- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 2, 2009

LaQuan Williams barely played in 2008, with foot injuries neutralizing one of Maryland’s promising young receivers just after September started.

It wasn’t anywhere near as bad as what was to come.

Williams endured a weeklong eligibility saga in February, learning he couldn’t participate in spring ball - and possibly longer - before a flurry of conversations restored his ability to remain a part of the Terrapins.

“It was torture,” Williams said. “I didn’t know what I was going to do. I had no clue. It was nuts.”

He didn’t retreat back to his Baltimore home, instead sticking around his College Park apartment to figure out a way to sort out his messy situation. Roommates Adrian Cannon, Drew Gloster, Emani Lee-Odai and Jamarr Robinson all offered support.

Yet the most significant help came from former Maryland quarterback Jordan Steffy, a five-year veteran of the program. Steffy, whose eligibility had just expired, led Williams through the byzantine process of regaining his eligibility, frequently pointing the wideout to the people he needed to speak with.

“He was like my guardian angel, honestly,” Williams said.

It was just the turnaround Williams needed since little had gone right in or away from football for more than a year.

He missed the last three games of 2007 with a knee injury suffered in practice. Williams broke a fifth metatarsal the next spring, then did so again early last season. Ultimately, the man who caught 15 passes (including a sprawling 27-yarder in the fourth quarter of an upset of Rutgers) as a redshirt freshman managed just two receptions for 19 yards last fall.

Williams underwent surgery after the season, and his recovery overlapped his eligibility headache. He sat out the spring but was fully healed about two weeks into the summer.

By the time camp was about to start, quarterback Chris Turner gushed about how the “old LaQuan” was back. Throughout August, he pushed Ronnie Tyler for the starting slot receiver job, and his ability to play any of Maryland’s wideout spots will ensure he gets on the field as much as any reserve when the Terrapins visit No. 12 California on Saturday.

“To me, he appears to be rejuvenated,” coach Ralph Friedgen said. “He has a new excitement for playing football. For a time, I don’t know if he was that excited about playing. Now, he seems to be hungry to play.”

If anything, he’s better than the “old LaQuan.” The former high school quarterback who played at cornerback during his redshirt season finally settled in as a receiver. He has polished his game and could be a greater factor than when he started seven games as a raw wideout two years ago.

Just as significantly, he has left his injury and eligibility questions in the past while still knowing he has as much to prove as any of the Terps’ mostly untested receiving corps this season.

“I’m comfortable now,” Williams said before pausing. “Actually, I wouldn’t say comfortable because I’m still trying to do something big. But I feel much better.”

Notes — Friedgen said Tuesday he still has not decided between redshirt freshman Mike Barbour and true freshman Nick Ferrara for the Terps’ extra point and field goal duties, although Ferrara is likely to take any attempts beyond 50 yards.

“I think it’ll be a game-time decision,” Friedgen said. “It’ll be close. No one’s missing one right now. That’s a good sign. I want to give it another day or two, and if I can make a decision earlier, I will.”

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