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Terps slowed by nagging injuries

August 15, 2003|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

In this time of preseason practices, coaches try different tactics to get their teams ready for the upcoming football season.

At the University of Maryland, it's pretty certain that coach Ralph Friedgen won't be pushing the Terrapins through any 20-mile hikes anytime soon.

Leg injuries have become the major hurdle for Maryland as it prepares for its 2003 season opener at Northern Illinois on Aug. 28. The little strains and pulls have sidelined a number of Terrapins players, but hasn't lessened the workload Friedgen expects.

"I can't explain it," Friedgen said Wednesday after Maryland's morning drills. "Hamstrings have become the injury du jour. We've got a lot of good kids in and they are getting a lot of experience with all the injuries. You know how I am. I just work with who I've got and when someone gets hurt, I take the next one, give them the flag and send them up the hill."

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Still, there is some concern as the Terps begin to literally limp into the latter stages of the preseason. Ankle problems have sidelined tailback Bruce Perry and receiver Steve Suter and could possibly keep them out of the Northern Illinois game.

"Bruce has a high ankle sprain and could be out for two to six weeks. It all depends on him," Friedgen said. "Suter popped his good and might not make the first game. Most of the rest of the injuries are day-to-day."

Perry was the main cog in Maryland's resurgence in 2001 as the Terps earned a Bowl Championship Series bid in the Orange Bowl. Suter showed explosive versatility as a receiver and kick returner last season to help Maryland build to an 11-3 record, a No. 13 final ranking in the Associated Press poll and a victory in the Peach Bowl.

A number of tailbacks are nursing hamstring pulls or other ailments, leaving Friedgen three tailbacks for drills. Josh Allen, the freshman who made a huge impact last season, is just coming back from injury.

Meanwhile, freshman Lance Ball, a 5-foot-8, 220-pound tailback from Teaneck, N.J., has been given the opportunity to show his abilities because of the misfortunes of others.

"The guy who has been jumping out is Lance Ball," Friedgen said. "He has looked good and has been getting a lot of reps because we only have three tailbacks. He's not little. He's built like a bowling ball and has quick feet. This experience will be valuable to him."

Still, Maryland is at its best when it can put its 15 senior starters on the field. The Terps have the opportunity to set an early tone in the Atlantic Coast Conference, especially since they play at Florida State on Sept. 6 - the second game of the season.

The honest truth is that the Terps have stayed healthy for most of the drills. It's just the leg injuries have cropped up and are everything that they are advertised - as being nagging.

"We have had very little cramping this year compared to the way it's been in the past," Friedgen said. "I like the way we have set things up. We have been giving the kids time to recover (between practices) and been getting liquids into them. It's just the dog days of two-a-days."

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