- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 14, 2011

He’s wearing No. 88, has a helmet and pads and is returning to a sport he hasn’t played since high school.

Still, Cliff Tucker’s decision to try out for football gives Maryland a fairly familiar face at the midpoint of spring practice.

Tucker, who wrapped up a four-year basketball career with the Terrapins last month, joined the football team this week. He has participated in lifting sessions and practice at wide receiver, where he starred for Chapin High School in El Paso, Texas.

“You try to explore all the opportunities you have. Here’s a young man who’s right here on our campus, who’s played before and expressed an interest,” coach Randy Edsall said Thursday. “I’d be crazy as a coach not to have him come out and work with us. If he can come out and do it and be one of the better guys or be the best guy, then he can play.”

Tucker, who had 939 receiving yards and 19 touchdowns as a high school senior and was recruited by several Big 12 programs, provides an obvious plus: his 6-foot-6 frame. His athleticism remains unquestioned, even if he struggled toward the end of his final basketball season.

Edsall learned of Tucker’s interest in returning to football when a release request from another school arrived at his desk. He contacted the basketball office, then got in touch with Tucker to gauge his interest.

Tucker was not made available to reporters at practice Thursday.

Quarterback Danny O’Brien said he had a couple of workout sessions with Tucker before Tuesday’s practice, when Edsall said Tucker caught one pass.

“He seemed really excited to get a new start with things,” O’Brien said. “I know he had a long career with basketball, which was cool, but getting back and playing football is exciting for him.”

The last man to play both football and basketball at Maryland was Calvin McCall, who started at quarterback for much of two seasons (1999 and 2000) and also was a reserve guard on the basketball team for four years.

“If I could have played major D-1 basketball or football, I probably would have done the same thing he did,” defensive tackle A.J. Francis said. “But you always have in the back of your mind ‘what-if?’ He decided he was going to try out for his last year.”

Tucker, who averaged 6.0 points in 131 career basketball games, is listed at 205 pounds on Maryland’s roster. As for how much of an impact he can make this fall, it’s far too early to tell.

“I told him if this was something he wanted to do, it would be good for him and that he needed to come out during spring practice,” Edsall said. “Let’s just see where we’re at the end of spring practice.

NOTES: Freshman wide receiver Nigel King, who enrolled early at Maryland, has yet to be cleared by the NCAA clearinghouse. Edsall said King’s issue was not known when he joined the program.

“We’re still going through a process with Nigel,” Edsall said. “As soon as that process is completed, we’ll let you know at that point in time. We did get word back. I’d rather not discuss that right now because there are still some things that are going on with the decision that we received and what we want to be able to do. I’ll just leave it at that until everything is a final decision with what’s taking place.” … Edsall said redshirt freshman running back Jeremiah Wilson (ankle) returned to practice in a limited capacity.

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