Terps' Kershaw is second to none

August 16, 2005|by BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - If William Kershaw was a jealous person, he'd probably change his first name to "And."

He's the Jerry Lewis, Robin and Sundance Kid to the Dean Martin, Batman and Butch Cassidy of the University of Maryland football team - D'Qwell Jackson.

For this entire season, it will probably be "D'Qwell Jackson AND William Kershaw" being the focal points for the Terrapins' 2005 defense. Kershaw will probably get consistent second billing to Maryland's top All-American candidate.

But like the other second bananas listed above, Kershaw is OK with it. While some would consider the also-ran billing as a slap in the face, Kershaw would rather look at it as an honor in the making.


"It feels good to be mentioned in the same sentence with D'Qwell," said Kershaw recently at Maryland's annual media day. "I've been working hard to get to where I'm at now. D'Qwell is right in the middle of the defense and that fits him well."

But Kershaw was the center of attention for the linebacking corps, after Jackson's unmanned locker. Many TV cameras stopped by to take a shot of the locker because Jackson missed the first day of practice because of an illness in his family in Florida. He joined the team on Aug. 9.

"You know you are pretty important when they're taking film of your locker," one of Maryland's players commented.

The next stop was Kershaw, though. And like any good sidekick, he had the Main Man's interests and beliefs in mind.

The linebacking contingent is the most experienced group for Maryland's defense. The defensive line is largely inexperienced and the defensive secondary lost its top six players to graduation.

The linebacking group might not only be the anchor of the defense, it might end up being its whole hook, line and sinker of experience, too.

"We have all the linebackers coming back this season, so we are the most experienced group on the defensive side of the ball," Kershaw said. "With the younger guys in there, we just have to keep them motivated, keep pushing them and make sure everyone is on the same page."

Jackson has become the focal point of the effort and is definitely the guy the defense rallies around through think and thin. Even in his absence, Jackson's shadow looms large and has helped Kershaw and the other Terps linebackers to develop.

"D'Qwell missed spring with a wrist operation, but he's the heart and soul of this defense," said Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "He's a leader. Not having him this spring, though, I think made us stronger. Wesley Jefferson came on and played extremely well. William Kershaw played his best football, and then with Erin Henderson, to me the linebackers are very solid."

Kershaw, a senior, has the experience to become a strong tandem with Jackson. Kershaw busted on the scene during his junior year by starting 10 games and collecting 78 tackles, fourth best on the team.

He made his biggest mark against West Virginia when he blocked a field goal with 1:10 remaining to send the game into overtime. From there, Kershaw built his confidence and played steadily for the Terps.

"There isn't much more pressure on us. We got to get the job done on the field," Kershaw said. "D'Qwell gives 110 percent on every play. He has a big heart, is very vocal and he has everything you look for in a good leader. We have a lot of experience out there, we just have to get the job finished."

As Maryland's "Defensive Dynamic Duo," Jackson and Kershaw might have to get used to opponents running their offenses away from them. With the young defense surrounding the pair, it might be easier to test other spots of the alignment than run right into the backbone.

"They might run away from me, but that's OK," Kershaw said. "We have 10 more guys out there to run them down. We will just have to work a little harder."

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