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Maryland natives target the Terps

VIRGINIA HAS A DOZEN IMPORTS FROM ITS NORTHERN NEIGHBOR

BY TAFT COGHILL JR.

CHARLOTTESVILLE—When Nick Jenkins starred as a defensive lineman at Good Counsel High School in Olney, Md., he received several scholarship offers.

Jenkins signed a national letter of intent with the University of Virginia in 2007. He never even considered an offer from the University of Maryland, although it’s the only school in a Bowl Championship Series conference in his native state.

As the Cavaliers (5–3, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) prepare to visit Maryland (2–6, 1–4) on Saturday, Jenkins said he had disdain for the regime headed by former coach Ralph Friedgen, who was fired after last season.

“They weren’t on the list,” Jenkins said of the Terrapins yesterday. “I just couldn’t stand the coaches or coach Friedgen. Coach Friedgen was just a pretty arrogant person.”

Jenkins is now a four-year starter at defensive tackle and one of 12 Maryland natives on Virginia’s roster.

Senior defensive end Cam Johnson said he chose the Cavaliers because he wanted to get away from home. True freshman wide receiver Darius Jennings said Virginia just felt like the right fit for him.

Jenkins said he’s looking forward to playing the Terrapins in Byrd Stadium again. Virginia has won its past two visits to College Park.

“They have pretty mean fans up there,” Jenkins said. “It’s such a nasty area to go play in. It’s fun. I think everybody is really excited to go play in it.”

ROCCO SETTLES IN

Virginia sophomore quarterback Michael Rocco played perhaps the best game of his career in the Cavaliers’ 28–21 win at Miami last Thursday night. Rocco passed for 226 yards and two touchdowns and didn’t commit a turnover.

Rocco said yesterday it felt good to play an entire game without looking over his shoulder. Virginia’s coaches rotated true freshman David Watford in for multiple possessions the first seven games of the season. The strategy produced mixed results before it bottomed out in a 28–14 loss to N.C. State.

Rocco started that game 7 of 9 for 36 yards and a touchdown, but misfired on all 10 of his pass attempts after he was reinserted.

Virginia head coach Mike London ditched the plan after that contest. He said Watford may appear in the game for a few plays, but not for an entire series.

Rocco said the Miami game allowed him to get into a rhythm and correct mistakes without worrying about being pulled after a failed third-down conversion. Watford played just one snap against the Hurricanes.

“There were some key third downs we got and some we didn’t get,” Rocco said. “[But] just being able to make corrections on the sidelines and knowing you’re getting back in there to do it again the next series was a big deal.”

ONE WIN AWAY

At the start of the season, Virginia senior wide receiver Kris Burd said he and his teammates haven’t truly experienced college football because they’ve yet to play in a bowl game. No Virginia players have appeared in a postseason contest.

The Cavaliers will reach the mandatory six wins to become eligible for bowl participation with a win at Maryland, but they insist they’re not looking past the struggling Terrapins.

“We’ll worry about that,” Rocco said, “after we win this week.”

Now that Virginia has five victories with four games to play, the Cavaliers are reassessing their goals. If they win their remaining games, they’ll capture the Coastal Division of the ACC and appear in the conference championship game.

“We’re not thinking, ‘Win one more game and be bowl-eligible’ at all,” Jenkins said. “We’re thinking ‘Win Maryland’ right now. I think I speak for the whole team when I say that.

“We’re not putting a cap on any type of goals. We want to beat Maryland and get on to the next one.”

TUNE IN

VIRGINIA (5–3) at MARYLAND (2–6)

WHEN: Saturday, 12:30

WHERE: Byrd Stadium, College Park, Md.

TV: Channels 5, 35

RADIO: WGRQ–FM 95.9

Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526

tcoghill@freelancestar.com

Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/sports/2011/10/31/maryland-natives-target-the-terps/

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