By Eric Prisbell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
In the hour following Saturday's 38-35 overtime victory over James Madison, word trickled from one Maryland player to another that cornerback Nolan Carroll would miss the rest of the season because of a broken leg.
News of the sizeable loss quickly muted the celebration of a narrow win, as players realized the daunting challenge they face over the next 10 games. The Terrapins knew the loss of Carroll, a senior team captain, marked the latest and most significant injury for a team that can ill-afford many more because of inexperience and lack of depth at a variety of positions.
When the Terrapins (1-1) play Middle Tennessee on Saturday, they also expect to be without two starters -- left tackle Bruce Campbell (turf toe) and safety Jamari McCollough (foot) -- who missed the James Madison game.
Two weeks into the season, injuries are forcing Coach Ralph Friedgen to shuffle offensive linemen, start young players who might be best served as backups and play freshmen who might otherwise redshirt. And three weeks before Maryland plays its ACC opener, injuries -- coupled with on-field struggles -- clearly have made for one of Friedgen's most challenging seasons in nine years at his alma mater.
"I have concerns," Friedgen said. "It's just like I said from the beginning: It's a matter of how fast these kids are going to mature. I do think they are getting better. It is just a matter of how fast."
One immediate concern is how the loss of Carroll and McCollough (for at least this week) will affect a defense that has struggled mightily in the new-look scheme installed by first-year coordinator Don Brown.
A potent California offense amassed 542 total yards in a season-opening 52-13 win over Maryland. And James Madison used its spread offense to rush for 268 yards. Through two games, the defense ranks 108th nationally -- out of 120 division I-A teams.
Maryland's secondary was expected to be the strength of the defense, but now its depth will be tested. When a reporter told linebacker Alex Wujciak about Carroll's injury, he said, "He broke his leg? That's going to hurt us. He is our leader."
Carroll was one of four players -- quarterback Chris Turner, center Phil Costa and linebacker Adrian Moten the others -- who were voted team captains before the season. Friedgen had said Carroll played as well in preseason camp as any cornerback he has had at Maryland.
Midway through the fourth quarter Saturday, Friedgen said, Carroll swung around while in pursuit of a player, and defensive lineman Derek Drummond inadvertently kicked him in the shin. Carroll underwent surgery late Saturday night and a screw was inserted into the leg.
"I feel very bad for Nolan because he was playing so well and it is great to see how he has matured and developed in one year," Friedgen said. "He is very dear to my heart. I am praying everything will be okay for him because I really think he has a future."
Stepping in for Carroll, who started six games in his career, is Cameron Chism, a sophomore who was one of four freshmen to play last season. Chism played in nine games last season as a reserve cornerback.
Friedgen said Chism played fairly well against James Madison but added that "he is going to have to step up." Also expected to see more playing time is sophomore Trenton Hughes, and freshman Dexter McDougle, who may have redshirted had Carroll not been injured, could see action as well.
The absence of McCollough will mean that sophomore Kenny Tate will start his second straight game at strong safety. Tate, the undisputed defensive star of preseason camp, made seven tackles, including one for a loss, against James Madison.
During postgame interviews Saturday, senior defensive lineman Travis Ivey sat next to his coordinator, Brown, at one table. While both took a solemn tone when talking about Carroll, they maintained optimism.
"We prepare everybody as a starter," Ivey said. "Whether you start or don't start, basically you've got to be ready at any time. I don't think there is going to be any type of letup because these guys have been playing pretty good at practice, anyway."
Along the offensive line, the turf-toe injury Campbell suffered at Cal prompted coaches to move junior Paul Pinegar from right tackle to Campbell's left tackle position and start redshirt freshman R.J. Dill at right tackle. What's more, freshman Bennett Fulper started Saturday at left guard in place of sophomore Lamar Young. Friedgen said to expect more of an offensive-line-by-committee approach Saturday.
After Saturday's game, Friedgen said that Turner was a little banged up, although Friedgen said Sunday that no more notable injuries occurred in the victory.
"We are growing right now," running back Da'Rel Scott said. "The rookies are getting more experience. We have to stay humble and keep fighting it."