Wycheck's injury could give freshman Wiestling starting shot as Terps' H-back

October 05, 1990|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Sun Staff Correspondent

COLLEGE PARK -- Chad Wiestling was in preseason football camp only a few days when the University of Maryland coaches decided to switch him from safety to H-back.

"That was OK," said Wiestling, a freshman from Antrim High in Greencastle, Pa. "But what was an H-back?"

Wiestling soon learned, and he could be the starter at the position tomorrow when Maryland (3-2) plays Georgia Tech (3-0) at noon at Byrd Stadium.

Frank Wycheck, the regular H- back and one of the nation's leading receivers (42 receptions, 344 yards), suffered a pinched nerve in his back against Michigan last week. He has been held out of contact practices this week.

Wiestling, who played the second half of the Michigan game and caught nine passes for 77 yards, has been running with the first team.

"A year ago, not in my wildest dreams did I think I would be starting at a key offensive position for a major university," Wiestling said. "My goal was to just get some playing time my first year. Now, I could possibly start."

The Maryland coaching staff and quarterback Scott Zolak apparently have no reservations.

"He's been a surprise," Zolak said. "I remember when I was a freshman and they gave me a playbook, I wondered if I would ever pick up all of this stuff. He has done it as a freshman, and he did a great job against Michigan. I sure have a lot of confidence in him."

Maryland coaches were impressed with Wiestling from the day they recruited him in high school. Wiestling was a tailback and safety at Antrim, but the Terps liked his pass-catching ability.

"We had made the decision to go to the one-back set in the spring, andFrank had a tremendous spring practice and we were very comfortable with him," said Paul Tortorella, Maryland's coach for tight ends, H-backs and special teams.

"But we were looking for more depth at the position. We had heard Chad caught the ball well in the Big 33 game in the summer, so we talked about the move. It was after the first week in two-a-days that we moved him to the No. 2 H-back position."

Wiestling was a near-perfect fit for the position. He was nearly as fast as a wide receiver (4.7 seconds for the 40-yard --) and ran precise patterns. At 6 feet 2, 190 pounds, he was big enough to block.

Wiestling's two biggest obstacles: a big, thick, complicated playbook and big, thick defensive ends and outside linebackers.

"The playbook kind of overwhelmed me," said Wiestling, a kinesiology major who had a 3.3 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale at Antrim. "In high school, you didn't have to know a lot. You could get by on a few plays.

"Also, I was a tailback. I never had to block. Now, all of a sudden, I had to block 240-pound defensive ends and All-Americans. I just tried to hang in there."

Wiestling got some tutoring from Wycheck, who also was learning the H-back position but had a year more of experience. The two became friends, as well as competitors.

Wiestling debuted in the opener, catching a pass for a first down against Virginia Tech. Since then, he has gotten more playing time.

Wycheck said: "I think he's going to be a great player. Chad is a hard worker, and we've had a lot of discussions about plays, receivers, defenses and so forth. I've tried to help him as much as I could, and we've become pretty good friends. He has made work harder because I don't want to lose my position to him."

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