His pain gone, Fenner receptive to game role

Appendicitis is history

Perry is likely to start

Gator Bowl notebook

College Football

December 28, 2003|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- If there were any lingering questions about the health of Maryland wide receiver Derrick Fenner, he answered them near the end of the Terps' first Gator Bowl practice yesterday at Jacksonville University.

Fenner, who missed the last three weeks of the regular season after having his appendix removed, grabbed an 80-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Scott McBrien during Maryland's two-minute offense, and looked as fast as ever.

His return should give the Terps an additional deep threat when they meet West Virginia on Thursday. During the regular season, Fenner had just 10 catches, but averaged 29.8 yards a reception.

"The doctor said it would take like six weeks [to get healthy], so I'm just happy to be back for the bowl game," Fenner said.

A sophomore, Fenner is still raw when it comes to running routes and reading defenses, but there's no denying his speed and ability. Against Clemson on Oct. 4, he caught a 69-yard touchdown pass in a 21-7 win, and caught a 55-yard pass against North Carolina on Nov. 1.

But during the week leading up to Maryland's game against Virginia, he felt like something wasn't quite right.

"One night after practice, I just had a sharp pain in the right side of my stomach," Fenner said. "My girlfriend took me to the doctor, and they told me it was my appendix. It was painful. It was probably the worst [pain] I've ever had."

Sitting out for a month and a half wasn't much fun, either, but Fenner is thrilled to be playing again. Yesterday was just his third practice since surgery.

"I'm back at full strength and I'm ready to do whatever it takes," Fenner said.

`We owe it to Bruce'

Coach Ralph Friedgen said yesterday he expects running back Bruce Perry to be his starter against West Virginia. Perry, who has battled ankle injuries all season and started just four games, rushed for 237 yards and two touchdowns in Maryland's last game, against Wake Forest.

"I think we owe it to Bruce, this being his last game," Friedgen said. "I think Josh [Allen] understands that. But both of them will play."

Gronkowski joins in

There was one new face among Maryland's players yesterday. Freshman Dan Gronkowski, a 6-foot-6, 250-pound quarterback from Buffalo, N.Y., made his first appearance.

Gronkowski is what is referred to as a grayshirt -- a high school player who delays his enrollment a semester while waiting for a scholarship to open up the second semester. Gronkowski practiced with the quarterbacks, but could eventually be moved to tight end.

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