COLLEGE PARK -- The likely absence of senior right tackle Matt Crawford tomorrow night will force the Maryland Terrapins to take on Georgia Tech with a new-look offensive line.
As Crawford recovers from an illness he contracted last weekend, the Terps are planning to face the Yellow Jackets with a line featuring one new face and three other players shifting positions.
For the past four practices, left tackle Eric Dumas has worked in Crawford's spot, left guard C.J. Brooks has slid to left tackle and center Todd Wike has moved to left guard and been replaced by backup Kyle Schmitt. Only right guard Lamar Bryant is in his customary position.
Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said the changes became necessary after Crawford became sick and began vomiting last Friday and was hospitalized overnight. Crawford was back on campus by Saturday afternoon, undergoing magnetic resonance imaging and blood tests. Friedgen said he was awaiting the blood test results last night.
"The doctors told me his white blood cell count was down, which could mean an infection," said Friedgen, who did not rule out Crawford playing tomorrow night. "Matt was out at practice [on Monday]. He's doing better, but we'll have to wait and see."
Crawford is one of only six seniors in Maryland's starting lineup. Except for Wike missing the Eastern Michigan game on Sept. 21 with a concussion -- Schmitt started in his place -- the Terps have started a left-to-right combination of Dumas, Brooks, Wike, Bryant and Crawford in every game.
When asked if the line reshuffling could affect the timing of an offense that has become more in sync in recent weeks, Friedgen said, "It probably concerns [offensive line] coach [Tom] Brattan more than it concerns me. I'll be more concerned if we get one other guy hurt. I haven't been disappointed with our line [in practice] this week.
"When you put guys in different positions, one guy changes four people. But to get the best five guys on the field, that's what we've got to do. It's what we have to do to provide depth on our line."
The adjustments will send Wike and Brooks back to their positions from a year ago.
"I feel great going back to left guard, and C.J. feels good going back to tackle. We've both been practicing well at our old positions," Wike said. "When [Crawford] went to the hospital, I was worried, but he seems to be getting better every day. I talked to him at practice on Monday, and he was feeling better than the day before."
A lot alike
Maryland and Georgia Tech are similar in more ways than one. Each is 4-2, each is getting along without its top running back, and each is leaning on freshmen in the backfield as a result.
Maryland has played without junior Bruce Perry, last season's Atlantic Coast Conference Offensive Player of the Year. Perry, still recovering from a torn groin muscle suffered nearly two months ago, has practiced on a limited basis the past two days and is doubtful for tomorrow's game.
"His endurance is just not there yet," Friedgen said. "He took six or seven reps in team [drills] on Monday, and he was still dragging his leg at the end of practice. I think he's about 90 percent. I doubt seriously whether he'll play."
Along with senior Chris Downs, the Terps have gotten a big lift from freshman tailback Josh Allen, who is averaging 6.6 yards on 40 carries and is second on the team with five touchdowns.
Georgia Tech junior tailback Tony Hollings, a converted safety, had averaged 6.9 yards on 92 carries with 11 touchdowns before suffering a season-ending knee injury against Brigham Young on Sept. 21. He has been replaced by freshman Ajenavi Eziemefe, who has rushed for 221 yards and two touchdowns on 52 carries.
Traffic, parking concerns
The University of Maryland is encouraging fans to begin arriving as early as 4 p.m. for tomorrow's 7:45 p.m. game to spread out what's expected to be a heavy rush-hour traffic load. The school also will have increased security, including heightened police presence inside and outside of Byrd Stadium and more patrols by campus police on campus parking lots.
Because of traffic and parking concerns tomorrow, Maryland's previously scheduled intrasquad basketball scrimmage at Comcast Center has been closed to the public. Another scrimmage will take place at 7 p.m. Oct. 30. It is free and open to the public.