- The Washington Times - Friday, August 13, 2004

Kellen Winslow Jr.’s picture hangs in Maryland tight end Vernon Davis’ locker. It seems “the Chosen One” has an admirer longing for a chance to prove he’s even better.

“I’ll watch hours and hours of game film [of Winslow] and see the things I know I can do better than him,” Davis said.

The comparisons seem far-fetched.

After his standout career at Miami, the Cleveland Browns selected Winslow with their first-round pick in April’s NFL Draft. Davis only caught five passes last year as a freshman. Winslow made headlines after injuring an opponent last season and calling himself “a soldier.” Davis hasn’t unleashed his simmering confidence yet.

But Winslow’s name keeps arising when teammates and opponents mention Davis. The 6-foot-3, 239-pound former Dunbar (D.C.) High School star already has the body frame for the pros and the speed to outrun linebackers and safeties. He’s only an inch shorter and 11 pounds lighter than Winslow.

“The easiest comparison to Vernon would be Kellen Winslow — really fast and a perfect body,” Terps cornerback Domonique Foxworth said.

Davis is the ultimate chess piece on the field. He may play five different positions for the Terps, including all three receiver slots.

Davis already owns four team strength records for tight ends, exhibiting the power that permits him to escape grabbing corners at the line. His 4.5-second 40-yard dash is the second fastest run by an end in school history.

“It’s just a matter of how much he can handle mentally,” coach Ralph Friedgen said. “That’s going to be the limiting factor. As he grows, you’ll see all those roles filled.”

Davis’ one-on-one drills against defensive end Shawne Merriman have become daily classics. Both players have a chance to reach the NFL and purposely test each other. Sometimes Merriman will hoot at Davis when knocking the latter back. Davis will respond with a gritty victory on the next encounter.

“Shawne has the same attitude that I have and I like that,” Davis said.

Davis appreciates Winslow’s brashness, too. After all, it’s not bragging if you can back it up, and Davis plans to prove himself this season. Friedgen expects Davis to catch at least 30 passes, a lofty number in a diverse offense in which eight players finished with at least 12 receptions last year.

“[Winslows bravado is] a great attitude to have,” Davis said. “That’s the type of attitude I like. It fits well. I have the confidence to do it. I feel like I can do anything I’m asked to do. It’s just about getting open.”

Friedgen’s biggest concern is Davis’ conditioning — despite a rock hard body with six-pack abs.

“When Vernon’s tired, he tends to make mistakes,” Friedgen said. “We’re trying to push him through that so he’ll concentrate.”

Davis’ two touchdowns in the spring game confirmed the potential seldom displayed last season when he mostly played on special teams. A veteran team provided little opportunity to play, but Davis kept the Terps from redshirting him by impressing Friedgen in practice.

“It was the learning stage for me,” Davis said. “I liked it even though I didn’t get out there all the time. Now I know what it’s like so I won’t be nervous. … I know what my future’s going to look like.”

It’s looking a lot like Winslow’s.

Notes — Quarterback Joel Statham was among the standouts yesterday in a practice that was moved up six hours to avoid bad weather. … Friedgen was unhappy with several dropped passes by the group of receivers he considers his finest unit. “Where we’re not very good right now is catching the ball the way we can,” he said. “We dropped a lot of balls that would have been big plays.”

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