After graduating three starters from the offensive line, Morgan State was leaning on Dominique Woods -- who is making the transition from left guard to center -- and sophomore right guard Matthew Thompson to anchor the unit.
That process took a bit of a detour Monday afternoon when a teammate rolled up on the back of Woods' left ankle, leaving the 6-foot-2, 300-pound junior grimacing in pain and needing a cart to get off the field at Hughes Stadium in Baltimore.
Woods had a bag of ice wrapped around the ankle, but could put little weight on it. Coach Lee Hull said it was too early to tell whether the injury was serious.
"He just got rolled up on a play," Hull said. "It was a pull, and he got rolled up on his ankle. They're going to check him and see how he's doing."
Woods -- who was named July 31 to the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference's preseason first-team offense -- suffered the injury on the very first play of the team's only live period of practice. The injury illustrated the line that coaches must observe between keeping their players healthy and getting them the practice they need.
"It is a delicate balance because you don't know," Hull said. "We didn't do much today, and Dominique got rolled up on. We talk to them all the time about safety, staying off the ground. We don't take people to the ground, we don't tackle. We thud up or we tag off. So when we're doing all of that stuff, we're trying to limit the collisions and people on the ground."
Without Woods, freshman Cooper Clarkin moved from his customary left guard spot to center, and freshman Mike Lynn lined up at left guard.
"They did a good job," Hull said of the freshmen. "Coop has been with the first team, and he's our backup center. So he did a good job. Mike Lynn came in and filled in. He's a true freshman walk-on, and he did a good job."
There was some good news in the return of sophomore Ehijele Ubuane, the starting right tackle who had missed several practices after spraining his right ankle on Aug. 12. Ubuane came back last week and took part in Saturday's scrimmage.
"He's getting better every day, and there haven't been any setbacks with him," Hull said. "It's very comforting. We're just praying that there's nothing serious with Dominique."
Other notes and observations:
**Cornerback Delonta Hall ran sprints and side shuffles along the sideline -- the most activity he's done since pulling his right hamstring earlier in the month. The Bears need Hall, a selection to the MEAC preseason first-team defense, but Hull said the team will continue to take a cautious approach with the 5-8, 165-pound redshirt junior.
"He's almost at full speed," Hull said. "But we're going to play it a little conservatively with him. Probably next week, we're hoping to get him into some practice stuff, but we're not rushing him back right now. It's a hamstring and those things can linger."
**One young player who is beginning to make an impression is redshirt sophomore Carvon Rogers Jr. The 6-3, 190-pound redshirt sophomore pounced on an overthrown ball by senior quarterback Moses Skillon and came up with the defense's only interception of the afternoon. Rogers, who intercepted redshirt senior Seth Higgins Aug. 18 and returned it for a touchdown, has caught Hull's eye.
"He's coming along well," Hull said. "I like how he's progressing. He stayed up here all summer, worked out, got his body in shape, studied film. You can see the improvement in him every day."
**Kirby Linscomb IV lined up with the first offense during its three-receiver sets, which may or may not have been a result of some players missing practice to attend class. But the 6-5, 215-pound redshirt junior transfer from San Jose City College has the kind of size coaches and quarterbacks covet in downfield targets. Hull said Linscomb is still making the adjustment from playing at junior college to playing at the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision level.
"His thing is, he's got to work harder," Hull said. "It's a little bit different in Division I college athletics than it is in JC. So he's learning how practices are different, how things work. So he's still fitting in and learning his way around. But he's getting better. You can see the improvement in him every day. He's a big target. So we need him to come along for us."