Zeke Riser came to College Park for one more year of opportunity, and promptly got hurt. Expected to add depth and leadership to the Maryland football team’s defensive line, Riser incurred an injury shortly into the preseason that, until last weekend, kept the Texan from playing with his new team.
Blessed with perspective from years of college football experience, the graduate-student defensive end, who transferred this offseason from the University of Houston, met with reporters for the first time on Tuesday afternoon. Among Maryland’s oldest players, Riser in many ways still feels like a rookie in College Park.
He packed his Chevy Tahoe in mid-July and drove 23 hours alone from Texas, arriving less than two weeks before training camp began. Progressing through practices and working with the backups, Riser suffered an ankle injury that would keep him out for weeks, team trainers said, including one-third of his final college football season.
“It was really tough,” he said. “I’ve never really been a part of a team and been able to play, then had to stay on the sidelines. I still haven’t been on the sidelines so far here at Maryland. Especially it being my last year, I want to try to get every game I can. To miss those first four were tough. Just like my sophomore year, when I was hurt, it makes you want to come back.”
The Terps planned to ease Riser into live action gradually to avoid further aggravation. Coach Randy Edsall said he hoped to get Riser somewhere around 15 snaps in Saturday’s 63-0 loss to Florida State, and Riser said he played 10. The team will continue to phase him into full-time backup repetitions behind Keith Bowers as the season progresses.
“It was good to of course be out there with the guys,” he said. “It wasn’t the result I necessarily wanted, but it was a good start. It’s really positive looking forward throughout the rest of the season.”
Riser, who joined Maryland after a commitment to Texas fell through, only found out about the Terps through defensive coordinator Brian Stewart, who held the same position for two seasons with Houston. Stewart has helped ease Riser’s transition in College Park, especially as the relative “old man” adjusts to a new culture filled with teenagers.
“He was probably the biggest factor to getting me here,” he said. “We have a really good relationship, we’re talking to each other constantly about yesterday was my off day, so I have a lot of time for film, things like that. I’m constantly talking to him, about what I see, what would be good. Me and Coach Stew have a really good relationship. Seeing as how I don’t know a lot of people here, past a few months, he’s definitely my go-to guy.”
The only Maryland player to appear in multiple bowl games – the Armed Forces Bowl in 2009 and the TicketCity Bowl in 2011 with Houston – Riser has run the gantlet of success and failures in college. He has played on two 10-win teams that reached the postseason and two teams that went 5-7, but never quite experienced the emotional swing Maryland endured between its 37-0 win over West Virginia and the dispiriting loss at Florida State.
So yes, he had some thoughts on that, too.
“A loss like that, especially the way we lost, it can really make a huge impact if you can’t come back from it,” he said. “The guys really cared about that loss. We thought we could win going into the game. If that loss didn’t matter, then I would be concern. Guys were really concerned. They want to get better this week. They have to get better. I’m not really concerned.”