COLLEGE PARK -- Russ Weaver played one season of high school football, and his college career began in Division III. The run-and-shoot offense calls for fast receivers, but Weaver is a pickup truck on a parking lot filled with sports cars.
So what is Weaver, a Maryland junior, doing listed as the No. 2 pass-catcher in the Atlantic Coast Conference? A slot receiver, he has caught 41 passes, the second-best total in the ACC behind teammate Jermaine Lewis, who has 47. Weaver has only one touchdown, but he has developed into the Terps' top possession receiver.
Weaver's 19-yard catch on a crucial fourth-and-10 play helped clinch last week's 26-18 defeat of Duke. He had only six receptions in the Terps' first two games, but over the past five weeks, Weaver has been quarterback Scott Milanovich's favorite target.
"I remind him we're both from western Pennsylvania, and to get me the ball," Weaver joked. "Actually, Scott's been unbelievable finding me."
Weaver's emergence into a producer for Maryland, which is idle this week, also borders on the incredible.
Growing up in the Pittsburgh suburbs, Weaver was a standout sweeper back on the Gateway High soccer teams, and didn't join his friends on the football team until he was a senior, when he played both sports. He turned down Division I-AA and II scholarship offers for football, and instead went to Division III John Carroll University in Ohio.
Weaver's 1990 season was stopped by viral meningitis. Ignoring the advice of friends and John Carroll coaches, he committed himself to playing Division I-A football, and in 1991 transferred to Maryland, where one of the backup quarterbacks was Tony Scarpino, a former high school teammate.
Maryland's 1992 season began with Weaver in the starting lineup and Scarpino transferring to Memphis State. Weaver eventually became a backup to true freshman Wade Inge, and finished with four catches.
Besides getting a scholarship in the off-season, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Weaver improved his speed and catching ability. His 40-yard -- time has been lowered to 4.68 seconds, but he doesn't fit in a receiving corps that includes Lewis, the nation's top-ranked sprinter in high school, and several others who could help the Terps' track and field program. His longest reception is 19 yards, and he's averaging 9.6 yards per catch.
"I'm the slowest receiver out there," Weaver said. "I have to do something different for the team. One of my goals is not to drop a ball this season, and so far, I haven't."
Kicking woes continue
Earlier this month, Weaver entered the revolving door that hasn't spun out much success in the Terps' kicking game.
Weaver kicked off against Penn State and Georgia Tech. John Milligan, another walk-on, missed his lone field-goal attempt, at Georgia Tech, and earlier kicked off at Virginia Tech. That was the game in which redshirt freshman Ken Lytle missed three field goals. Lytle had hit all 15 of his point-after conversions before two were blocked by Duke.
Kickoffs have been a weakness. Maryland is averaging 18.2 yards per kickoff return to 21.4 for the opposition. But the real problem for the Terps is seen in where drives start.
Not counting three failed onside attempts, the opponents' average start after a Maryland kickoff is at their 31-yard line. The average start for Maryland, meanwhile, has been at its 24. Last week, Duke's average start after a Maryland kickoff was its 35. On average, the Terps began at their 20 after Duke kickoffs.
Nine might redshirt
The Terps have played 12 true freshmen and one junior-college transfer, but nine other rookies who didn't come here until August most likely will redshirt.
Quarterback Brian Cummings, running back Brian Underwood, linebackers Brett Hesprich and Brett White and offensive linemen Ron White, Pat Ward and Pete Sorrentino are true freshmen who haven't played.
Offensive lineman Mark Motley and cornerback Darrick Rather, junior-college teammates at Georgia Military, are other recruited scholarship players who haven't played.
Approximately 6,000 tickets remain for Maryland's final home game, Nov. 6 against top-ranked Florida State. Call (301) 314-7070 for ticket information. . . . With 84 yards against Duke, senior superback Mark Mason moved up to No. 9 on the Terps' all-time rushing list. He has 496 yards this season, 1,665 for his career. . . . With four games left, Milanovich's 185 completions are the fourth-highest in Maryland history.