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Terps' Badgett caught up in receiving job Senior finally gets a starring role


COLLEGE PARK -- He is following in the footsteps of James Milling, Ferrell Edmunds, Barry Johnson and Gene Thomas.

Marcus Badgett is now Maryland's big-play performer.

It's a title he cherishes.

"I admit, I kind of like it," said Badgett, a 6-foot-1, 185-pound senior wide receiver.

Badgett has picked up where he left off last season. He's making diving catches. He's leaping over defenders, snatching one-handed passes with those long, skinny fingers. He's going over the middle, turning short slant-ins into long gainers.

And it's only practice.

The regular season begins Sept. 5 at Virginia.

"Each year he has always gotten better because he works so hard," said senior safety Scott Rosen, one of the team's four captains along with Badgett. "He catches the ball with great efficiency, blocks on the perimeter and is fast, like 4.4 or 4.5 in the 40. He's got all the skills. I think we have some other big-play fTC receivers, too, but without a doubt he will be the main contributor."

There was a time when it didn't look like Badgett would contribute at all. In the past eight months, he went from big plays to big trouble.

He was arrested for breaking and entering Dec. 6 and, as a result, was sentenced to one night in a Prince George's County jail last May.

"It was the same day Coach [former coach Joe Krivak] resigned," said Badgett. "I was kind of hanging out with a bunch of people, and I consumed way too much alcohol.

"We left the bar and we saw a window broken," he said. "There were 15 to 20 people running through this window taking stuff, and I, without using very good judgment, joined the pack of wolves. I wasn't thinking clearly. I got caught."

A judge gave Badgett an option: Either return to his hometown of Elizabeth, N.J., with a criminal record or spend one night in jail.

Badgett chose the latter.

It was a night he'll never forget.

"I wasn't afraid because of the 100 guys in the room, I was like the fifth biggest," said Badgett. "One thing about prison is that everyone has a natural instinct of telling you what they have done. Guys you never heard of are telling you their life stories.

"I wasn't in there with murderers or rapists. These were guys who had committed car thefts.

"It was strange getting up in the middle of the night and not being able to do things you usually do," said Badgett. "You can't go out. I learned not to take life for granted."

Last season, Badgett backed up Thomas. He still had 16 receptions for 336 yards. Most of his catches came late in the season, and they were of the spectacular variety.

He one-handed a 58-yard touchdown pass against Pitt in the fourth game, had four catches in the fifth game against Duke, and his clutch 20-yard, one-handed reception on a fourth down set up the winning touchdown in the closing seconds against Wake Forest in the sixth game.

And now, finally, the spotlight is on Badgett.

"I knew one day I would play but I didn't know how much," said Badgett. "I have spent a lot of time preparing for this year. I know I'm supposed to play a big role."

NOTES: Maryland coach Mark Duffner says he still plans to name his starting quarterback tomorrow. Sophomore QB Scott Milanovich took most of the snaps with the first team yesterday morning while senior John Kaleo did most of his work with the second. Milanovich handled most of the first-team action in Tuesday afternoon's scrimmage. Duffner said neither player performed substantially better than the other. The Terps will hold another closed scrimmage today. . . . Duffner did say he was impressed with the running of halfback Doug Burnett and the play of defensive backs Raphael Wall and Mike Lacy at Tuesday's scrimmage. Offensively, Duffner said the scrimmage was geared toward improving the running game and working on game day situations. He said he was satisfied with the overall team effort, but reiterated, "We still have a long, long way to go." . . . Starting left OT Steve Ingram began working out yesterday with a cast on his fractured left thumb.

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