- The Washington Times - Monday, August 25, 2003

Maryland quarterback Scott McBrien is probable against Northern Illinois on Thursday, but coach Ralph Friedgen won’t make a decision until today.

McBrien returned to practice yesterday after suffering a strained groin on Aug.18. He was still limited during the workout and hasn’t run at full speed yet. Before he commits to McBrien as the starter, Friedgen wants to make sure the injury doesn’t get worse with activity.

“I don’t want to get him hurt and lose him for the year,” Friedgen said. “He’ll probably play. He was able to do everything today, but at about 80 percent, though.”

Still, Friedgen said backup Orlando Evans could start if McBrien’s groin worsens. The team will complete its preparations for the opener tomorrow and will leave Wednesday.

“We really need to plan as if Orlando is going to be the guy,” Friedgen said.

McBrien said the injury has improved daily and his mobility has greatly increased. He seemed tentative early during practice, but felt more comfortable as the workout progressed.

“I didn’t do that bad,” McBrien said. “I thought I would be rusty, but I was on time and made some decent throws. Hopefully, I can do a little more and more. It’s progressed quick. I don’t see a problem for Thursday.

The No.15 Terrapins, who were plagued with injuries throughout camp, also got back linebacker Shawne Merriman. However, running back Bruce Perry (high ankle sprain), returner Steve Suter (hamstring) and right guard Lamar Bryant (broken foot) won’t play at Northern Illinois.

Merriman returned after missing 10 days because of knee surgery. The sophomore ran effectively during practice. He’ll be needed against Northern Illinois running back Michael “the Burner” Turner, who ran for 1,925 yards last year.

“I can run a little bit,” Merriman said. “I’ll be 100 percent when I make the tackle.”

Sophomore Akil Patterson will replace Bryant and Matt Powell will back up Patterson. Senior Ed Tyler, who missed practice with a leg infection, will back up left guard and center. Patterson played only 46 snaps over seven games last season and suffered a knee injury during the spring game.

“I have to find something to focus on to keep away from getting nervous,” Patterson said. “Guys pull me aside and say ‘Akil, calm down out there. Just go out and play football.’”

Perry, who hopes to practice on Sept.1 and play against Florida State on Sept.6, said his injury is “just unfortunate. It just happens.”

Friedgen is considering using Rich Parson instead of JoJo Walker for kick returns. The coach said the former is catching the ball better.

The string of injuries has unsettled Friedgen as he enters his third season. The Terps, contenders for a second ACC title in three seasons, are aware Northern Illinois is capable of the upset.

“They’re going to be flying sky high,” Friedgen said. “They’re saying this is the biggest game that’s ever come to their stadium and that has me a little concerned. As long as we’re practicing well, then I feel good about our team.”

Said Merriman: “They’re hyped up. We like that pressure.”

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