As the Maryland football team suffered an unfathomable number of injuries last season, a familiar phrase was often repeated around Gossett Team House, a three-word cliche invoked to reassure everyone – coaches, players, reporters, fans – that everything would be fine:
“Next man up.”
Four quarterbacks were the next men up after C.J .Brown, the starter at the outset of training camp, suffered his preseason ACL tear. This season, it’s the cornerbacks’ turn.
“I’ve got tremendous confidence in whoever we put into the ballgame,” Coach Randy Edsall said Tuesday, because what other choice is there? With West Virginia looming on Saturday, the Terrapins (3-0) have little time to dwell on their two starting cornerbacks being relegated to the sideline. After Jeremiah Johnson suffered fractured toe and Dexter McDougle went down with a season-ending shoulder injury, Maryland will start a senior junior college transfer and a true freshman against the Mountaineers and their spread offense.
“That’s something we try to stress to all our players,” Edsall said. “It doesn’t matter where you start on the depth chart. You better be practicing, you better be mentally sharp in the meetings. There could come a time when you get out there, when you least expect it, and you have to get the job done. I’ve got tremendous confidence in either one of them if they had to play.”
The drop-off from McDougle and Johnson, two veteran leaders expected to anchor the boundary this season, to replacements Isaac Goins and Will Likely shouldn’t be nearly as steep as the difference between Brown and his backups. Both Goins and Likely started against Old Dominion on Sept. 7, when Goins recorded his first career interception and Likely led the team in tackles.
The issues might come in nickel and dime packages, when Maryland must reach into its vault and manufacture some production from unfamiliar faces. Jarrett Ross, a true freshman, and sophomore Alvin Hill are listed as the team’s No. 3 and 4 cornerbacks. Both appeared in Saturday’s 32-21 win over Connecticut. Hill was beaten on a 75-yard touchdown pass and the ensuing two-point conversion.by the Huskies late in the game.
“In regards to Alvin and Jared, they know exactly what the expectations are going to be for them, what they’re going to have to do in order to prepare themselves to possibly play this weekend,” Edsall said.
Defensive coordinator Brian Stewart, who also serves as Maryland’s defensive backs coach, should have Ross and Hill ready. Still, not having McDougle – whose two interceptions put the Terps over the hump in East Hartford, Conn. – will hurt. Edsall said McDougle underwent “extensive” shoulder surgery on Monday and left open the possibility of more surgery soon. He declined to detail the injury’s specific nature and hadn’t consulted with doctors yet, but said McDougle “will be fine.”
Edsall also declined to directly answer whether Maryland would consider moving safety A.J. Hendy to the outside, but left open the possibility for such a move.
“We have some thoughts in mind,” he said. “We’ll go through practice this week looking at some of the different things we’ll look at, and seeing where we are at the end of the week. You always have the what-ifs because of injuries and everything else. We have plans. I’m not going to reveal those plans. But we’ll take a look at some different combinations, take a look at some different things we feel gives us he best opportunity to be able to win. I’ve got a tremendous amount of confidence in will and Isaac and Jarrett and Alvin. Hopefully we won’t have any more injuries at that position.”