- The Washington Times - Monday, October 17, 2005

The Maryland football team is ecstatic to get middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson back for Thursday’s nationally televised tussle with No. 3 Virginia Tech at Byrd Stadium.

And no one is happier than Jackson himself.

The senior missed the Terrapins’ rout of Temple on Oct. 8 with a leg injury, the first time in 44 college games he didn’t play. He missed all of last spring after undergoing wrist surgery.

“It’s always hard to sit out,” said Jackson, who was replaced by sophomore Wesley Jefferson. “I did my share of sitting out during the spring and to sit out again, it was kind of frustrating. It’s steps that you have to take, and I’m fortunate it wasn’t anything major.”

So are the Terps (4-2, 2-1 ACC), who will get back arguably their best player against the Hokies (6-0, 3-0). Jackson didn’t wear a noncontact jersey yesterday in practice for the first time since suffering the injury Oct. 4.

He did some noncontact work as Maryland started preparing for the Hokies late last week, and the defensive captain’s return helped energize a team facing a top-three team for the first time since 2000.

“[It’s] just his presence,” coach Ralph Friedgen said. “He’s the leader on this football team, and having him there makes a difference.”

Jackson averaged 14.4 tackles in the Terps’ first five games, the leading total in Division I-A, and Maryland will need him to be his usual self against Virginia Tech.

“D’Qwell is a superhuman athlete,” cornerback Josh Wilson said. “He does a lot of things most people can’t do in the defensive backfield in coverage, and he does a lot of things linemen can’t do in the run game. He just always has a 100 percent go to the ball [attitude], a nonstop motor that from sideline to sideline you can depend on.”

Title talk?

Cornerback Josh Wilson had plenty of rooting interest as he watched Virginia upend Florida State on Saturday. It was a significant victory for his good friend, Cavaliers wide receiver Deyon Williams, and it also helped bring Maryland closer to the ACC’s Atlantic Division lead.

“Every chance you have when someone puts you back in the race like that, it’s good,” Wilson said. “I was cheering just because my boy goes to Virginia.”

There probably were a few chuckles when Friedgen said earlier this month he hadn’t given up on reaching the inaugural ACC title game in Jacksonville, Fla. Yet Maryland is within a half-game of No. 11 Florida State (5-1, 3-1) and No. 13 Boston College (6-1, 3-1) for the Atlantic lead.

The Terps still must face both teams, as well as Virginia Tech, so it would be decidedly difficult to earn a spot in the Dec. 3 title game. However, Maryland wouldn’t need any outside help to get to Jacksonville if it won out.

“It’s all in front of us,” Friedgen said. “We control our own destiny. I guess really you can’t ask for more than that. A lot is going to happen these next five weeks. Everybody plays everybody else. It’s a tough league.”

Schedule swap

Friedgen took advantage of the bye before the Thursday night game to place the Terps’ full-contact practices earlier in the schedule.

In a normal week leading up to a Saturday game, the Terps have contact practices on Tuesday and Wednesday. However, Friedgen had contact practices Saturday and Sunday — the equivalent of Monday and Tuesday in a typical week — before the team came out in shoulder pads and shorts yesterday.

“I wanted to get the hitting in early to get them ready for what they’re going to see,” Friedgen said. “I told the captains [Sunday] they have to trust me that I know what I’m doing. It’s different from a normal week because normally on Monday you don’t come out and hit because you’re beat up from Saturday. They didn’t have a Saturday.”

FSU game time set

The time for Maryland’s Oct. 29 game at Florida State was set for 3:30 p.m. The game will be televised either regionally by ABC (WJLA, Ch. 7) or nationally by ESPN.

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