COLLEGE PARK — — First, Maryland tight end Will Yeatman broke a finger. Then fellow tight end Devonte Campbell went down with an assortment of injuries, beginning with a concussion.
Now it's believed that tight end Dave Stinebaugh (Perry Hall) has a medial collateral ligament injury. "If it's not operated on, they think [he's out] four to six weeks," coach Ralph Friedgen said Wednesday during his Atlantic Coast Conference media conference call.
Stinebaugh, a redshirt freshman, had moved up the depth chart because of injuries to others, and has impressed coaches. He has four catches for 42 yards.
Yeatman has been playing with a club-like cast on his hand that looks imposing but limits his pass-catching ability.
Coaches are hoping to get Campbell back for the Clemson game Oct. 16.
This is Maryland's bye week — a good thing for the team given the injuries. The Terps (4-1, 1-0 ACC) are hoping to get receiver-returner Torrey Smith back to full strength. Smith says he's fine, but he was limited in practice last week by a sore ankle. He had two catches for 50 yards and three kickoff returns for 55 yards in Saturday's 21-16 victory over Duke.
Surprising struggles on kickoff returns
Friedgen never imagined that kickoff returns would be a problem this season. Not after last year, when Smith, a preseason All-ACC pick, set a Maryland single-season record with 2,192 all-purpose yards.
But this year, Smith is averaging 18.6 yards per return compared to his career average of 25.8 entering the season.
Smith pulled up noticeably in the end zone after catching a 68-yard touchdown pass from Danny O'Brien against Florida International on Sept. 25. He said after the game he had just been " Jim Brown-ing it," a reference to the iconic former NFL running back who made a habit of getting up slowly after tackles. But a sore ankle limited Smith in practice.
Also limiting Smith's returns may be blocking inconsistency. Injuries have forced a number of personnel changes on special teams since the season opener against Navy.
Conflicting stats for Terps' defense
The statistics seem puzzling at first glance. How can Maryland — which ranks last in the ACC in opponent third-down conversions (44.8 percent) — lead the conference in red zone defense?
Defensive coordinator Don Brown has a theory.
Brown says red-zone scoring is entirely different than moving the ball between the 20-yard-lines.
"Some teams make their living throwing the football. When the field shrinks, things get tougher," Brown said.
Maryland has excelled at forcing red-zone turnovers — a pattern that began in the season-opening win over Navy.
The Terps have recovered three fumbles and made two interceptions in the red zone, and have twice forced the opponent to turn the ball over on downs.