Washington's knee sprain means break for Wall in Terps' offense Wilde Lake grad gets chance at superback


COLLEGE PARK -- Maryland's No. 2 running back, Larry Washington, used crutches to walk slowly down the steps to the football fieldhouse. Seconds later, leading rusher Mark Mason came down the same steps, his left arm in a sling.

Mason, who has a fractured left shoulder,is out for the season. Washington said yesterday he does not believe his sprained right knee will be well enough for him to play Saturday against No. 17 Georgia Tech at Byrd Stadium.

The injuries to Washington and Mason -- both hurt in Saturday's 47-34 win over Pittsburgh -- have Maryland coach Mark Duffner shuffling players to fill the "superback" position in his run-and-shoot offense.

Sophomore Doug Burnett is now the No. 1 running back, and the Terps have moved sophomore Raphael Wall, of Wilde Lake High, from safety to No. 2 running back. In another move made late Monday night, junior slot receiver Frank Wycheck also will practice at superback.

Washington, from Randallstown High, had magnetic resonance imaging done yesterday because he might have a ligament tear. The results are expected today. Washington, with his leg in a cast, said that he could walk without pain but that he had not tried any light jogging.

The injury comes after one of Washington's best games at Maryland. Washington, 5 feet 10 and 215 pounds, rushed for 44 yards on seven carries Saturday night after replacing Mason with nearly nine minutes left in the first period.

Washington had to leave the game with 6:34 left in the half because of the injury.

"It was my chance to get a lot of work and get over 100 yards for the first time, and I think I would have gotten it," said Washington, who rushed for 195 yards on 51 carries last year as a freshman. "Then it ends because of a freak accident. But I'll be back. I don't think I'll play this week, but I'll be back."

Duffner said, "It's a shame about Larry, because he was starting to come on.I've never seen one person tackle him, or hit him and knock him backward. It's always the other way around. He's got great power."

Duffner, though, has just as much confidence in Burnett. When Washington left the game, Burnett stepped in to finish with 86 yards on 24 carries.

Burnett also has been in this situation before. When Mason broke his right leg in the fifth game last year, Burnett split playing time with senior Troy Jackson in former coach Joe Krivak's one-back offensive set. He finished with 195 yards on 42 carries.

Burnett doesn't lack confidence.

He's 5-8 and 191 pounds of sculpted muscle. He runs the 40-yard -- in 4.7 and bench-presses 355 pounds. He squats 602.

His nickname is "Juice."

"I'm just happy to be the No. 1 back," said Burnett, who before Saturday night was mostly used in short-yardage situations this season. "I'm ready for the challenge. I really need to carry the ball 10 times or more to get to the top of my game. I think I can do it all. It's just that I had Mark in front of me."

Burnett was behind Wall at one time, but Wall has become Maryland's MVT (Most Valuable Terp). Because of a surplus at running back, Wall was moved to the secondary. He's athletic enough to make the switch.

Last spring, Wall competed at running back but decided to move to the secondary when preseason camp started. He was No. 2 at safety behind senior Scott Rosen when the season started, but was shifted to superback when Washington was suspended for the first two games.

Since then, Wall has been moved back to safety, and now to superback again.

On Saturday, Wall (5-11, 202) will play defense in Maryland's "dime" package as well as fill in for Burnett on offense. He will play on every special team except the punt team.

"In a way, it's an honor to move around, but at times it's very, very mind-boggling," said Wall. "I'd like to become consistent at one position to make a name for myself. Each time I've moved, I had to start over and work my way up [the depth chart]. Sometimes, it's a little hard to stay focused."

But Wall says he is anxious to see what he can do as a runner again.

He and Washington were the two most publicized freshmen a year ago. Like Washington, Wall was not redshirted. He rushed for only 54 yards on 19 carries.

But as a kick returner Saturday night, he displayed the same form that allowed him to rush for 2,063 yards as a high school All-America his senior year. He returned four kickoffs for 114 yards, including one for 44 that set up a touchdown. Wall

has returned 11 kickoffs this season for an average of 24.7 per kick.

Wall has a slashing, accelerating style. He's as fast (4.4 in the 40) as Mason and only a little less powerful than Washington.

"I think God wants me to stay at running back because I keep ending up there," said Wall. "I guess I'm going to be there permanently with Mark and Larry out. It's going to take me a couple of days to get sharp because I haven't had much contact."

Said Duffner: "It may take a little while to shake off the rust, but the great runners are born with that instinct to run. Raphael is very gifted in that area."

Wycheck, a junior and converted H-back, wasn't particularly happy with the move. He has been the odd man out in Duffner's run-and-shoot offense this season, catching eight passes for 85 yards. Wycheck, who is considering jumping to the NFL after this season, is the Terps' career reception leader with 111.

"I was sort of surprised," said Wycheck. "I haven't run out of the backfield since my high school days. It's all kind of weird right now. I guess I'll be used to catch some passes out of the backfield and in short-yardage situations. It's for the team and I'll work as hard as ever when I get in the game."

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