- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 24, 2002

All-American linebacker E.J. Henderson is ready. Star tailback Bruce Perry is not. The starting quarterback's identity is still a mystery. Maryland's football team concluded two weeks of two-a-day practices yesterday with some, but not all, questions answered.
The 21st-ranked Terrapins will hold practice this afternoon, take tomorrow off and begin game-week preparations Monday for next Saturday's season opener against Notre Dame in the Kickoff Classic at Giants Stadium.
At quarterback, the preseason ends as it began, with Scott McBrien and Chris Kelley battling for the job. Kelley came to camp less than three months after having reconstructive surgery on his right knee and has held up well despite the rigorous demands. He was No.1 before going down in the spring game.
"I think I feel good about it," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said about the quarterback situation. "Some practices, they practice really well. Other practices, they struggle with things I think they should have down. I think they have to play in a game. That's my biggest clue do we have somebody we can win with? I think we do."
Friedgen said he doesn't know when he will make a decision and that he might just go with the hot hand and play both quarterbacks. Indications are that the left-handed McBrien is slightly ahead, and the coaches are leery to expose Kelley's knee in a game yet. Quarterbacks have not been hit during camp.
McBrien is the only quarterback to have played a significant role in a college game, as a redshirt freshman at West Virginia in 2000. The now junior started against Syracuse and played the final three quarters against Notre Dame, when he threw for 252 yards and a touchdown in a relief appearance.
"I think we're pretty even right now, so it will all depend on Coach Friedgen," said McBrien, who transferred last summer and sat out last season. "Both of us just have prepare to be No.1."
McBrien, known for his accurate passing, has been working on the option game to become a more-rounded quarterback. Kelley has worked his way back into shape and is trying to regain the speed he had before the injury.
While the quarterback competition has brewed all preseason, the top tailback spot opened when Perry suffered a major tear in his groin muscle Tuesday. The reigning ACC Offensive Player of the Year, who rushed for 1,242 yards last season, is out four to eight weeks. That job now falls to unproven players, with redshirt freshman Mario Merrills and sophomore Jason Crawford likely to share the load.
"They don't have the experience that Bruce has in a big game like this," Friedgen said. "I'm sure that's going to be a factor. But you have to grow up sometime."
The Terps should have a strong starting offensive line, although it has struggled for continuity with minor bumps and bruises throughout camp. Jafar Williams and Scooter Monroe pace a veteran group of solid receivers.
The defense has fewer immediate concerns, thanks largely to Henderson's rapid recovery from back surgery in April. The senior middle linebacker feels about 90 to 95 percent recovered. He has completed every practice and even played briefly in Tuesday's full-contact scrimmage.
"Everything is going according to plan," said Henderson, who had 150 tackles last season and was one of three finalists for the Butkus Award, which goes to the nation's top linebacker.
Henderson's presence should help stabilize a revamped defense that has six new starters and is counting on sophomore tackle Randy Starks to become a force in the middle. The secondary is a strength with veterans Domonique Foxworth and Curome Cox as cornerbacks, plus converted corner Dennard Wilson and Madieu Williams, a promising transfer from Towson University, as safeties.
Friedgen said he is pleased with the overall progress during the two weeks of two-a-days, although the final day left everyone fatigued.
"They kind of hit the wall," said Friedgen, who expects the team to regain its legs and focus after tomorrow's day off. "I pulled off a little bit today because these kids have been working so hard."
Notes
Today's practice is open to the public and will start at 3:30 p.m. on the practice field behind the baseball stadium. Players will sign autographs at its conclusion Receiver Steve Suter, who suffered a pulled quad Thursday, could return as early as today.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide