Practice Adjusted To Help Injuries
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
As the Maryland football team faces a critical point in its season -- the Terrapins must win two of their last four games to be bowl eligible, and three of their next four to have a safe chance at the postseason -- Coach Ralph Friedgen will have to wait until some of his players can return.
With injuries rampant on his team, Friedgen said he has adjusted the structure of the team's daily practices, a move he hopes hastens the return of several injured players.
"I'm trying to give these kids that have a chance to come back as much time to get treatment and still learn the game plan," Friedgen said. "We've got to try to get them back."
At practice yesterday and Monday, Friedgen put the team through a light walk-through before excusing injured players, who returned to the locker room to receive treatment.
The player most likely to return in time for Saturday's game at North Carolina is starting fullback Cory Jackson, who missed Saturday's loss to Clemson because of a broken hand suffered against Virginia two weeks ago. Friedgen expects Jackson to be cleared for practice today. But because he has a wound from surgery, Jackson's effectiveness could be limited even though he is wearing a cast.
"We'll have Cory," Friedgen said. "How much he'll be able to do, we'll see. It's a matter of allowing the incision to heal so there's no infection."
Friedgen also expects starting left tackle Scott Burley to be ready for the Tar Heels. Burley suffered an ankle injury during practice early last week and was limited to just a handful of snaps against Clemson, when his replacement, freshman Bruce Campbell, had to leave the game for X-rays.
But Burley's status for the week is even more important because Campbell likely won't play Saturday after suffering an ankle injury against the Tigers. Both Burley and Campbell came to practice yesterday wearing protective walking boots. If neither is healthy Saturday, Friedgen said he would start Paul Pinegar at left tackle. Pinegar is a walk-on redshirt freshman who saw action in the fourth quarter against Clemson.
Starting tight end Dan Gronkowski, who suffered a knee injury against the Tigers, will miss the next two weeks, thus putting the onus on the rest of the team's tight ends to pick up the slack. Gronkowski has been a vital part of the Terrapins' running attack, serving as a strong blocker.
Defensive lineman Travis Ivey, who elected not to have surgery on his injured knee, is questionable for Saturday's game. Friedgen had hoped Ivey could return ahead of schedule. He was originally expected to miss the entire season.
Friedgen said guard Andrew Crummey, who broke his leg against Georgia Tech on Oct. 6, might return in time for the regular season finale at North Carolina State. He also has a chance at playing a week earlier, at Florida State, though Friedgen admitted that this was the more "optimistic" scenario.
Reserve inside linebacker Rick Costa, who has been out since suffering a neck sprain and concussion against Georgia Tech, likely will miss the rest of the regular season. Friedgen had initially thought Costa would return this week.
No Starting QB Is Named
Friedgen said he won't name a starting quarterback until the end of the week, leaving open the possibility that Jordan Steffy could reclaim the job.
"It will probably come by production and also Jordan's health," Friedgen said about the factors he will use to determine the starter. "I think Jordan wants to play. I think he's ready to play."
Steffy suffered a concussion Sept. 29 against Rutgers and left the game late in the first half, yielding to backup Chris Turner, who has started every game in Steffy's absence. Steffy has yet to play since the injury, but he was medically cleared late last week.
At one point in the second half against Clemson, Steffy started warming up on the sideline. Friedgen admitted yesterday he was tempted to put him in the game. But Friedgen reconsidered after the two talked about the situation on the sideline. The coach said he also considered the risk of another injury, especially with the Terrapins playing with a patchwork offensive line.