- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 18, 2003

The normal zip that makes Maryland’s Steve Suter one of the nation’s top return threats has been tempered by a strained hamstring. So naturally, he scored on a 75-yard punt return against The Citadel.

Maybe first gear is still enough.

Suter will start at wide receiver for the second straight game against West Virginia tomorrow night at Byrd Stadium. The Terrapins need more playmakers on an offense that scored one touchdown in its first two games before overwhelming The Citadel, a Division I-AA team, 61-0 last week.

Suter’s penchant for big plays has the Terps eager for him to double up on offense. He averages 17.1 yards a touch on returns and receptions combined and plays all three receiver positions.

“He gives you that ‘presence’ demonstrated by big plays every time he touches the ball,” offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe said.

Several breakdowns have hindered Maryland’s passing game. Quarterback Scott McBrien missed some downfield chances. Injuries to three right guards compromised pass protection and the running game didn’t produce the first two weeks. The receivers dropped several balls in the season-opening 20-13 overtime loss to Northern Illinois.

The Terps are hoping Suter fills the downfield void. His speed over the middle stretches defenses by drawing defenders. Suter also gains yardage after the catch, which Maryland’s receivers haven’t done consistently.

However, Suter believes his return technique compromises his role as a receiver because the two jobs require different styles of watching the ball.

“It hurts me more because as a returner, you catch the ball with your body,” he said. “You can’t do that as a receiver.”

Suter’s touchdown against The Citadel was his school-record fifth touchdown return in two seasons, and he needs 20 yards to become Maryland’s career return leader. Suter has proven fearless on punts, sometimes returning ones which coach Ralph Friedgen would prefer to see as fair catches.

“I just block [opponents] out,” Suter said. “It won’t hurt if you concentrate on the ball.”

Suter also is elusive, breaking two early tackles in his long return against The Citadel. His smallish 5-foot-9, 191-pound frame sometimes enables him to slip under bigger defenders. He is also one of the “Iron Terps” who set three team weightlifting marks for receivers along with a 42-inch vertical leap and 4.35-second speed over 40 yards.

“You have your helmet halfway on because you might have to sit back down if he scores a touchdown,” offensive tackle Eric Dumas said.

Friedgen said special teams blockers also work harder for Suter, fearing he may need their downfield block even if they’re far from the ball. None wants to be the reason Suter is caught downfield.

Notes — The Terps managed a complete practice yesterday; starting at 5:50a.m. with “Country Roads” blaring out of the speakers. Five coaches slept overnight in offices readying for the pre-dawn workout to beat the bad weather.

“I went down to the locker room and didn’t hear any complaining,” Friedgen said. “The only thing I heard was somebody say this seems like a long lunch break since they practiced [Wednesday] night.” …

Running back Bruce Perry (high ankle sprain) will play as a reserve. Guard Lamar Bryant is expected to start after missing three games with a broken ankle, but Akil Patterson could see some snaps. … The West Virginia game is sold out. … Today’s fan breakfast with Friedgen was canceled.

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