Go back a month, when Maryland’s injury issues consisted of Joe Vellano‘s stress fracture in his right foot and not a whole lot else, and think about the players who the Terrapins absolutely would miss a ton if they went out.
Base it on talent; value to the scheme; the gap between the starter and the top reserve (which tends not to be considered anywhere near as much as talent); and, sure, even some intangibles (which admittedly receive a substantial discount most of the time here).
Here was the top five that floated through my mind before the season even started:
* Cornerback Nolan Carroll, easily the best cover cornerback in a defense that requires its secondary to play on an island.
* Left tackle Bruce Campbell, the hulking junior protecting Chris Turner‘s blind side —- no minor task.
* Center Phil Costa, essentially the quarterback of a green offensive line.
* Safety Jamari McCollough, a valuable utilityman a year ago who was entrusted with a lot of responsibility this season.
* Turner, the only quarterback on the roster who entered the season with any offensive snaps in college.
(There are strong cases for inclusion, to be sure, to be made for Travis Baltz, Cory Jackson, Adrian Moten, Torrey Smith and Alex Wujciak, among several others).
And after two weeks? Carroll (broken tibia) is done for the season. Campbell (turf toe) and McCollough (high ankle sprain) will miss their second straight games Saturday against Middle Tennessee.
“We’re missing those guys now,” coach Ralph Friedgen said. “A lot.”
Friedgen probably wouldn’t make a list of who his most valuable players would be. Really, it would do him no good.
But in general terms, he knows Maryland’s early injury situation is a tough hand to deal with,
“You’re talking about three of your better players,” Friedgen said. “Where Jamari is so good is he’s kind of the brains of the operation. He runs the whole show back there. Not only are you missing a guy who has tremendous football instincts, but he also gets everybody else lined up.”
McCollough was mentioned multiple times today, and his absence will be felt when the Terps face a spread offense with four-receiver sets as a default setting.
The fifth-year senior hasn’t played since the middle of the first quarter of the opener. Even when he returns, McCollough will probably have some lingering issues, since it’s not easy to hide high ankle sprains as a defensive back.
“Hopefully we can get him back next week,” Friedgen said. “They think that’s an outside chance. So we’ll see.”
Friedgen is trying to be optimistic, for good reason. The Terps will be a much better outfit with Campbell and McCollough back —- whenever that ultimately happens.
—- Patrick Stevens