With the Terps' quarterbacks and wide receivers continuing to exceed expectations, Coach Ralph Friedgen has focused his attention on a sometimes stagnant running game that averaged 2.5 yards per carry during Saturday's scrimmage.
Each of the team's three leading tailbacks -- Mario Merrills, Keon Lattimore and Lance Ball -- are in the mix to earn carries during the Sept. 3 opener against Navy, and the first goal Friedgen listed for today's final preseason scrimmage is to reestablish the run.
It's a pledge that has been oft repeated this month after the Terps averaged 2.9 yards per carry last year, 10th in the ACC. But injuries have slowed the offensive line's progress, and plans to toughen up the attack with a fullback similarly have been disrupted by health problems.
Ricardo Dickerson has been in and out of practice with a knee sprain, and while he was on the field yesterday, he remains at about 85 percent, Friedgen said. Dickerson's backup, Tim Cesa, still has not practiced because of mononucleosis and could miss the opener, while redshirt freshman Matt Deese is recuperating from minor surgery on his knee.
That left walk-on Robert Petty and former tight end Brad Schell getting most of the work in Saturday's scrimmage. And with Merrills temporarily sidelined by an ankle sprain, the Terps' tailbacks had 31 carries for 78 yards.
Freshman wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, one of the team's biggest preseason standouts, sprained his left ankle yesterday evening and will be reevaluated today.
The line's health, though, has improved this week, and Merrills -- the lightest of the three backs at 203 pounds -- rammed the ball into the end zone four times in a goal-line drill Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Friedgen has continued to praise quarterback Sam Hollenbach; yesterday, he said the junior quarterback has had "an extraordinary camp." . . .
Several positional disputes could be settled today. Ryan McDonald and Edwin Williams continue to split snaps at center, while Christian Varner, J.J. Justice, Milton Harris and Marcus Wimbush are all competing for time at safety. The toughest decision could come at place kicker, where Dan Ennis and Obi Egekeze have mirrored each other's performances: Both were strong on Saturday, both kicked poorly yesterday. Friedgen said that choice might not be made until the day of the Navy game, and that both kickers could potentially be used depending on the situation.
-- Dan Steinberg
Coach Paul Johnson moved freshman Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada from quarterback to receiver, which makes junior Brian Hampton the backup to Lamar Owens followed by freshman Joe Taylor.
Taylor's performance in Saturday's scrimmage, during which he completed four of 10 passes for 38 yards -- highlighted by a 12-yard touchdown pass to junior Garth Davidson -- earned him the spot behind Hampton.
Hampton, who guided the second-team offense to a touchdown when he scored on a two-yard run, finished with 15 yards rushing on seven carries and completed six of 14 passes for 89 yards.
Kaheaku-Enhada remains in the team's future at the position, but Johnson wants to find a way to get him on the field soon, because he is one the team's quickest players.
-- Jon Gallo
Coach Al Groh said he probably won't decide on a starting punter until the Sept. 3 opener against Western Michigan in Scott Stadium. Neither sophomore Chris Gould nor junior college transfer Ryan Weigand has pulled away in the competition. Some punts "have been high and long; some short and low," Groh said. "That's what they have in common."
Sophomore Duane Brown, a backup tight end two weeks ago, has apparently won the right tackle spot. The Hokies have moved senior Reggie Butler to left guard, where he's battling junior Brandon Gore. "I'd say the odds are very good" that Brown starts at right tackle in the Sept. 4 opener at North Carolina State, Hokies Coach Frank Beamer said.
-- Mark Schlabach