- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Maryland’s football camp opened Tuesday with Kenny Tate at linebacker, a ballyhooed switch since it was first announced in the spring.

Yet lost in much of the scrutiny of Tate’s move are the abilities of the two players taking over for one of the ACC’s best safety tandems.

Eric Franklin and Matt Robinson played a year ago. Both look physically imposing enough to handle the position. And both are prepared to follow in the footsteps of an all-conference player who simply moved a few yards down the field.

“I feel like some people are asking questions, but the coaches feel comfortable and me and Eric feel comfortable to step in and do as well as them,” Robinson said.

The wait was long enough for the pair, even if much of it came before they arrived in College Park.

Franklin, a Baltimore native, followed Maryland football and basketball during his youth. Robinson, a product of Atholton High School in Columbia, Md., attended Terrapins football games as early as elementary school.

Franklin arrived at Maryland in 2009 and was thrust into duty as a true freshman when safety Antwine Perez was injured in a late October game at Duke. Over two seasons, he developed a reputation as a smart, capable player.

Robinson was a contributor from his first game last year, even drawing a start against Wake Forest when the Terps opened in a nickel formation. Franklin, among others, was impressed with Robinson’s poise throughout his first season.

The pair worked together with the second team a year ago, and their familiarity helped both settle into starting roles in the spring. They impressed the Terps’ new staff, particularly with an approach high on productivity and low on boisterousness.

“I like the way they go about their business,” coach Randy Edsall said. “They don’t say a whole bunch. They just go about their business. They’re smart, intelligent, they’re workers. I just like their whole approach to the game.”

In one important manner, the new faces don’t bring a new look. Robinson, like Tate, is listed at 220 pounds. At 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, Franklin possesses a similar frame as Perez.

Considering Tate and Perez were among the conference’s top hitters a year ago, Maryland’s physicality is likely to remain the same despite the changes.

“I just guess we like them big here — we like our safeties big,” Franklin said. “When we come down to hit, we’ve got some size behind us.”

Still, it’s a somewhat untested bunch. Franklin owns two career starts and intercepted three passes a year ago. Robinson made 29 tackles as a freshman, including 11 on special teams. Both contributed as the Terps went 9-4 and won the Military Bowl, though neither was in a starring role.

Edsall, though, juggled positions on defense not just to maximize Tate’s production, but also to find a way to utilize both Franklin and Robinson. Both longtime followers of the Terps are prepared to do just that.

“I think people are going to be surprised by how well me and Eric play this year,” Robinson said.

Notes: Edsall said freshman defensive end Quinton Jefferson has a “medical issue” and will not report until the spring semester. Wide receiver Nigel King, who was not granted eligibility this season by the NCAA, also is not in camp. …

Justin Anderson, who started every game at defensive end last season, was back at the position Tuesday. Anderson played both inside and outside during spring practice and entered the summer as a reserve at tackle.

• Patrick Stevens can be reached at pstevens@washingtontimes.com.

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