Maryland quarterback Chris Kelley likely will undergo surgery to repair the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and could miss all of the 2002 football season, the school announced yesterday.
Dr. Leigh Ann Curl, physician for the school's athletic teams, confirmed that Kelley's ACL was completely torn as a result of damage suffered early in Saturday's Red-White scrimmage.
The sophomore from Germantown slipped when he attempted to cut past cornerback Domonique Foxworth on the Byrd Stadium turf.
Kelley is expected to have knee surgery within the next two weeks when the joint has a fuller range of motion. Whether he applies to the NCAA for a medical redshirt (which would give him an additional year of eligibility) will depend on whether he is able to return to action this season.
"We're talking about an eight- to 12-month time frame for them [knees] to perform at the same level," Curl said. "It's going to be tough no matter what we do, and any time you want to push the envelope, we do worry about re-injury."
This is the third major knee injury for Kelley, a highly coveted prospect out of Seneca Valley High who turned down Nebraska, among others, to sign with the Terrapins in 2000. His high hopes first took a hit that summer, when he suffered a torn ACL in his left knee during the Super 44 high school all-star game in College Park.
After sitting out his first year to rehab the injury, he appeared capable of backing up Shaun Hill during his redshirt freshman season - performing well in spring practices and in summer workouts - before he tore the ACL in his left knee again in August in an accident involving a modified surfboard.
With Hill gone and last year's backup, Latrez Harrison, moved to wide receiver, Kelley had his best opportunity so far when spring practice began.
Scott McBrien and Orlando Evans would have battled for the starting job for at least 10 days into August's preseason practices, but Kelley had the initial edge this month because he has good arm strength, superior speed and knowledge of coach Ralph Friedgen's offense.
Kelley had briefly slipped behind McBrien during the third week of practices, but returned to the top of the depth chart last week and had completed three of six passes while rushing for 19 yards on three carries before he got hurt again.
"I am very disappointed for Chris," Friedgen said. "He has worked so hard over the course of the past year to rehabilitate the injury in his other knee. ... I feel very much for him and hope the best for a successful recovery."
It is possible that Kelley could opt not to have surgery and still play in 2002. Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell has played with a torn ACL in recent years, and Virginia Tech starting quarterback Grant Noel -injured this month in a practice - wants to try the same thing this season without surgery.
However, with Kelley's speed at issue, surgery is likely a better option than playing on a knee that would severely limit him.
While one can play with a torn ACL, "you lose one of the major stabilizers of the knee," said the school's trainer, Sandy Worth. "It's a little more unstable on cutting, pivoting, changing direction, lateral movement, backpedaling. ... You want to give them the best opportunity to play the best they possibly can."
Kelley's injury introduces questions about the Terrapins' depth at quarterback, the same way it did last year when the team entered the season with Hill and Harrison as the only legitimate quarterbacks.
With Kelley gone, McBrien probably will be No. 1 on the depth chart when the upperclassmen begin practicing Aug. 10, with Evans as the challenger. Hunter Cross was the fourth quarterback this spring, and freshmen Sam Hollenbach and Joel Statham will join the team this fall.
McBrien, a DeMatha grad who went to West Virginia for two years (playing one) before transferring to Maryland in August, was the team's best passer during spring drills and completed 13 of 20 throws during the spring game.
He played in 10 games at West Virginia during his sophomore year, completing 42 of 99 passes with three touchdowns and three interceptions.