The Maryland football team never planned for wide receiver Malcolm Culmer to start this season. The energetic New Jersey native was a redshirt on the scout team last season, and the Terrapins expected to minimally increase his workload in 2013. He would back up Nigel King, who was supposed to be a second-stringer himself before Marcus Leak left the program for personal reasons. Maybe a reception here, a deep ball there. But starting? Probably not.
But when King suffered a leg injury on Maryland’s second offensive play Saturday at Connecticut, Culmer stepped in. He was targeted twice and caught a 26-yard pass, the first of his career. That reception helped vault his team into Huskies territory, setting up a Stefon Diggs touchdown catch that gave the Terps a 20-10 lead early in the third quarter.
Now, with King sidelined indefinitely – Coach Randy Edsall has declined to provide specifics except to say the injury will not require surgery – Culmer slides into the starting role, with the full confidence of his coaches and teammates supporting the move.
“Malcolm came in the game on Saturday and played extremely well,” quarterback C.J. Brown said. “He had that big catch for us down the sideline. It felt like we didn’t miss a beat. That’s a good sign.”
Ranked as New Jersey’s No. 18 recruit out of Willingboro High, a small public school of less than 1,000 that counts Carl Lewis and former Maryland basketball player Crystal Langhorne among its alumni, Culmer turned down interest from Illinois, Iowa and Michigan State to enroll at Maryland.
Future games will pit Culmer against those Big Ten programs, but for now he’s presented with a golden opportunity to shine. King’s value came as a third option opposite Diggs and Deon Long, two stalwarts who will command the majority of a defense’s attention.
With redshirt freshman Tyrek Cheeseboro similarly sidelined by injury – his status is also unknown, but he did not travel with the team last weekend and will have to ease into repetitions through the scout team first – and Levern Jacobs remaining in the slot behind Diggs, Culmer will likely get plenty of repetitions Saturday against a West Virginia secondary that ranked 119th nationally in pass efficiency defense, 118th in pass defense and 108th in total defense out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision schools last season. (This season, the Mountaineers are allowing just 136.7 passing yards per game, which ranks eighth nationally, but two of their opponents have been Football Championship Subdivision teams.)
“Not to compare Maclolm and Nigel, I think they’re both talented players, otherwise they wouldn’t be here on scholarship,” offensive coordinator Mike Locksley said Wednesday. “With his youth comes a lot of energy. He had a good practice yesterday, was able to get lined up, he went in last week and played a full game pretty much. The sky’s the limit. He’ll get better like all our young guys who get the opportunity to play as we expect. He’s a good blocker on the perimeter, plays hard, plays with energy.”
MORE FROM THE POST