MORE INJURIES: An already crowded sick bay expanded yesterday: top tailback Mario Merrills missed practice with an ankle sprain, top fullback Ricardo Dickerson was out with a sprained knee and backup linebacker Erin Henderson learned he has a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee that likely will end his season.

Henderson, the brother of former Maryland star E.J. Henderson, had been playing well during camp and would have been a top reserve on the Terps' strongest defensive unit. He was the third Maryland player to suffer a torn ACL in the first eight days of camp, joining left tackle Stephon Heyer and reserve tailback T.D. Callahan.

"This hasn't been one of my better weeks," said Coach Ralph Friedgen, who said he had trouble sleeping Monday night because of the spate of injuries.

Merrills's ankle was in a protective boot yesterday, and Friedgen said he expected the senior to return within two weeks.

"Right now, anything that's not an ACL looks pretty good," quipped offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe.

With Merrills out, sophomore Keon Lattimore worked with the first team yesterday. Lattimore, the half-brother of Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, had seven carries for 15 yards last season, but he has impressed coaches since April, when he gained 59 yards and scored two touchdowns during the spring game.

"It's a situation that you don't want to see, but it's definitely a great opportunity," Lattimore said. "No pressure at all. I had a great summer, I know the playbook, I know what we're trying to get done. It's the same thing when Mario is here. I'm going to do the same thing now that he's gone, but I've just got to step up to the plate."

Offensive linemen Scott Burley (back) and Russell Bonham (stinger) were kept out of practice, and senior tight end Derek Miller worked with the first string at left tackle. Miller is perhaps undersized for the position at 6 feet 8 and 268 pounds, and Friedgen had been pleased with his performance at tight end this summer, but the coaching staff felt the move was at least temporarily necessary.

That switch also was made easier by the strong play of redshirt freshman tight end Dan Gronkowski, who will fill in for Miller as the second tight end behind Vernon Davis.

-- Dan Steinberg


LITTLE BIG MAN: At 5-6 and 164 pounds, Reggie Campbell is the shortest player on Navy's roster, but the sophomore slot back has made a big impression during practice. Campbell opened the preseason on the second string but is now atop the depth chart with senior Marco Nelson.

Campbell had three carries for 21 yards, including a two-yard touchdown run to cap the first-team offense's 16-play, 70-yard drive in the team's scrimmage Saturday. Campbell also caught a pass for 15 yards.

"I'll tell you who is playing his ever-living tail off is Reggie Campbell," Coach Paul Johnson said. "He is really playing good, and I'm talking about blocking, catching, running, everything."

The ascension of Campbell, who had just four carries for 48 yards last year, comes as a surprise. Junior Trey Hines had 20 carries for 113 yards last fall -- the second-highest total among returning players -- but is now the third-string fullback.

Hines "didn't work as hard over the summer and he came in out of shape," Johnson said. "Reggie Campbell is playing great. Marco Nelson is playing pretty good. Give those guys some credit."

-- Jon Gallo