The Washington Times - August 16, 2007, 11:54PM
Alex Wujciak

\ Two years ago, the Terrapins lost a starting left tackle (Stephon Heyer) and a likely contributor at linebacker (Erin Henderson) in camp, and were already without rehabbing tailback Josh Allen. Maryland did about as well as it could do without those guys, but it’s not a stretch to say the fully healthy presence of one of those guys (like against Clemson or N.C. State) might have fetched an extra victory, a bowl berth, and a lot less fretting about the direction of the program.\


\ This time last year, the three season-ending injuries the Terps faced were those suffered by reserves Jermaine Lemons, Deege Galt and Jamari McCullough. It’s never good to lose depth, and those guys all earned their scholarships with all time they had to put into rehab. But really, last year’s Terps were not dealt a bad hand at the start.\

\ And it continued into the season, too. Outside of wideout Drew Weatherly’s lingering ailments, Tim Cesa’s multitude of concussions (the last occurring just as Cory Jackson was pushing him for more time, anyway) and Donnie Woods’ concussion and neck injury, the Terps escaped any serious damage.\

\ (Also worth acknowledging from last year: Josh Wilson’s persistent foot problem and Jared Gaither’s nerve pain; Wilson never seemed too affected, while Gaither struggled late in the season).\

\ The case can be made Wujciak’s loss for the year is a bigger blow than anything the Terps faced all of last season. Teammates and coaches have talked him up for some time, and Ralph Friedgen admitted last week he was awfully tempted to burn the New Jersey native’s redshirt in the middle of last season.\

\ He could have played linebacker - where he’s played since he picked up the game in third grade - this year, but before camp made a shift to LEO (a nifty acronym for “line-end option” that describes the hybrid position in the Terps’ version of the 3-4). That was meant to accomplish three goals: \

\ * Clear the glut at linebacker (which was never stated but implied, since it allowed Dave Philistin to compete for a job in the middle rather than back up Erin Henderson on the weak side. Rick Costa remains Henderson’s backup).\

\ * Light a fire under Trey Covington, who started 12 games last year and managed only 1.5 tackles for loss. That objective seems to have been met from the way Ralph has talked about him.\

\ * Find some way for the high-energy Wujciak to get on the field, since he was likely make an impact no matter where he played.\

\ His loss figures to have some sort of trickle-down on all three counts. The Terps won’t get to enjoy the play of a guy described by some as a throwback. Covington will try to fend off Lemons (who is coming off his own ACL surgery), a rerun of a competition two years ago. \

\ But the really interesting effect here is the onus it places on either Philistin or Chase Bullock to produce at middle linebacker. There was always the possibility that if both flopped, the Terps would just move Wujciak back to the middle and all would be well. That option is gone.\

\ As it turns out, Philistin has drawn praise throughout camp and has earned a split in first-team reps with Bullock. The pair will follow a middle linebacker heritage this decade that reads like a genealogy lecture or the beginning of the Book of Matthew. There was E.J. Henderson, after whom came D’Qwell Jackson, after whom came Wesley Jefferson.\

\ That’s some solid company, and there’s no escaping the shadows those three cast on that position.\

\ The loss of Wujciak doesn’t help the Terps at LEO. But its greater cost is a decrease in flexibility with the personnel available with the rest of the defense. And if that isn’t the definition of a costly preseason injury, I don’t know what is.