By Eric Prisbell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
A Maryland football team with renewed hopes of winning the ACC championship absorbed a significant blow yesterday when it was learned that cornerback Kevin Barnes, one of the team's best defensive players, would likely miss the rest of the season because of a shoulder injury.
Coach Ralph Friedgen declined to discuss the nature or extent of Barnes's left shoulder injury until the fifth-year senior confers with doctors today, but several defensive players were downtrodden because of the loss of a veteran who had as many career starts (21) as the rest of the secondary combined.
"It is a tragedy," linebacker Moise Fokou said.
Cornerback Anthony Wiseman, who talked to Barnes on Monday, said Barnes was "down because he did not get to finish the season. Looking out there at practice today, you feel kind of empty not having his leadership or presence."
The injury, initially described by Friedgen as a partially dislocated shoulder, occurred in the second quarter of Maryland's 26-0 victory over Wake Forest on Saturday. After Wake Forest wide receiver D.J. Boldin caught a pass, Barnes hit Boldin in the back with his left shoulder. Barnes left the game, underwent X-rays on Saturday and was expected to have an MRI exam Monday.
The loss of Barnes is a significant setback for a defense that played its best game of the season Saturday and for a secondary that has been hampered by injuries all season. Maryland already was without cornerback Richard Taylor (knee) for the season, and coaches have been shuffling personnel because of other injuries in recent weeks.
Barnes was part of the defense's backbone. He was tied for third in the ACC in passes defended and was best known for delivering a bone-rattling hit on California's Jahvid Best in the second quarter of Maryland's 35-27 victory on Sept. 13.
"When one player comes back, another goes down," Maryland's secondary coach Kevin Lempa said of the injuries in the secondary. The leadership Barnes provided will be difficult to replace, Lempa said, because "he was calling out plays in games before they happened. He knows opponents and what they do."
Junior Nolan Carroll, who returned from an ankle injury Saturday, is expected to move into Barnes's slot, joining Wiseman as the starting cornerbacks. Carroll leads Maryland with six pass breakups despite playing in just four games.
"He is a difference-maker we have lost, and that's hard to replace," Carroll said. "It's different because when he is out there, he is reliable. Now it is a big question mark what is going to happen."
Friedgen said safety Jamari McCollough, who leads the Terrapins with three interceptions, will move to cornerback, and Drew Robinson will fill McCollough's role at free safety. The absence of Barnes also is expected to create opportunities for cornerbacks Michael Carter and Cameron Chism.
"It's a little different being at corner," said McCollough, who also practiced at cornerback during Maryland's recent bye week. "I have to get used to being on an island."
Maryland ranks 91st nationally in pass defense, but the Terrapins have played better since allowing California to throw for 239 yards in the fourth quarter alone. Lempa said the secondary was just starting to play well before Barnes got injured.
It remains to be seen how much Maryland's pass defense will be tested the remainder of the season because none of Maryland's final five opponents rank among the nation's top 70 in passing offense. The next two opponents, North Carolina State and Virginia Tech, rank 80th and 114th, respectively.
"Since our leader is out, Nolan and I have to carry the senior role," Wiseman said. "Nolan and I looked at each other in practice; we have to say something to get that noise back."
Last season, Barnes had a team-high four interceptions, the most by a Maryland player since Domonique Foxworth in 2002. After enrolling at Maryland as a slender teenager who struggled with tackling, Barnes developed into a player who could level opponents. Best, the Cal running back, said no one has ever hit him as hard as Barnes did.
"I'm pretty sure he will be around" the team, quarterback Chris Turner said. "That's his role now."
Terrapins Note: Offensive lineman Dane Randolph has been battling an ankle injury the past two weeks, but Friedgen said the senior should be available to play more this week.