After gloomy '02, Perry's forecast brighter


Often-injured tailback regains his health, focus

College Football

April 16, 2003|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - For a change, good news about Bruce Perry is easy to find these days.

Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen uses words like healthy and mature when describing his tailback, who has not been a star in quite some time.

The 2001 season that elevated the Philadelphia native to A-list status - 1,242 rushing yards and an Atlantic Coast Conference Offensive Player of the Year award - wrapped up about 16 months ago, leading into a baffling 2002 highlighted by abdominal, groin and shoulder injuries that kept him out of action for nearly 10 months.

As the end of spring practice nears, with the Red-White scrimmage on April 26, the hope exists that Perry might resume the dominance he enjoyed in his first year as a starter.

"Bruce has had a solid spring," Friedgen said. "He's really matured a lot. ... I've been impressed this entire spring."

Perry admits that last year was frustrating, even as he became a father in September. Hamstrings bothered him before the 2001 season, but only All-America linebacker E.J. Henderson glistened brighter during Maryland's drive to an ACC title.

Perry's abdominal condition surfaced in practices the month before the Orange Bowl and kept him out of the 2002 spring practice. But many thought he would bounce back much like he did from the hamstring injuries. He healed - after eight months - but then injured his groin muscle less than two weeks before the season opener.

He didn't return until the eighth game, and Perry said the questions about his health were grated on him.

" `How do you feel, how do you feel?' - that stuff wears down on you," he said.

Some things are the same with Perry as they were two years ago. He is the top tailback at Maryland now, as Chris Downs finished last year and Josh Allen has a groin injury.

Other things are different. With his senior year approaching, he needs to prove he's NFL material, while keeping his daughter, Kaylah, in mind.

"You realize that someone's depending on you," said Perry, who anticipates graduating in December. "It helps you grow up. It makes you a man. I'm not saying that having a child will do that, but it brings certain things to life."

Suter's knee progressing

Steve Suter, the North Carroll graduate who tied an NCAA record last season by returning four punts for touchdowns, said he might be recovered by next week. The junior had surgery on his left knee on April 5 and began running full speed last week, though he is leery of jinxing himself.

"I don't want to get too gung-ho and end up doing something worse to it, thinking that I'm 100 percent," he said.

Friedgen said he wouldn't rule out Suter's playing in the Red-White game.

Et cetera

Linebacker Randy Earle, a 2002 signee from Farmingdale, N.Y., who sat out his freshman year as a redshirt, has left school for personal reasons, though Maryland left the door open for his return this summer. ... After Scott McBrien, the quarterback situation remains murky, with Orlando Evans, Sam Hollenbach and Joel Statham contending for the No. 2 spot. Statham entered the spring as the favorite but lagged behind the other two until a strong performance at a scrimmage Saturday.

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