Maryland will start its fourth right guard in four games Saturday against West Virginia at Byrd Stadium — and this one is the guy they expected to play all along. Senior Lamar Bryant finally returns from a broken ankle, just in time to seal a leaky line.
The previous starters at the position were Ed Tyler, Akil Patterson and Ryan Flynn, however, Tyler and Patterson are overcoming injuries of their own, and Flynn, who played guard for the first time, will return to tackle.
All the changes hindered the Terps’ desire for stability and compromised both the run and pass protection. Because West Virginia regularly uses eight-man defensive fronts against the run with a primary 3-5-3 alignment, the Terps desperately need Bryant to help the inside running game.
“The guys held it down, but everyone knew when Lamar came back it was his spot,” offensive tackle Eric Dumas said. “The biggest thing is, he’s the most vocal guy. You have to make sure he doesn’t get kicked out of the game fighting defensive linemen. That [fire] may have been something we were missing the last couple weeks.”
Bryant was a sideline fixture during practice despite needing crutches for the first week. He even took snaps during line drills last week. During his month-long absence from action, Bryant lost 10 pounds and is down to 308. His ankle was stiff after practice yesterday but not enough to sideline him further.
“The rehab paid off,” Bryant said. “[Being out] was a reality check. It made me realize you never know when it’s over.”
Returner Steve Suter replaced Jafar Williams as a starting receiver. Suter, a surprise starter against The Citadel, caught only a 6-yarder, but his 75-yard punt return for a touchdown has the Terps eager to give him more time. Coach Ralph Friedgen wants “playmakers” on the field for an offense that struggled its first two games before Saturday’s 61-0 romp. Williams has only four catches this season.
“You have to give Steve the extra yard cushion and keep him in front of you,” safety Madieu Williams said.
Who’s No. 3?
Friedgen said playing freshmen quarterbacks Joel Statham third and Sam Hollenbach fourth against The Citadel wasn’t indicative of the 2004 pecking order. The two are vying to become senior Scott McBrien’s successor. Backup Orlando Evans also is a senior. However, Friedgen said Statham would work with the scout team this week and Hollenbach is third on the depth chart.
Statham completed a 35-yarder in his only attempt against The Citadel. Hollenbach threw no passes in his series.
Freshmen center Andrew Crummey and receiver Drew Weatherly may not redshirt this season as expected. Friedgen hoped to save their eligibility, but injuries and improved practices by the first-year players could have them soon committed.
“I watch [Weatherly] in practice, and he makes a lot of plays,” Friedgen said. “He’s still learning, still tentative, but if we get somebody nicked up he’s going to fit right in. I see that coming. … He will definitely be a big-time player here.” …
Maryland tried to practice Monday despite a downpour that interrupted several workouts. However, Friedgen finally relented after 20 minutes.
“They were looking to go in, but we didn’t go in until a few bolts of lightning struck nearby,” Friedgen said. “I told them we were getting ready for [Hurricane] Isabel so stop looking to go in, get ready to practice, hold on to the football.” …
McBrien isn’t permitted to talk to the media about his former team, but Friedgen said it hasn’t visibly impacted the passer’s workouts. “If there is anything special he never lets on,” Friedgen said. “He’s pretty stoic. He’d be a great poker player. I’m sure the game is important to him, but he’s never indicated to me it was more important than any other game.” …
Running back Bruce Perry (high ankle sprain) and fullback Bernie Fiddler (elbow) are doubtful. It would be Perry’s third missed game.