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December 22, 2008

Season recap: Marcus Whitfield

Marcus Whitfield had proved he was a Division I recruit at tight end as a junior at Northwest High School in Germantown.

But when the 6-foot-3, 220-pounder committed to Maryland last summer as a linebacker -- a position he hadn’t played before -- Whitfield had to go out and prove himself all over again.

According to Northwest head coach Andrew Fields, Whitfield accomplished that mission, in addition to raising his profile offensively.

“Marcus performed exactly how we thought he would offensively,” Fields said. “He was our leading receiver and did a great job keeping the defense focused on him. ... It was the first year he played defense ... and he ended up a dominant defensive player. He made huge strides each week. By Week 10 and 11, he was really just a very confident guy flying around the football field.”

Whitfield helped get Northwest (7-4) to the first round of the playoffs. On the season, he recorded 39 tackles, including nine tackles for loss, six quarterback hurries, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Offensively, he caught 25 passes for 372 yards and three touchdowns, while rushing four times for 97 yards. Whitfield also punted 16 times for a 28.5-yard average.

Fields said Whitfield’s closing speed really stood out at outside linebacker.

“People would run a sweep or toss outside, maybe gain a step on him to the edge,” Fields said. “But on four or five occasions, you could see exactly why he’s a major Division I prospect. He would literally close on the ball carrier as if they were standing still. I would just think, ‘wow, I can’t believe he just made that tackle.’ It’s not that it’s a highlight-film type of tackle or hit. But just the recovery speed from being on the block, getting off the block and chasing the ball-carrier across the field amazingly quickly [stood out].”

Even though Whitfield’s played linebacker for just one season, the Maryland coaches have told Fields there’s a possibility that he could earn some immediate playing time.

“Well they’ve stated to me, and maybe it’s the company line because everybody says it, but he’ll have a chance to play as a freshman,” Fields said. “They lose a lot of guys to graduation. He’s already got the size at 220 pounds, and the speed -- he’s a legitimate 4.5 guy -- to step in and get some repetitions and have a chance at playing. They’re very excited about him and he’s very [excited about Maryland].”

Fields said he has no concerns whatsoever about Whitfield fitting in at College Park. He expects Whitfield to make a positive impact on and off the field.

“I would say expect a guy that’s going to be, first and foremost, a great kid and a great citizen,” Fields said. “He’s not going to be the guy that’s going to make [negative] headlines off the football field. He has his head on straight and makes good decisions. He’s a kid that’s going to come and punch in every day and work hard to get better. Ultimately, he’ll take every step he possibly can to make sure he and his teammates are prepared on Saturday afternoons.”

Posted by Matt Bracken at 9:49 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Season recaps

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About Matt Bracken

Matt Bracken was a lightly recruited football and tennis prospect out of East Lansing (Mich.) High School in 2001, but spurned all (nonexistent) scholarship offers to attend the University of Michigan. Matt graduated from UM in 2005, earned a master's degree in new media journalism from Northwestern University in 2006, and spent the first 11 months of his career as an online producer / videographer / blogger at the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson. He has worked at The Baltimore Sun since July 2007, where he currently serves as the deputy sports editor for digital.

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