COLLEGE PARK - While junior tailback Bruce Perry moves closer to a likely return to the Maryland backfield Saturday against visiting Eastern Michigan, Terrapins coach Ralph Friedgen is considering replacing struggling quarterback Scott McBrien with backup Chris Kelley.
"Each of them has their strengths and weaknesses. I'm trying to play the best guy, the guy who can get it done. What I don't want is to get this to be a big issue," Friedgen said.
The Terps' quarterback play through their first three games has been an unpleasant issue for Friedgen.
Maryland (1-2), coming off Saturday's 37-10 loss to Florida State, is ranked last in the nine-team Atlantic Coast Conference in total offense with a 252.7-yard average and last with a passing efficiency rating of 81.0. The Terps have scored a combined 10 points in losses to Notre Dame and Florida State.
McBrien, the fourth-year junior who saw action in 10 games before transferring from West Virginia last year, has had problems making reads, delivering the ball and running the option. In three starts, McBrien has completed 50 percent of his passes while throwing one touchdown in 64 attempts. He has thrown four interceptions.
"I've got to take care of my mental mistakes. Sometimes you worry about mental mistakes, and your mechanics fail. I've got to do my job," McBrien said.
Kelley, a third-year sophomore who has come back from several serious knee injuries, has played a mop-up role in Maryland's first three games. He has completed 10 of 24 passes with three interceptions and no touchdowns.
Friedgen said he planned to divide practice repetitions equally between McBrien and Kelley, giving them the same amount of plays against the first- and second-team defenses. Friedgen also is watching Kelley closely, since he is suffering from a slight abdominal strain.
Each quarterback missed a chance to throw a touchdown pass on Saturday. In the first quarter, McBrien overthrew a wide-open Scooter Monroe on a deep pattern. In the second half, Kelley missed Jafar Williams open down the sideline.
"I thought on our opening drive, [McBrien] did a really good job. His decision-making is improving. Now it's making the play we have to do," Friedgen said. "It's the consistency we're lacking right now."
As for the rest of the backfield, Friedgen is quite pleased with fifth-year senior tailback Chris Downs. He has emerged as a solid stopgap while the team awaits the return of Perry, the reigning ACC Offensive Player of the Year who rushed for 1,242 yards and caught 40 passes for 359 yards
Perry, recovering from a torn groin muscle, has practiced for the past two days, and is expected to get his first carries of the season against Eastern Michigan.
"If he's capable, I'm going to play [Perry], but we have to be careful how much we use him," Friedgen said. "The doctors don't want him carrying the ball 30 times. Bruce wants to play. Obviously, I want to play him. So I think we have to reach a happy medium and bring him along slowly."
A heavy 'wait' to bear
Fifth-year senior fullback Chad Killian was especially nervous before Saturday's game. Not because the Terps were playing host to the fifth-ranked Seminoles before a packed house.
About four hours before kickoff, Terps offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe informed Killian that Maryland's first offensive play was designed for Killian to catch a pass in the left flat after McBrien faked a handoff to the right, then bootlegged in the other direction.
The deception worked, largely because Killian had never before caught a pass in his collegiate career. On that first play, McBrien and Killian teamed up to produce a 39-yard gain.
"I was a little worried, being the first play. I knew it was coming to me, and I had four hours to think about it," Killian said. "I wish I could have taken it all the way, but it's hard for a fullback to do that against those Florida State [defensive backs]."
The Terps lost second-year freshman wide receiver Derrick Fenner to a broken left ankle in a freak accident during Monday night's practice. Friedgen said Fenner slipped and fell on the grass while catching a punt and will be out for six weeks. ... The left knee sprain of right offensive tackle Matt Crawford is not serious. He is expected to play.
Next for Terps
Site:Byrd Stadium, College Park
When:Saturday, 6 p.m.
Line:Maryland by 34