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Terps’ secondary takes loss
Anthony Wiseman scanned Maryland's practice field Tuesday and realized he and fellow junior Nolan Carroll were the Terrapins' starting cornerbacks.
Senior Kevin Barnes, the anchor of the team's defensive backfield, was nowhere to be found, a shoulder injury shelving him for at least a week and perhaps more.
“It felt kind of empty at first,” Wiseman said. “It didn't feel the same without Kevin out there and his presence.”
In perhaps the roughest blow of the season to the Terps' injury-riddled secondary, Barnes will miss Saturday's game against N.C. State, depriving Maryland of arguably its best cornerback for an undetermined amount of time.
Coach Ralph Friedgen declined to reveal results of an MRI exam conducted Monday until Barnes was informed of the injury's severity. Barnes' left shoulder hit Wake Forest wide receiver D.J. Boldin's back while making a tackle in the second quarter Saturday, and the initial diagnosis was a partial dislocation.
Friedgen's decision to remain mum could be an ominous sign for the Terps (5-2, 2-1 ACC), who again are forced to rejigger their secondary.
Safety Terrell Skinner missed two games with a high ankle sprain, and Carroll sat out three games with an ankle injury. Reserve cornerback Richard Taylor suffered a season-ending knee injury in the season's third game.
The loss of Barnes, who owns as many career starts (21) as the rest of the secondary combined, could hurt the most of all — especially if he can't return.
“He's kind of down because he doesn't get to finish the season,” Wiseman said. “He still has a good mind-set.”
Carroll is likely to slide into Barnes' role as the boundary corner, while Wiseman will remain the starting field corner. Safety Jamari McCollough shifts to cornerback, and reserves Michael Carter, Cameron Chism and Trenton Hughes all could be options.
The Terps utilized left- and right-side cornerbacks last year before reverting to the field and boundary designations this season. A boundary corner is typically a better cover back as well as a more physical player so he can help against the run. That makes the 6-foot-1, 202-pound Carroll as close to an ideal fit as Maryland possesses at the position while Barnes is out.
One of the more interesting developments in this game of defensive back dominoes is McCollough's move. The junior started his career as a cornerback and moved to safety after suffering an ACL tear in 2006. He filled in at free safety earlier this season when Skinner was injured.
Now he faces the task of moving from safety to cornerback — a less common change than the reverse, although McCollough fortuitously worked out at cornerback during a recent bye week.
“I've got to get used to being comfortable on an island again instead of having everything in front of me in the middle of the field,” McCollough said. “I think after a couple days of practice I should be fine.”
Still, the Terps' search for backup options could mean more looks for Carter, who played more during Carroll's absence. Or it could lead to work for Chism, a true freshman utilized the last four games on special teams.
Secondary coach Kevin Lempa said Chism was closer to playing in Maryland's dime package. But down two cornerbacks already, the Terps might need one of their reserves to develop quicker than anticipated.
“We just need more from the other guys who aren't as experienced,” Friedgen said. “They need to grow up real fast.”
Note — Friedgen said right tackle Dane Randolph (ankle) was ailing during warmups Saturday. Randolph, who did participate on the field goal unit against Wake Forest, is expected to take snaps as a reserve this week.
About the Author
Patrick Stevens has covered Maryland and other Mid-Atlantic college sports for more than a decade. You can reach him at email@example.com.
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