COLLEGE PARK - Downtime is scarce these days for left tackle Stephon Heyer, who spent three years trying to earn playing time in high school but seems to be playing his way into a starting position on Maryland's offensive line.
With sophomore Kyle Schmitt developing more slowly than expected at center - and backup Ed Tyler out for the next four weeks - Heyer could move into the rotation. Sophomore C.J. Brooks could move to left guard, and Todd Wike, an All-Atlantic Coast Conference first-team at left guard last year, could shift to center.
Heyer said he can look to Brooks, who played every game at left tackle last year. And for object lessons, he can look to defensive end Durrand Roundtree, his opponent in most practices.
"Roundtree's given me some trouble, but it's the kind of work that I need," Heyer said. "It's something I'll need if I ever get in."
It's heady stuff for a player who expected to sit out this season as a redshirt and have four years of eligibility beginning in 2003.
"I knew that I wasn't proper size for a lineman," said Heyer, who is 6 feet 6 but weighs 290 pounds, which is about 20 pounds lighter than major-college tackles. "Then, I realized that I do have a chance to play."
Heyer, from Brookwood, Ga., has gotten good reviews from Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen.
"He's like this little boy," Friedgen said. "Then he goes out and puts his helmet on and he looks like a man."
Indeed, the baby fat shows on Heyer's face. But the coach was pleased to see the player arrive in College Park bench-pressing 365 pounds - despite long arms and with better technique than other freshmen at this stage.
Moreover, Heyer assigns a certain gravity to what he's trying to do: make the leap from being a reserve on the defensive line for three years in high school to helping maintain the success the Terrapins' line had last season.
"I have seniors I have to perform for," he said. "I would have told Coach Friedgen right away if I didn't feel I could do it. It's not right for me to destroy the season for everyone else."
QB decision due
Maryland will decide its quarterback situation by tomorrow, the 10th day of fall camp, if Friedgen follows his self-imposed guideline. Friedgen said both Chris Kelley and Scott McBrien have played well this month.
McBrien is a junior who played at DeMatha in Hyattsville and West Virginia before arriving in College Park. Kelley, a sophomore, is a former star at Seneca Valley in Germantown who has recovered from his third severe knee injury.
"This is very close," Friedgen said. "If it stays close, I wouldn't be opposed to playing both. Both bring something to the table."
Offensive lineman Nate Clayton, who played at City College, has sat out practice most of this past week with a neck injury that could be "career threatening," said Friedgen.
Clayton, a 6-5, 310-pound freshman who was an All-Metro pick by The Sun last season, underwent an MRI yesterday in Baltimore to look at a disc that has shifted.
"We don't know if it's a congenital thing or something that just happened," Friedgen said. "From what I know, he didn't hit real hard when he hurt it."
Junior cornerback Curome Cox, a starter for most of the past two seasons, is expected to return to action soon after dislocating the middle finger in his right hand last Monday.
Cox's injury was re-evaluated on Friday, and the swelling has gone down. "It's just a matter of time right now," he said.
Second-year freshman Ricardo Dickerson, expected to challenge Leroy Ambush at one outside linebacker spot, is recovering from a partial tear of his left posterior cruciate ligament. He is expected to return in one to three weeks.