- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Maryland finally is expected to have its top offensive player back this week.

Terrapins coach Ralph Friedgen said tailback Bruce Perry, who has not played since January's Orange Bowl, practiced Monday and should be ready for Maryland's game against Wofford Saturday at Byrd Stadium.

"[Monday] night Bruce had his best practice," Friedgen said. "I think he will play barring any unforeseen injuries the rest of the week. We didn't work him a whole lot but he looked as good as he has in a long time."

Perry, the ACC's Offensive Player of the Year a season ago when he rushed for 1,242 yards and 10 touchdowns, sat out spring practice with a stomach strain. He made a brief return during fall camp before tearing his left groin Aug.20.

Friedgen had hoped to give Perry some carries in Saturday's 45-3 rout of Eastern Michigan, but the junior wasn't fully healed and sat out the game. However, Perry handled about a quarter of the carries Monday night and inched closer to returning this week.

"What I liked last night that I didn't see last Monday is I saw his acceleration," Friedgen said. "I didn't see the burst last week. I'll have my fingers crossed each and every day this week. If Bruce is 100 percent, he'll be the starter."

Perry said he's ready.

"I'd say I'm close to 100 percent," Perry said after yesterday's practice.

If Perry does play Saturday, it will give the Terps added depth in the backfield. Chris Downs has four touchdowns in the last three games and has emerged as the top back during Perry's absence. Freshman Josh Allen also impressed in his debut Saturday, rushing 10 times for 86 yards and a touchdown.

"As a player you want to get out there and perform and that's what I've been doing since I got here," Perry said. "It's real frustrating not being out there, but at the same time we had guys who were out there getting the job done and that's all that counts."

Perry's return also gives junior quarterback Scott McBrien an extra target. Perry caught 40 passes last year, the best among the Terps' returnees.

Even if Perry is unable to start Saturday, Friedgen would still like him to handle some carries before the Terps (2-2) visit West Virginia Oct.5.

"I think we have to get him some playing time this week if we can," Friedgen said. "Next week, I hope he's going to get a lot of carries."

Notes Friedgen said an MRI revealed junior quarterback Orlando Evans suffered a torn ACL in Saturday's win and will likely be out for the year. Freshman Joel Statham will take over as the No.3 quarterback.

Center Todd Wike (concussion) is expected to return after missing Saturday's game, though backup fullback Bernie Fiddler (ankle) is questionable. Friedgen said wide receiver Derrick Fenner, who fractured his ankle last week in practice and was expected to miss six weeks, could return as soon as Saturday.

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