- The Washington Times - Friday, April 5, 2002

With a magic first season behind him, Maryland's Ralph Friedgen officially opened his second year as football coach on his 55th birthday yesterday with the first of 15 practices this month.

After leading the Terps to a 10-2 record and an ACC title last season, Friedgen may have a more challenging job to do this time. He must replace nine starters, and at least nine others including conference offensive and defensive players of the year Bruce Perry and E.J. Henderson will miss all or part of spring practice because of injuries or various reasons.

But that didn't prevent Friedgen from being optimistic as the Terps went through more than two hours of drills that somewhat resembled a midseason session.

"I was pleased. They were really better than I thought they'd be and you won't hear me say that many times," Friedgen said.

Henderson, an All-America linebacker who set a school record for tackles for losses last season, has bone spurs in his lower back and is scheduled to have surgery next week in North Carolina. He hopes to rehabilitate over the next three months and be ready for Maryland's opening game against Notre Dame in the Kickoff Classic on Aug. 31.

Perry has an abdominal injury similar to the one that left his status uncertain for January's Orange Bowl. Friedgen was unsure of the extent of the injury or how it will affect Perry, who will miss the entire spring.

Henderson was bothered by bone spurs in his back late last season but played through the pain. He received a cortisone shot in his lower back about two weeks ago to try to rectify the problem. Friedgen said he has been told the condition "is not a big deal."

Said Henderson: "Of course I'm concerned. I think if I get it taken care of now, and a couple months of rehab, then I'll be right by the 31st. … They say everything happens for a reason. It happened; now I'm going to try to get it taken care of."

Also, the Terps' leading returning wide receiver, Jafar Williams, and defensive tackle Landon Jones will not practice this semester because they are academically ineligible. Friedgen has suspended reserve guard Raheem Lewis for conduct detrimental to the team.

Even with Henderson, who decided to remain at Maryland for his final season rather than enter the NFl Draft, Friedgen is still concerned about depth at linebacker a position decimated since the end of last season. Starter Aaron Thompson and reserves Marlon Moye-Moore, Monte Graves, Reggie Lewis and Ryan Swift exhausted their eligibility, and Mike Whaley left the team in February because of poor grades. Bernie Fiddler, a fullback last season, has been moved to linebacker.

One of Friedgen's concerns is the quarterback competition to replace departed Shaun Hill. Chris Kelley, once a highly regarded prospect from Germantown's Seneca Valley High who has suffered two major knee injuries in less than two years, leads the current crop, but the job is not his yet. Scott McBrien, a transfer from West Virginia, and Orlando Evans, a transfer from City College of San Francisco, should provide the most serious challenges.

"This is why I came here to lead this team and be the starting quarterback," Kelley said. "Right now I have the opportunity right in my hands, sitting right in front of me, and I'm going to take full advantage of it. I'm not going to let it slip out of my hands."

Said Friedgen: "I'm just going to wait and see. It's going to be a very important decision. I like the candidates. We'll know a little bit more once we get the year going."

Friedgen said he also likes the competition that could develop at running back, where incumbent Perry, the 2001 ACC Offensive Player of the Year, will try to stave off a challenge from rising sophomore Jason Crawford.

Yesterday's practice marked the first time Latrez Harrison, once regarded as a talented quarterback who spent his first three Maryland seasons at the position, worked as a wide receiver, where he will play this season.

Notes All of the Terps' practices, which end with the Spring Game on April 27 at 4 p.m., are open. Call the football office, 301/314-7095 before attending. Practice dates are today, 4 p.m.; tomorrow, 10 a.m.; Sunday, 1 p.m.; Tuesday, 4 p.m.; Thursday, 4 p.m.; April 13, 3 p.m.; April 14, 1 p.m.; April 16, 4 p.m.; April 18, 4 p.m.; April 20, 10 a.m.; April 21, 1 p.m.; April 23, 4 p.m.; April 25, 4 p.m.

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