Lloyd Burruss, Maryland's All-Atlantic Coast Conference defensive back and top kick returner, fractured a small bone in his right leg on the first play of practice yesterday afternoon and probably will be out six to eight weeks.
Burruss, a senior, has been a starting defensive back throughout his career at Maryland and has started in three bowl games, including the Cotton Bowl as a freshman.
"It's definitely a blow for us," Coach Jerry Claiborne said after the injury was diagnosed at the university infirmary. "We'll just have to play it by ear with Lloyd out."
Sammy Johnson, Burruss' backup, has considerable experience. The defensive backfield is Maryland's deepest area.
Burruss was the big-play man last year, blocking two field goal attempts, running back a punt for a touchdown and intercepting three passes. He was considered Maryland's most likely All-America prospect. Claiborne was not sure yesterday who would replace Burruss, a 6-foot, 195-pound native of Charlottesville, on special teams.
"We've lost our best defensive back, that's for sure," Claiborne said. "We're not exactly sure what happened yet. It was just a routine play, no big pileup or anything, and he just sort of slipped. We don't know yet whether somebody rolled over him or if his leg got caught underneath him.
"We'll miss him, no doubt about that, but he'll be a great leader for us just sitting on the bench."
Burruss will see team doctor Stan Lavine this morning for further examination.
In the meantime, 16 days before the Terps open the season, Mike Tice, the man Claiborne has been counting on as his starting quarterback, cannot throw a football hard without his shoulder hurting.
"Right now, Mike's running with the third team," Claiborne said. "We had him throwing the ball at a target the other day for a little while and when he was finished, his arm came up sore. He just hasn't progressed like we want him to."
Tice was injured the final day of spring practice when he separated his right shoulder. the 6-foot-7, 230-pound junior was operated on and initial reports said he would be healed by the time summer practice started.
But Tice came to practice 10 days ago saying he could throw no further than 30 yards. "I should be 100 percent in about 10 days," he said then.
But now, 10 days later, the pain remains and Claiborne has been running sophomores Bob Milkovich and Brent Dewitz as the first two quarterbacks.
"Right now, Milkovich is the starting quarterback," Claiborne said. "I still haven't thought about a starting quarterback for Villanova (Sept. 8). It's too early for that. But the way things are now, if Mike Tice can get healthy, it's a bonus for us. We're not counting on anything right now."
With Tice hurt and tailback George Scott out of school, two-thirds of the starting backfield Claiborne was counting on is sidelined. The starting backfield now consists of Milkovich, who never thrown a pass in a varsity game, sophomore Charlie Wysocki at tailback and junior Jeff Rodenberger at fullback. Both running backs have extremely limited experience.
Atlantic Coast Conference sportswriters and coaches have picked North Carolina State to win the title. Maryland was picked second by writers, and third by coaches behind North Carolina. Defending champion Clemson, which had the league's best recruiting year, was picked fourth, with Duke fifth. Virginia sixth and Wake Forest last.