- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 22, 2002

The Maryland Terrapins hoped for some good news but feared the worst as they waited for results of an MRI and X-ray of star tailback Bruce Perry's groin muscle.
The results, which were not available last night, were expected to confirm a preliminary evaluation that he will miss at least the season opener against Notre Dame on Aug. 31 and if the tear is particularly severe Perry's season could be in jeopardy.
"He's got a pretty significant tear," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said yesterday morning. "To me, it's a very tangible thing. What we want to find out is the extent. If it's what we think it is, to me, it's a question of whether he's ready for the season [at all]. Can we get him for the middle of the season? It's what the doctors are telling me is the case."
Perry, the 2001 ACC Offensive Player of the Year, suffered the injury in a goal-line warm-up drill prior to a team scrimmage Tuesday in Byrd Stadium.
The 5-foot-9 junior was stepped on by a lineman and heard a pop as he pulled his leg up. Perry was dragging his left leg yesterday morning while watching practice as the 21st-ranked Terps prepared for the season without their top offensive weapon.
"We just have to step up like good teams have to do," Friedgen said. "Someone else has to fill in when other things happen."
Mario Merrills moves into the No.1 tailback spot. The redshirt freshman from Columbia, Md., was the top tailback while Perry missed time the first week of fall camp with abdominal problems. Sophomore Jason Crawford is Merrills' competition, while freshman Josh Allen and senior Chris Downs are further back.
The likely loss of Perry means Maryland not only could lose the back who rushed for 1,242 yards last season, but also its second leading receiver. The compact speedster kept defenses in check by making 40 catches for 359 yards.
Perry, who missed spring practice after undergoing abdominal surgery, was believed to be rounding into regular season shape before Tuesday.
"Bruce is probably our best pass receiver we have out of the backfield," Friedgen said. "Recently, he was running really good routes. He has good hands. I don't think the other backs are as good in that phase of the game, both from a protection standpoint and a route-running standpoint."
No other Maryland tailback has started a major college game. The 5-foot-9, 197-pound Merrills missed some time last week with a separated shoulder, but overall has had a strong preseason.
"[Merrills] really has been making some cuts this whole fall that I didn't see last year as a freshman," Friedgen said. "He's got a burst and so does [freshman Josh] Allen. Those are things I look for. If Bruce can't go, we are going to be young back there. But I think the talent is there we just have to get the experience."
Crawford is a big and powerful sophomore who is trying to work his way into the team's good graces after missing summer workouts. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Crawford was considered the heir apparent to Perry after rushing for 146 yards and two touchdowns last season. But his summer absences landed him on fourth string coming into the preseason.
"I'm glad coach did that, because it got the best out of me," said Crawford, who went to Parkdale High School. "If he didn't, it would be unfair to the rest of the team. Because everyone else did what they were supposed to do and I didn't. Things have kind of changed with Bruce's situation, but we're all Division I athletes and we are here for a reason. We just have to showcase our talent."
Crawford filled in with the starters while Perry missed spring practices.
Perry's setback is the latest in a run of injuries the Terps have sustained since last season, when cornerback Tony Okanlawon was the only starter to miss extended time. In addition to Perry's difficulties, All-American linebacker E.J. Henderson missed the spring after requiring back surgery. And then-No.1 quarterback Chris Kelley tore an ACL in the spring game and is working his way back from his third knee surgery.
Friedgen reiterated that he has not made a decision on whether Kelley or Scott McBrien will be the signal caller against the Fighting Irish, and suggested he may not announce that until game day.
"It comes with the territory," Friedgen said of the injuries. "Sometimes you're dodging the bullets. Sometimes they hit."
Note Reserve safety Ty Stewart returned to practice yesterday after suffering a mild concussion in Tuesday's scrimmage.

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