- The Washington Times - Friday, October 25, 2002

Maryland tailback Bruce Perry will make his season debut tomorrow. The reigning ACC Player of the Year, sidelined since tearing his left groin muscle in the preseason, will start his comeback tomorrow against Duke in Durham, N.C.

Perry, who rushed for 1,242 yards last season, participated in all team workouts this week. However, the 5-foot-9, 196-pound junior aggravated his injury several times over the last few weeks in practice. He will not start against the Blue Devils, and will be closely monitored by coaches.

"Is he ready to play 40 plays? No," said coach Ralph Friedgen, who expects Perry to play about 15 snaps. "It will be limited. It will depend on how the game is going and how he is doing. I thought he had a good practice [yesterday]. I didn't see any sign of fatigue [but] I still don't think he is 100 percent. He's about 95 right now."

Chris Downs will start at tailback, and Maryland (5-2, 1-1 ACC) will probably use Perry with one specific personnel group. The coach will have a brief meeting with Perry to make sure the star runner feels ready to play against the Blue Devils (2-6, 0-4). Perry was not available for comment this week.

A series of injuries has kept Perry out since the Orange Bowl in January. The Doak Walker Award finalist suffered an abdominal strain in preparation for the bowl game and ran for only 22 yards on 11 carries in the loss to Florida. He missed spring practice after undergoing surgery to remove calcium from stomach and groin areas.

While getting into shape Aug.20, he was stepped on during a goal line drill before a scrimmage and suffered the groin tear. He hoped to be back for the Sept.21 game against Eastern Michigan but had a run of setbacks that delayed his comeback.

"He's got to be thinking he's snake bit," Friedgen said. "He goes and rehabilitates [the groin injury], and he works his butt off. He goes for a pass and it's thrown behind him and he re-injures it or tears scar tissue."

The coach said he has seen occasional flashes of Perry's old burst of speed and moves in practice as the tailback works on his endurance as well as his running. Perry would give the Terps a pass-catching threat out of the backfield, which they haven't had this season.

Friedgen hopes tomorrow will be the start of Perry's regaining the skills and swagger that infused his teammates last season. Maryland hopes to have its top offensive weapon from last season near full strength for five more ACC games following the visit to Duke.

"I would like to see him gain about 200 yards on about three carries," Friedgen, of the ideal scenario. "I just want him to stay healthy. That's really all I want. Get his confidence back. This has been a tough year for Bruce. He's worked pretty hard to get back where he is."

Meanhile, rush linebacker Jamahl Cochran (hamstring) will miss the game, with freshman Shawne Merriman starting in his spot. Center Kyle Schmitt (shoulder) is questionable.

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