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Davis becoming key player for Terps

September 15, 2005|By BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md. ? Vernon Davis is becoming the University of Maryland's high-wire act.

Every time he makes a play, Terps coach Ralph Friedgen is looking for a safety net.

It isn't because Davis is doing such a bad job. It's quite the contrary. The tight end does so much when he gets the ball, Friedgen is looking for ways to stop plays for Davis' own good.

"He doesn't want to go down," Friedgen said. "He gets the ball and he keeps trying to go forward, even when there are five and six defenders around him. When that happens in practice, I have a whistle I blow. When it happened on Saturday against Clemson, I reached for the whistle, and I wasn't wearing it."

Davis and Maryland are at the mercy of the officials in that case. It's tough for Friedgen to accept because Davis is becoming a major part of the Terrapins' offensive attack.

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It's even tougher for Davis, because he has to learn how to change gears and slow down, just to keep his coach from having a coronary.

"Coach and I talked about it (Monday)," Davis said. "At the time I get the ball, I just want to get into the end zone, I don't think about going down. I just want to keep going. ... It's going to be tough for me to change."

While Friedgen respects Davis' drive, he'd rather have his availability.

Davis, in a sense, is filling in the role that was played by former Maryland receiver Steve Suter. The Terps are trying to find as many ways as possible to get Davis the ball, much like they did with Suter. Both are primarily receivers, but they are being employed on kick return duties and a few trick plays to rush the ball.

At 6-foot-3 and 253 pounds, Davis is bigger than Suter, but he is taking more chances.

"I just have done a lot of work in the weight room and when I get on the field, it shows," Davis said. "I've been doing a lot of squats and leg work. When we practice, I go out and get hit every day. I work (on holding on to the ball). But now, since Coach has been talking about me getting injured, I'm starting to worry about that."

Davis has been fearless when it comes to catching passes. He had the chance to show his development and drive against Clemson when he caught six passes for 140 yards and a touchdown, all without Davis being marked as a primary target in the Terps' game plan.

"We didn't do anything special for him. That was the good part of it all," Friedgen said. "He ran some good patterns Saturday. We run a lot of patterns that he's involved with as the first or second choice. On Saturday, he ran them very well and when he catches the ball, he doesn't think anything can take him down."

Davis was overlooked against Navy but may have burst on the scene against Clemson.

"Against Navy, I didn't catch as many passes as I did in this game," Davis said. "When the ball comes to me, I expect big things, but a lot of that depends on our game plan. And that depends on what Coach decides."

In the 28-24 loss to Clemson, Davis' play even caught the Tigers' eyes.

"After the game, they saw that I was upset with the loss," Davis said. "A lot of them came of over and told me to keep doing what I'm doing and things will be all right."

Davis is sure of one thing. He wants to do whatever he needs to do to help the Terps succeed. Even if that means going down easier on tackles.

"It's all about the game plan," Davis said. "I wasn't too disappointed that I didn't catch too many against Navy, but we won and that's all that matters. I'm a team guy. Nobody is losing focus on this team (after the loss to Clemson). You win some and you lose some ... we just can't afford to lose any more."

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