COLLEGE PARK -- The flashes were there for the Byrd Stadium crowd of 27,554 to see. This was the Andre Vaughn who may yet be Maryland's tailback of the future.
On at least two occasions during his brief exposure to Wake Forest last Saturday, Vaughn appeared to be a step from breaking a long gainer. That could have been the measure of how far back he has come from major knee surgery 18 months ago and how far he has to go.
"That's the step he's missing," said running backs coach Tony Whittlesey as the Terps prepared for their visit to Duke Saturday. "He's like a five-gear machine, and he's not out of fourth yet. He's not using all his speed. It's been so long, I guess he forgot how fast he was."
Vaughn, a sophomore out of Oakland Mills High, finished with 53 yards on 10 carries against Wake Forest. He wanted more and said after the game that he implored the coaches to "put me in."
There are several reasons the coaches aren't rushing Vaughn into heavy duty. One is that he's still understandably afraid what a solid hit might do to the knee. Another is that there are other tailbacks on the team, namely Troy Jackson, who rushed for 152 yards against Wake.
"It's tough not to play Troy," said coach Joe Krivak. "It's true that Andre was a step or a tackle from breaking a long one, but he's still tentative. He'll overcome that as he continues to play."
Vaughn has rushed 19 times for 79 yards and returned seven kickoffs for a 22-yard average. His activity against Wake was his most extensive yet.
Vaughn might not have been so determined to come back if he already had a taste of college football. But until this season he hadn't played a down. He was redshirted in 1988 and was recovering from reconstructive knee surgery last fall.
"I never had a chance to play at this level, and that was the biggest driving point," Vaughn said. "If I had played a year or two of college ball, maybe I wouldn't have come back."
The pain during the rehabilitation process "was unbelievable, something I'd never want to go through again."
Still, as Whittlesey noted, Vaughn was not progressing as rapidly as the other tailbacks. For a two-week stretch last month, the coaches switched him to wide receiver.
"We were low on wide receivers at the time and we also wanted to protect Andre's knee," Whittlesey said. "Since we moved him back to running back, he seems to have more confidence. He's getting better every day."
Jackson's 152-yard outburst against Wake raised his rushing total to 470 with four games to go. He's only 12 yards shy of the Maryland high last year set by Ricky Johnson.
Stanley Dorsey, Duke's freshman wide receiver from McDonogh, is a candidate for Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Year.
In his first start, in last week's 49-18 win over Western Carolina, Dorsey caught four passes for 87 yards and two touchdowns. For the season, he has nine receptions for 193 yards and four scores.