With linebacker-turned-quarterback Shawn Petty making his collegiate debut Saturday against Georgia Tech, Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley has spoke at length about needing various Terps to step up, to put a little more on their plates and aid the true freshman in the transition from scout team defensive player to FBS quarterback.
Names like running back Wes Brown and receiver Stefon Diggs immediately come to mind. Establishing a viable rushing game to help Petty will be essential, as will opening up space with screens and short, easy routes. Brown and Diggs, teammates at Good Counsel and Maryland’s biggest offensive assets since “Terps quarterback” became synonymous with “out for the season,” can both oblige.
But redshirt freshman Nigel King, last seen around these parts effectively serving as a pitchman for basketball transfer Dez Wells, has also emerged as a viable weapon for the Terps, a big-bodied receiver who can beat defensive backs one-on-one.
Need players to step up? King feels he’s more than ready.
With wide receiver Marcus Leak, like four Maryland quarterbacks, sidelined for the season with a broken toe, King earned the starting nod opposite Kevin Dorsey. Opposing defenses figure to occupy themselves primarily with stopping the electric Diggs on short, inside patterns from the slot, so King should find himself facing single coverage on the outside.
Not that anything has changed for King since he accelerated up the depth chart.
“It’s been the same, honestly,” King said this week. “Hasn’t really been much of a difference besides the quarterback changes. It’s been like this the whole season since C.J. [Brown] went down. We’ve just been getting used to different quarterbacks, so we’ve got to practice well and practice like we’re ready for the game.
“Just approaching it the same way. Coach Edsall always preaches practice like you’re going to be starting. I’ve been doing that, and then my opportunity came.”
King’s first career reception was a 33-yard haul from Caleb Rowe against North Carolina State two weeks ago, a catch-and-run effort that set up Brad Craddock’s errant 33-yard game-winning field goal attempt.
His second act — a three-catch, 15-yard performance against Boston College — included a one-yard touchdown on a fade route from Rowe, when King found himself wide open after three defenders bit inside on Diggs.
“Nigel started the week prior to then and made the big play to give us a chance to kick the field goal at the end,” Locksley said. “He’s a guy who we feel very good about that we think has some ability. Last week, being a starter, for a lot of those guys, it was their first extended playing time.
“We didn’t win the game, so obviously I don’t think anyone did anything great, but it’s something that will benefit us down the road when you can play these young players.”
A humble redshirt freshman from Raleigh, N.C., King was ruled ineligible by the NCAA Clearinghouse before the 2011 season, missing out on practice, lifting and team bonding. With massive upheaval at quarterback and the attention this week focused squarely on Petty, King has made a quieter transition into the receiver rotation once Leak’s season ended when an MRI exam revealed the injury after the N.C. State game.
Sitting in the Gossett Team House cafeteria, King answered every question from a radio reporter with a polite, “Yes, sir,” even though most of the inquiries focused on Petty, the offense and, on a more personal level, King’s downfield blocking abilities. After the session ended, King tweeted, “Enjoyed doing media for the first time today!!”
The biography on his account, @NK3_, reads “I do it for my family.” Indeed, tattooed onto King’s broad left shoulder are images of relatives. Those came years ago.
On his right shoulder, a more recent inking, are the faces of Ulysses Grant, Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin and Andrew Jackson. It took the tattoo artist multiple sessions over a week for this one. Scripted below the faces that decorate United States currency, arranged in a diamond shape, is the phrase, “Money is the root of all evil.”
King hasn’t come into money by any means. Maybe one day, he hopes, so if and when he does, he’ll have a reminder and his family close at hand.