Terps’ star power WVU’s chief concern
Most college football teams don’t have a potential NFL first-round draft pick to build around.
Maryland has two.
Tight end Vernon “Duke” Davis and linebacker D’Qwell Jackson give Maryland (1-1) star power on both sides of the football against West Virginia (2-0) in a televised (WTAE) game at noon Saturday at Byrd Stadium.
“They’re first-rounders,” West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez said. “They’ve got two players who are going to be making a lot of money pretty quickly.”
Jackson ranks second in the nation in tackles with an average of 17 per game following Maryland’s 23-20 victory over Navy and 28-24 loss to Clemson.
“It seems like he makes just about every tackle,” Rodriguez said. “He’s a great, great player. He’s the best linebacker I’ve seen in two or three years.
“If we weren’t playing him, he’d be fun to watch. You just watch him (on film) for a quarter, and this guy is making every tackle. He’s relentless.”
Jackson made 16 tackles in West Virginia’s 19-16 overtime victory last season.
“He’s sideline to sideline,” Rodriguez said. “He killed us last year, and he’s playing even better from what I’ve seen.”
Rodriguez said Jackson is so quick, he can “backdoor” a play.
“Everybody says make sure you get him blocked, but that’s a tough one,” Rodriguez said. “He’ll backdoor you. In otherewords, you’ll go to cut him off and, all of a sudden, he’ll go behind you and get back in front (of the play). He’ll go around the side of you, and because he’s so fast, you can’t even put a hand on him. A few special linebackers can do that.”
Jackson doesn’t move around in Maryland’s defense to confuse opponents or create favorable matchups.
Rodriguez said he’ll use everyone on the offensive line at some point in the attempt to control Jackson’s damage.
“You know where he’s going to be,” Rodriguez said. “But blocking himâ¢ You can get a guy on him, but to either sustain a block or to get him face to face, it’s tough.”
The 6-foot-3, 253-pound Davis is the classic double threat at tight end. He caught six passes for 140 yards against Clemson, often dragging tacklers with him.
“When it’s crunch time, they’re going to go to Vernon Davis,” Rodriguez said.
Crunch time also applies to Davis’ blocking. His strength numbers are unparalleled in Terps history by a tight end. His spring physical test included a 460-pound bench, 685-pound squat, 40-inch vertical jump and a 4.41 in the 40-yard dash. Combined, those numbers say first-round NFL draft pick.
“Davis is a great player,” Rodriguez said. “We tried to get him to come here. I knew as soon as they signed him, this guy is going to be in the NFL. He’s going to be a first-rounder.”
After the catch, Davis moves downfield like a one-man convoy.
“He runs a 4.4 and he can bench press the building,” Rodriguez said.
Translated, that means West Virginia has matchup problems with Davis.
“He’s bigger and stronger than the defensive backs, and faster than the linebackers,” Rodriguez said. “I’m not sure one guy can cover him.”