Print and Go Back ESPN.com: ACC [Print without images]

Monday, July 14, 2008
Checking in on Darrius Heyward-Bey

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

The day after Maryland receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey signed his letter of intent to become a Terp, his recruiter, James Franklin, called to tell him he was leaving to take a job with the Green Bay Packers.

"I was kinda like, 'so that's how you're gonna do me?'" Heyward-Bey said, laughing about it now that he's been reunited with Franklin.  "My mom was really happy to have him back. He was one of the main reasons why I decided to come to Maryland. To have him back and to learn from him ... I'm enjoying it."

And the Terps' are better off with coach Ralph Friedgen more rested and with more time to prepare each week now that he's not doubling up with the play calling. Franklin was hired in December as assistant head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach -- all things Friedgen was trying to juggle the past two seasons.

If there's one player who should flourish under Franklin, it's Heyward-Bey. He caught 51 passes for a team-high 786 yards and 60.5 yards per game. He hasn't reached his potential, though, at Maryland. In high school he was a raw football player and more of a track star. He was fast enough that the Olympics were once a dream, but wasn't sharp at running routes and catching the ball. He's been catching up fundamentally while fans have been awed by his size and speed. If he does the little things right this season, a five-yard pass can turn into an 80-yard touchdown. With that said, it would also help if he got more looks and more deep balls thrown his way.

"The offense, it allows for us to have a 1,000-yard running back, a 1,000-yard receiver, a 4,000-yard quarterback," he said. "It gives us a chance to have an o-line that can pass block/run block. It's fairly balanced. It's the West Coast. It allows you to throw some short ones and throw some long ones."

Heyward-Bey might not be that far off on the numbers. Under Franklin last season, K-State had a 3,000-yard passer, a 1,500-yard receiver and a 1,000-yard rusher in a single season for the first time in school history. Maryland first needs to settle on a quarterback, but there's no doubt they've got a receiver capable of a breakout season in Heyward-Bey. The biggest question is whether he'll stick around long enough for Maryland fans to see it.

As a junior, he's already caught the attention of NFL scouts.

I recently asked him if there was something that needed to happen this season in order for him to stick around.

"Right now I have two years to play and that's where my focus is," he said. "I want to win a championship. That's a goal I set when I got here and that's a goal that's still here today. I can't control anything the media, the internet, my teammates say about what they think I'm going to do. I know I have two years left and a championship I feel like has to happen before those two years are up."