Perry's return possible vs. Duke

MARYLAND NOTEBOOK

Workout boosts chances 2001 star will finally play

College Football

October 23, 2002|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- The possibility of Bruce Perry's return beckons again as the 4-2 Maryland football team prepares for its Saturday game at Duke (2-5).

Perry had a strong Monday night practice, and the team's coaching staff is hopeful he might play for the first time since a hobbled performance against Florida in the Jan. 2 Orange Bowl.

"He played the best he has since the injury," said coach Ralph Friedgen, whose team hopes to improve its 1-1 league record. "It will be important how he is today after last night."

The day after has rarely been an ally for Perry, who ran for 1,242 yards and 10 touchdowns last year while earning Offensive Player of the Year honors in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

This year, an abdominal injury kept him out of spring practice. He recovered for summer workouts, then relapsed. He came back in time for the beginning of fall camp -- advertised to be as good as ever -- only to get injured on the second day.

The abdominal issue subsided as the season opener approached, but Perry suffered a severe groin injury that was supposed to keep him out for four to eight weeks. Since then, his status has run the gamut from dressing for the Florida State game last month to his mulling the pursuit of a possible medical redshirt, which would allow for another year of eligibility.

So, when Friedgen was asked about Perry's chances of playing, the coach was cautious.

"I've been down that road before," Friedgen said. "I was encouraged by what I saw from him last night, but we'll have to see on Thursday."

Since a rocky start for the running game, the Terps have improved over the past four weeks. After defeating cupcakes, Wofford and Eastern Michigan, and third-tier opponents West Virginia and Georgia Tech, the team is now in the middle third of the ACC teams, averaging 172.4 rushing yards per game.

Chris Downs, named the league's Offensive Back of the Week on Monday, leads the ACC's rushing standings (131.0 yards per game) after running for 212 last week against Tech.

Yet, Downs has said Perry's return would only help against the Blue Devils (0-4 ACC), acknowledging that his fellow Philadelphian is better in most areas.

"As soon as we get Bruce back, it will get the offense better," Downs said. "He catches the ball better out of the backfield, his protection is better and he runs better decisions on the holes."

Morale boost

Trying to keep his confidence earlier this year, offensive lineman Kyle Schmitt seemed to strengthen it last week in the 34-10 rout of Georgia Tech.

At center, he was in the middle of a unit that ran for nearly 200 yards after halftime.

This is exactly as it was supposed to be. The sophomore came out of last season all but crowned as Melvin Fowler's successor at center, having played well in a reserve role.

But after a few days of August practice, the Terps were shuffling the line, and Schmitt went from being a possible cornerstone to a fill-in -- to put the best five linemen on the field, as it was explained.

"I knew I would do the job, but you do question yourself," he said.

He did get to start against Eastern Michigan on Sept. 21, but his first genuine start came Thursday. Dehydration took right tackle Matt Crawford out of the starting lineup, forcing another shake-up that sent regular center Todd Wike back to his natural left guard position and Schmitt into the lineup at center.

Now, he could remain as a starter as long as he can shake off a nerve injury from that game.

"That gave me confidence that I could go out against a solid ACC team," Schmitt said. "I just wanted to show the coaches that I could do the job."

Cochran doubtful

Jamal Cochran, Maryland's rush linebacker, was downgraded from questionable to doubtful for Saturday's game. The senior, who has 45 tackles and three sacks this season, suffered a hamstring injury during the Georgia Tech game.

Next for Terps

Opponent:Duke

Site:Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham, N.C.

When:Saturday, 1 p.m.

Radio:WBAL (1090 AM)

Line:Maryland by 13

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