Perhaps Eric Wilson was a little too good for his own good on Saturday against Pitt.
The Maryland linebacker made 26 tackles, 16 first hits, including one which knocked all-America receiver Dwight Collins out of the game with a separated shoulder. But teammate Doug Cox was named defensive player of the week by Sports Illustrated for blocking a punt and taking it in for a touchdown. The Atlantic Coast Conference, in making its weekly honors, also looked elsewhere.
Many people find it hard to believe that even the best of linebackers could make so many tackles, but Wilson's exploits are clearly visible on the game film.
"And the amazing thing is," said linebacker Bobby DePaul, "he missed four tackles."
"I didn't really expect the national honors," Wilson said yesterday. "I was satisfied enough with the performance."
Wilson, who is developing into one of the best linebackers ever at Maryland, has something more important on his mind this week, anyway. Virginia. Wilson was born and raised in Charlottesville, and was the first player to have his jersey retired at Charlottesville High School.
"It's as big a game as any," Wilson said. "There are a lot of buddies of mine on that team, like Jeff Walker the punter, Barry Word, who played in my district, and Rickey Callinder."
Wilson followed his brother Mark to College Park, and as a freshman made 45 tackles. Last year as a sophomore, even with a superb senior defensive line, Wilson was second on the team with 98 tackles. This season, after four games, he has 52 tackles, 18 more than the next player, DePaul.
Wilson, 6-foot-2, 240 pounds, is not particularly strong, or particularly fast. But he is known for being one of the best, if not the best, practice player on the team.
"If he takes one step on a read or is running the 40-yard dash, he does it full-out," George Foussekis, who coaches the inside linebackers, said. "He's one of the most coachable players I've ever had. He's got a year and a half to go and he's already outstanding. He wants to be good; it means a lot to him."
Wilson calls the defensive signals. He also snaps the ball on punts. "He's fulfilling a three-fold mission," said Coach Bobby Ross. "He's into football every minute of every practice of every week. And it's paying off. He's into position more as a linebacker, and we depend on him."
DePaul said the players pretty much expect Wilson to be in the game on every defensive play.
"I guess I am out there a lot," Wilson said. "But it hasn't been any problem. The season, so far, has gone smoothly . . . whenever I do have a problem, I talk to Mark, who will always give me an honest answer about something I'm doing. He's the guy who keeps me in line."