- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 12, 2007

Morgan Green endured enough comparisons in his first year in college to last a career.

Now he just wants to be known for what he can do rather than who he is not.

With two other tailbacks nursing injuries this spring, Green has earned his first real opportunity since arriving at Maryland. He’s also thriving, routinely bursting through holes in practice and catching the eye of coach Ralph Friedgen.

“I just want to let everybody know I didn’t disappear,” Green said. “I think there was a time [that happened]. I was the leading rusher in Maryland, and everybody’s probably saying ‘Where’s he at?’ I mean, [Steve] Slaton’s probably saying to himself ‘Where’s he at?’ ”

Slaton, the shifty West Virginia tailback who took a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidacy into November last season, will be back to try again in the fall. He is among the most accomplished running backs in the country over the last two years, a perfect fit in the Mountaineers’ spread option system. And as seemingly every Maryland fan knows by now, he could have — and probably should have — been a Terrapin.

Slaton committed to Maryland, but Friedgen soon faced a scholarship squeeze. When Green, who ran for 5,133 yards in three seasons at nearby Lackey High School, wanted to play for the Terps, Friedgen found himself in a bind.

He ultimately passed on Slaton, of Levittown, Pa., for the local kid. And of the hundreds of recruiting decisions Friedgen has made in his career, few if any have looked as incorrect in retrospect.

Slaton has run for 2,872 yards and 33 touchdowns in two seasons for the Mountaineers. Green has yet to play for the Terps.

“I was being loyal to Maryland and if I had to do it again, I’d probably take both of them,” Friedgen said. “Slaton was a good student and a good person. I’ve kind of gone with the adage if they can run fast and they’re good students, they’ll play somewhere. That was my mistake, nobody else’s but mine. I didn’t think we could have that many running backs. I gave them a gift, really.”

Never was it as obvious as Sept. 14, when Slaton ran for 149 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter against Maryland. While the elusive Slaton probably could have juked his way to Wheeling by the end of the night had he so chose, he finished with 195 yards in the rout.

Green, the man with whom he is intrinsically linked, wasn’t even at Mountaineer Field despite hearing all about the matchup in the days leading into the game.

“I didn’t feel good about it at all,” Green said. “If we were in the same position and I was going up against him I would have been fine with it. But since I was redshirting, I wasn’t playing and he was. It kind of let me down a little bit. … It was kind of a helpless feeling. I would have liked to be out there.”

Other circumstances didn’t allow it. Instead of heading straight to Maryland, Green instead spent a semester at Hargrave Military Academy to work on academics. Green barely logged any on-field work, rushing just 21 times for Hargrave.

He arrived at Maryland last January after qualifying, and was quickly thrown into spring practice and the rest of the Terps’ offseason work. The whirlwind didn’t help Green, who couldn’t make a push for playing time in his first season.

“I feel like I was behind schedule from the time I went to Hargrave,” Green said. “That took a whole football season away from me and I think if I would have come out then and not gone to prep school I would have had better momentum coming in. I could have learned the plays a lot better, learned them over the summer and done everything a lot better.”

Not everything went poorly for Green. Tailback Josh Allen, who returned from a devastating knee injury to earn some work as a senior, emerged as a strong influence. He also began absorbing Maryland’s offense, the better to turn in a good spring this year.

Of course, Green also contended with Slaton’s omnipresence on highlight shows and in awards chatter — whether it was fair or not.

“To play here, you have to be a tough running back,” starting tailback Lance Ball said. “I’m not sure Slaton could fit in here. We pound the rock in between the tackles. It’s a different offense there. Morgan’s a great kid. He’s working hard and he’s catching on.”

Injuries to Keon Lattimore (back) and Da’Rel Scott (knee) have given him an opportunity. He has taken second-team reps for the last week, and he scooted 46 yards down the right side on a pitch in easily the best play of Saturday’s brief scrimmage.

Friedgen remains concerned about Green’s academic status but can see the redshirt freshman improving. With a strong finish to the spring and a solid camp in August, Green could earn some carries next fall on a team with two senior tailbacks (Ball and Lattimore).

It wouldn’t break the link between Green and Slaton, but it would certainly be a welcome start.

“I don’t think of it at all, but I use it as motivation,” Green said of the Slaton comparisons. “Some people think that if he was here, he would have done this. But you don’t know that. I’m just going to prove everybody wrong and make them know I should be here.”

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