Injury concerns at tight end and linebacker
Tight end and linebacker were two units that caused Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen the least anxiety at the start of training camp because of the depth he envisioned at both positions.
But after a rash of injuries, the Terrapins are preparing to play the season opener against Navy on Sept. 6 without a number of players who were expected to figure in on both units.
The more significant problem exists at tight end because Maryland will open the season without their two most experienced players. Sophomore Devonte Campbell, who played in 10 games and caught five passes last season, had returned from a concussion that recently kept him out of practice but now will be out two to four more weeks because of an MCL strain suffered Monday.
Junior Lansford Watson, who has 17 receptions the past two seasons, underwent season-ending knee surgery Tuesday. Friedgen had initially hoped that Watson could play through the season with a brace despite a partially torn MCL. But further evaluation revealed that Watson also had a torn ACL and significant cartilage damage.
“We don’t have a lot of tight ends,” Friedgen said.
The Terrapins will rely on two guys with little experience against the Midshipmen, sophomore Matt Furstenburg and redshirt freshman Dave Stinebaugh. Furstenburg started last season’s opener against California, played in 11 games but caught one pass all season. Stinebaugh has not played in a game.
“Furstenburg is playing the best he has ever played,” Friedgen said of the Flemington, N.J., native who had a touchdown in Monday’s scrimmage. “Stinebaugh has really improved. He is not a finished product, but he is a lot further along than I thought he would be. They will need to play a lot of football for us.”
At linebacker, sophomore Avery Murray’s departure for personal reasons and junior Ben Pooler’s season-ending knee injury has forced coaches to shuffle around players to compensate. Murray had been the backup middle linebacker, while Pooler was the backup weak-side linebacker.
Freshman David Mackall, who has impressed coaches throughout camp, has been moved from strong-side to middle linebacker, where he will be No. 2 behind senior Alex Wujciak. Sophomore Ryan Donohue, who led all players with 10 tackles in Monday’s scrimmage, is the No. 2 weak-side linebacker behind Demetrius Hartsfield, but Donohue is versatile enough to play both weak-side and middle linebacker positions.
“He is becoming pretty valuable because he can play either position,” Friedgen said. “I think he is much improved from where he was last year.”
Meantime, junior cornerback Cameron Chism engaged in individual drills Tuesday and is close to returning to practice after sitting out for about a week with a pulled hamstring.
In Chism’s absence, redshirt freshman Avery Graham has played well, Friedgen said, and had three pass breakups in Monday’s scrimmage. At the other cornerback slot, redshirt freshman Dexter McDougle has taken a slight lead over junior Trenton Hughes, but both will play a lot. In Monday’s scrimmage, McDougle had a 21-yard interception return for a touchdown and Hughes had a 22-yard fumble return for a score.
“We have had some adversity with tight ends, linebackers and also our corners,” Friedgen said. “But it’s also been an opportunity for our younger players.”
Looking for answers to his place kicking concerns, Friedgen had punter Travis Baltz perform some place kicking duties in Monday’s scrimmage along with sophomore and returning starter Nick Ferrara, who has been inconsistent throughout training camp. Friedgen said this is his biggest positional concern of camp right now …
Friedgen said Maryland practiced well one day after Monday’s 137-play penalty-ridden scrimmage that the coach had called “sloppy as hell.” …
Interim Athletic Director Randy Eaton said he is optimistic that negotiations with Texas for a home-and-home series can be completed by the end of September. The two schools are looking to play a game in Austin and a game in the Washington area, likely between 2016 and 2019.