November 8, 2013
Healing Terps take on Cuse
The last time Maryland took the field, the list of players on their injury report could have fielded its own football team. The Terps limped into play against Clemson down 21 names, nine of which were gone for the year, and lost 40-27 at home.
Those nine aren't going to help the Terps in their final four games, but the injury report the team released yesterday is infinitely more manageable, and perhaps most important, no longer includes quarterback C.J. Brown or leading rusher Brandon Ross.
"We've got a chance to work on some things and get some guys back in the fold," said head coach Randy Edsall on Tuesday, whose team is coming off their second bye of the season. "We'll see how the rest of the guys do this week with practice and we'll see where we are with these injuries coming back."
Beyond the nine Terps that are done for the season, only wideout Tyrek Cheeseboro, linebacker Cole Farrand and defensive back Jeremiah Johnson have been ruled out for Saturday afternoon's matchup with Syracuse. While no team likes being without 12 players for a critical conference game at home, it sounds a lot better than 21.
Brown has played about a half's worth of snaps since he was concussed on October 5 against Florida State. While the team's training staff is closely monitoring him, Edsall indicated that senior quarterback should be good to go on Saturday barring any setbacks this week in practice.
"The biggest thing is just not losing a step," Brown said about missing so much time. "Anytime you get dinged up throughout the season, you need to be out there taking care of your body and going through the right precautions. Everyone is out there each week getting better, so when you're not out there you need to take those mental reps so when you come back out you're not missing a step."
It's not an accident that Brown's injury coincided with the Terps most disappointing stretch of the season: his arm and legs makes Maryland's read-option attack go. The 6-foot-3 senior led the Terps to a 4-0 record before being knocked out of the game against the Noles. Now at 5-3 and coming off two straight losses, Maryland needs Brown to right the ship.
"[The losses] definitely help you step back and look at yourself in the mirror and figure out how we're going to fix this," he said. "We still have four games left in the year so we can still write our own story."
While getting their signal caller back is sure to provide a boost, the Terps are still without Stefon Diggs and Deon Long, their pair of star wideouts who both suffered broken legs against Wake Forest. The Terrapins have become experts at turning negatives into positives. As sophomore pass catcher Nigel King sees it, with injuries comes opportunity.
"I feel like the ball can be spread around more now than it was before," King said, who had the inside track on a starting job this summer before his season was interrupted by several nagging injuries.
With the injuries to Diggs and Long, King's role has expanded from red zone threat to starter. Against Clemson, the 6-foot-3 sophomore hauled in five catches for 76 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown catch nine seconds before the final buzzer. While the seven points didn't affect the outcome, it's assured King of his health and reminded him of the talent that got him to Maryland in the first place.
"I feel like I am back to where I used to be," King said. "I was watching film of the first two games yesterday so I feel like watching the Clemson game, I am back to where I was. I feel one hundred percent."
"Just staying consistent and being the playmaker I can be. I feel like I haven't stepped up and been the player I could have been out of high school, so now is my chance."
Saturday is also a chance for the Terps to get to six wins, ensuring bowl eligibility for Edsall for the first time in his three years at the helm in College Park. Injuries have derailed any thoughts of grandeur for Edsall's bunch, but one more win will go a long way in salvaging what once looked like a special year.
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