Dexter McDougle didn't think it was a big deal. Not at first, anyway.
The Maryland cornerback was riding on a motor scooter late last year. Teammate Isaiah Ross was driving, zipping past the chapel and toward the middle of campus.
McDougle took a tumble when Ross momentarily lost control and slammed the brake. He figured nothing was wrong besides a few scrapes and quickly went to retrieve his hat.
"I got up and tried to put my hat on and my arm couldn't go [up]," McDougle said. "I reached over, and my collarbone was sticking out. You could see it through the skin. It was bad."
The ensuing surgery ended McDougle's freshman season. He'd played in all but one regular-season game, made 22 tackles and broke up three passes. And while the injury cost him the chance to play in a bowl game, it didn't prevent him from seizing control of a starting job during the spring.
That was a welcome development for Ross, an affable defensive end who fretted about his friend. Ross checked in frequently to ensure McDougle's rehabilitation progressed in the offseason.
"He was taking it lightly, but I was freaking out a little bit," Ross said. "It was before the bowl game, and I wanted him to be out there with us. For him not to be out there with us kind of hurt."
That will change soon enough.
The Falmouth, Va., product played at the same high school as former Maryland star Torrey Smith and offered a glimpse of his talent when granted the opportunity a year ago. McDougle worked as a reserve cornerback and also returned five kickoffs while Smith was dealing was a persistent ankle injury.
In the Terrapins' new defense, McDougle and other cornerbacks are embracing their coverage assignments — a situation defensive coordinator Todd Bradford believes McDougle is well-suited for.
"He's big, he's physical," Bradford said during the team's media day on Tuesday. "He's a good-sized kid to be playing corner. He has skills to be very good. He obviously just needs rep after rep after rep in order for him to get better, but I have pretty high expectations of what kind of player he'll become and what kind of talent he is."
McDougle's potential didn't diminish with his scooter accident, though it did lead to one of many changes instituted since coach Randy Edsall was hired. Amid the flurry of Edsall's initial edicts was a ban on motor scooters to prevent injuries like those suffered last season by McDougle and offensive lineman Pete DeSouza (broken legs).
McDougle's work to return also helped lift the spirits of Ross, who said he felt responsible for the situation.
"He was really hard on himself," McDougle said. "I told him 'Man, it's OK. Mistakes are going to happen. I'm going to come back and play.' I ended up coming back in the spring and had a really great spring and now I'm here in the summer and I'm ready to play."
No one is happier than Ross, who is optimistic the now-healthy McDougle will be a significant factor in Maryland's new defense.
"I think he'll be a big puzzle piece," Ross said.
NOTES: Edsall said sophomore Avery Graham was moved from cornerback to Star, the hybrid linebacker-defensive back position where Kenny Tate will start. Graham had 12 tackles in seven games last season. ... Edsall declined to comment on wide receiver Adrian Coxson's leg injury. Coxson was carted out of practice Saturday.
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