Maryland's Zach Kerr Adds Goal-Line Fullback to His Job Description
The Terrapins got to see a lot of Zach Kerr, and not just because the sophomore, conservatively listed at 6-foot-2 and 320 pounds boasts both one of the largest physical frames and outsized personalities on the roster.
It didn't just seem like Kerr was everywhere. He actually was. He logged his usual 35 plays or so at defensive tackle, and continued a role on kickoff returns as an imposing blocker.
But the Terps added a new twist to Kerr's resume as they began a push toward an unlikely Atlantic Division title: Goal-line fullback, and one Virginia wanted no part of.
"I'm very excited to see it, especially to see him bulldoze the other linebackers," Maryland linebacker Adrian Moten said. "They are supposed to be top linebackers in the ACC, so it's pretty funny."
In many ways, Kerr exemplifies the spirit of versatility permeating Maryland's entire roster. It has helped the Terps (7-3, 4-2 ACC) reverse course from last year's 2-10 season; instead of dragging toward another losing record, Maryland can remain in the conference title race with a defeat of Florida State (7-3, 5-2) on Saturday night at Byrd Stadium.
While punters assuming placekicking duties and wide receivers thriving on special teams happen elsewhere from time to time, Kerr is a bit of an oddity. Yet while there is a level of hilarity connected with seeing a defensive lineman obliterate opponents in the open field, the team-wide implications are clear to Kerr.
"My teammates will tell you 'Zach is the type of guy who if you need something and he's got two dollars in his pocket and you need one, he'll give you one,'" Kerr said. "That's the type of dude I am. When they told me I was going to play special teams, I was happy. I wasn't happy because it was going to give me a chance to shine. I was happy because I could help our team out and give our offense better field position."
Kerr's athleticism makes the ploy work. Although he's a wide body who helps stop the run, he also boasts a sub-5.0 time in the 40-yard dash.
"He's really a strange guy ," coach Ralph Friedgen said. "Very athletic. Very, very powerful."
Kerr played two games on special teams before Friedgen thought he could utilize his burly defensive lineman in other ways. When he mentioned Kerr in an offensive meeting as a way to invigorate the Terps' short-yardage game, his assistants chuckled at the thought of prying Kerr away from more defensive work.
Friedgen figured it could be worth the some arm-twisting. Kerr found out last week he would be a factor on offense, and struck an imposing figure when he trotted out to block for redshirt freshman D.J. Adams in the red zone.
Adams ran for three touchdowns in the victory, a notable accomplishment for a player who was seldom used in non-blowout situations before November. Yet it was Kerr's offensive debut that generated buzz among teammates.
"Watch out," linebacker Alex Wujciak said mischievously. "Get out of the way."
It wasn't long before Virginia heeded Wujciak's advice. Maryland scored a couple times out of Kerr's formation with minimal resistance, and it was obvious no one wanted any part of the big fella in the process.
"It's crazy to think he's doing it to other Division I athletes who are big, fast and strong, too," quarterback Danny O'Brien said. "To see a 250-pound linebacker on a rival team sidestep him on the goal line and let us run into the end zone, that's it right there. That tells you how intimidating he is."
While evoking some memories of William Perry ("That's what they call me -- the 2010 version of Fridge," Kerr said giddily), Kerr has settled into a notable role after some flux early in his career. One of Maryland's more coveted recruits in its 2008 class, he initially went the prep school route before landing in College Park and playing some a year ago.
Nothing, though, generated as much attention as his turn as a fullback.
"It's gotten Zach a little notoriety and he's playing a little better on defense," said Friedgen, who in his 10th season finally has someone else in his program vying for his Fridge nickname.
"So far, it's win-win all the way around. Now all we have to do is find a way for him to go deep so they don't know we're just going to run the ball with Zach."
Kerr would happily take a handoff if asked, but the most important thing to him is contributing to the Terps' success. He remains attuned to the possibility of an ACC title, even if more than a few folks in the stadium will be watching Saturday just to see how Florida State handles a jumbo-sized, part-time fullback with a penchant for blowing up linebackers.
"It definitely means a lot to me," Kerr said. "Just the fact that in the middle of the season, that was kind of a rough area for our offense -- converting the ball on third-and-two or third-and-one to keep [the defense] off the field and keep [the offense] on the field. I'm like 'Heck, if I go out there and do that and we get a first down, I'm happy.' Annihilating someone in the process is a good thing, too."
For more from Patrick Stevens, read the Mid-Atlantic sports blog D1scourse.com