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Lattimore gives Terps some latitude

September 29, 2005|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Keon Lattimore's performance against Wake Forest was about as refreshing as a cold beer on a hot day.

Lattimore quenched the University of Maryland's thirst for a running game with his career-best 76 yards and a touchdown in the 22-12 win. And it's all because the sophomore has a different brand to the game.

He used to be Keon. Now he is Keon Light.

Lattimore enhanced his game by dropping 20 pounds to get ready to make good on any chance to play for the Terps. He has more pace while being less milling when he is looking for a hole.

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"It was just a matter of bringing my confidence up," Lattimore said. "That was the main thing. When I was given my chance, I wanted to help my team. I'm lighter now. I was 235 and I'm down to 215. I'm moving a whole lot better and I have been watching a lot more tape, which has helped me in my decision making."

Lattimore's 76 yards was the second best rushing day by a Maryland back this season. His total alone topped the team output the Terps accumulated in each of the previous two weeks and has put him in a position to take the starting tailback job from senior Mario Merrills.

"We're going to wait until the end of the week to make a decision (on who will start)," said Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen. "We were obviously encouraged by the play of Keon Lattimore and Lance Ball had a good game also. They seem to be the hot guys right now."

Lattimore caught Friedgen's eye because he was the first Terps back to show some elusiveness while running the ball.

"I think he broke nine tackles," Friedgen said. "That was the first time that we have had a back make something when nothing was there. It's a big thing to have a back that can create and make yards when nothing is there. He made some good moves and some lateral moves. I'd like to see him take some of his runs and finish them in the end zone."

Lattimore credited his success to what is happening around him on offense.

"It's just been everyone getting on the same page," he said. "Our timing was off and now we are coming together because we were learning a lot of new things on offense. Coach can only do so much. We are the ones that have to go out and execute."

Lattimore's biggest play was a 3-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to help seal Maryland's second victory of the year. It was his first career score, but more importantly, it showed that movement that Friedgen was so happy to see.

"I told my fullback he owed me one," Lattimore said. "He went the wrong way on the play but it was a great feeling to get points on the board for the team."

With Merrills struggling after his opening 149-yard outing against Navy, Lattimore got more of a chance to show what he could do for the Terps. In the past, he was used more as a situational player, but he was showcased last Saturday.

"For me, it was more of a chance to get more carries," he said. "I was only getting carries out of certain packages. I was getting a chance to run behind a fullback and it opens up so many things. It's more like running freestyle and for me, that's more like my game."

Lattimore sat quietly in the background, waiting for his chance to become a featured runner for the Terps. He has a built-in counselor to keep him focused in his brother, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis.

"The big thing he told me was to wait my turn," Lattimore said. "He told me a story about how he was behind a guy and had to wait to play while he was at Miami. But when I got in, he told me to go out there and do what I can."

And according to Lewis, who is one of the ultimate players when it comes to being ready to take the field, being ready is a constant.

"He told me I have to turn my body into a machine," Lattimore said. "I've been doing sit-ups and pushups in my room. When I get my opportunity, I have to take full advantage of it."

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