Sophomore Torrey Smith Delivers for Terps

By Jon Brand
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, September 13, 2009

As the rest of the wide receivers left the practice field last Wednesday, redshirt sophomore Torrey Smith stayed behind for some extra work with the kickoff return unit. After a lackluster performance in the 52-13 season-opening loss at California last week, Coach Ralph Friedgen needed to see rapid improvement from Smith and the rest of the special-teams squad.

"We did a walk-through and worked on exactly what we didn't do right last week," Friedgen said.

The extra time paid off. On Maryland's first kickoff return of the game Saturday night, with 1 minute 20 seconds remaining in the first quarter against James Madison, Smith fielded a punt from the Terrapins 19-yard line and broke past the James Madison defense for Maryland's second score of what turned out to be a 38-35 Terrapins victory.

"I had great blocking to spring a return, got the ball, got to speed and hit the seam," said Smith, who returned his second touchdown on a kickoff return in as many years. Last December, he ran a 99-yarder back against Nevada in the season-ending Humanitarian Bowl.

For Smith, who set an ACC single-season record for kickoff return yards last year, the return was just the icing on the cake of a breakout game against the Dukes: He finished with two touchdowns (one on an eight-yard run, 80 yards receiving and 22 yards rushing.

"He's a threat," Friedgen said. "He had over 200 yards in total yardage today."

After Smith made just one catch for 29 yards against Cal last week, offensive coordinator James Franklin made sure from the game's opening drive that the sophomore got more involved.

On the first series, split out wide, he caught three short, horizontal passes from senior quarterback Chris Turner, breaking the third catch out for a 22-yard gain. By halftime, he had four catches for 51 yards, and the kickoff return.

"He played a great game today and really wanted the ball," Turner said. "He was on the phone telling the coaches, 'I'm ready to go downtown.' "

The quality effort continued in the second half -- Smith picked up four more receptions. But his best play came at 12:18 in the fourth quarter, when Turner faked an option pitch to running back Da'Rel Scott and Smith picked it up running the other way. He scampered into the end zone untouched from eight yards to tie the game at 28.

"He's a good athlete -- he plays a lot of roles," Turner said.

Coming into the season, the Terrapins had as many as nine receivers who could vie for top billing, and they've had five get touches in each of the season's first two games. But Smith and redshirt junior Adrian Cannon, who had five catches for 55 yards and the game-tying touchdown catch to force overtime, have clearly distinguished themselves.

Though Cannon is still considered the No. 1 option by the coaching staff, Smith's performance Saturday night served notice to the team -- and future opponents -- that he's going to be a star in the ACC. That's welcome news for Friedgen and the young Terrapins, who are using this year to build for the future.

"He's only a sophomore -- that's the best thing. He's got two years left," Friedgen said. "He's a great kid. He's only going to get better and better and better."

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