Henderson, Perry out of Terps' spring camp

Injuries shelve stars

3 vying for QB job

College Football

April 05, 2002|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - As the Maryland football team opened spring practice yesterday coming off an Atlantic Coast Conference title, it did so without its two best players, linebacker E.J. Henderson and running back Bruce Perry.

Henderson, voted the ACC's top player last season, might miss the season opener after undergoing surgery to remove bone spurs in his back. Perry, the league's top offensive player last year, will sit out the spring session to remedy an abdominal injury for which a cause has not been determined.

For a team needing to replace nine starters from last season, the loss of Henderson and Perry only toughens the task of repeating the 10-2 record Maryland achieved in its first season under coach Ralph Friedgen. The pair joins linebacker Mike Whaley and receiver Jafar Williams - both academically ineligible - in a group of four starters (and nine returning players overall) who will miss spring practice.

Henderson was the ACC's Defensive Player of the Year and was voted the top player overall in the league after recording 150 tackles in the 2001 season, including 25 for lost yardage. He was injured during preparation for the Orange Bowl and did not decide to undergo surgery until earlier this week.

"I thought it would clear up on its own," said Henderson, explaining why he didn't look into surgery sooner. He'll undergo his operation next week with a specialist in Charlotte, N.C. "I'm just trying to get it right before the season comes. I just want to make sure I was OK."

The injury, which might force Henderson to miss the season opener against Notre Dame on Aug. 31, could have been part of the reason he returned for his senior year despite indications that he would have been a high choice in the April 20 NFL draft.

Neither Henderson nor Friedgen anticipates that the star linebacker will be unable to play this season, but the coach is lining up reinforcements with the loss of seniors Aaron Thompson and Marlon Moye-Moore from the 2001 team.

Bernie Fiddler, stuck in a logjam at fullback last year, is getting a tryout at linebacker, and the Terps signed five linebackers among their 22-player incoming class.

"Now's the time to do it," Friedgen said of the experimentation with players at different positions, which includes Latrez Harrison's move from quarterback to wide receiver. "Let's see what [Fiddler] can do. If he can help us, it will help our football team."

Like Henderson, Perry played through his injury in the Orange Bowl, in which he was limited to 22 yards on 11 carries, after gaining 1,242 yards and scoring 10 touchdowns in a breakout campaign for the Terrapins.

Perry, who had 30 total carries heading into last season, established himself as a game-breaking runner over the first five games of 2001, then as a dependable receiver out of the backfield in the last five.

The prognosis for the junior from Philadelphia is more optimistic, and he is expected to be back in time for the fall camp, which will begin in late July or early August. While he recovers, the top back probably will be sophomore Jason Crawford, who was projected as a starter at this time last year before proving to be greener than expected.

So when Friedgen was asked of his wishes for his 55th birthday (celebrated yesterday), he said, "More players." At the end of last season, the major question was who would succeed Shaun Hill as quarterback, and that hasn't subsided even with Harrison's move.

Redshirt sophomore Chris Kelley, hampered by knee injuries in 2000 and 2001, begins camp as the leader, flanked by a pair of transfers, Scott McBrien from West Virginia and Orlando Evans from City College of San Francisco.

"We're just concentrating on trying to learn the offense," said McBrien, who played at DeMatha High and, with 10 appearances for the Mountaineers in 2000, has more game experience than Evans or Kelley, whose edge comes in the knowledge of Friedgen's system. "Chris Kelley has a heads up, but we're working together because if one guy goes down, someone else has to step up."

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