a field goal.

“Think of [New York Jets returner] Santana Moss,” running back Bruce Perry said. “Steve has the same type of speed and can catch the ball. He can determine the outcome of the game.”

Music to go

Coach Ralph Friedgen is piping in music during practices to elevate the team’s mood after its 0-2 start. The artists range from 50 Cent to Linkin Park, and Friedgen is threatening to break dance when he recovers fully from his hip replacement. Players joked that tunes like 50 Cent’s “Many Men” were motivational but doubted the coach knew the words.

“I don’t think he had any idea,” center Kyle Schmitt said. “It made me run faster.”

Bulldog bonds

Friedgen, offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe and assistants Dave Sollazzo and Al Seamonson all coached at The Citadel. Taaffe was the school’s winningest coach (55-47-1 from 1987 to 1996) before becoming a two-time Canadian Football League coach of the year with Montreal.

“I think he’ll be one of the top candidates in the country,” Friedgen said. “He’s won not only at The Citadel but in Canada. I don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t be a head coach again.”

Coach Ellis Johnson of The Citadel was a Bulldogs teammate of Sollazzo while Friedgen was an assistant from 1973 to 1979. Friedgen said Johnson still runs some of the defensive schemes then used by coach Bobby Ross.

Extra points

The game is sold out. Maryland has sold nearly 28,000 season tickets. … Friedgen will hold his first breakfast for fans at the campus Inn and Conference Center today at 7:30 a.m. The two-hour meetings on Fridays before home games are free. … Kickoff for the Sept.20 West Virginia game is 6 p.m.

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