Maryland's Wycheck is one freshman who has caught on in hurry

October 16, 1990|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Evening Sun Staff

COLLEGE PARK -- When Frank Wycheck arrived at Maryland from Philadelphia a little more than a year ago, he had "fullback" written all over him.

"I thought I'd do a lot of blocking," Wycheck said.

He was wrong. He does precious little blocking. But he does catch a lot of passes.

He has caught so many, in fact, that he's tied for sixth in the country with an average of seven a game. With a total of 49, he needs only three more Saturday at Duke to overtake Greg Hill and break the school single-season record.

Hill had 51 receptions in 1984. By catching four passes from Scott Zolak in last week's win over Wake Forest, Wycheck passed Tom Brown (47 in 1962) to become No. 2 on Maryland's list.

At his present pace, Wycheck has a shot at the Atlantic Coast Conference record of 74 catches established by Duke's Wes Chesson in 1970.

Wycheck, a redshirt freshman, is what is known as an H-back. Coaches have an affinity for assigning letters to offensive players. A Maryland running back is an A, wide receivers are X and Z and a tight end is a Y.

In the old days, Wycheck might have been called a wingback. Or a slot back. Or even a halfback.

"He's like a tight end who's back off the line," said Maryland offensive coordinator Tony Whittlesey. "He's primarily a pass receiver."

Which brings us to the switch of Wycheck from fullback to H-back. As a junior at Archbishop Ryan High in Philadelphia, he caught 47 passes coming out of the backfield. As a senior, however, he was the team's running back and caught very few passes.

"When he came here, he ran the best routes and caught the ball as well as anyone I've been around," Whittlesey said. "He has great, soft hands. He plucks the ball out of the air. He's special in that regard."

Still, coach Joe Krivak might not have made Wycheck an H-back if he hadn't changed the Terps' offense. The four leading running backs last year departed, leaving the team thin at that position. So the coaches decided to go with a single running back, put an accent on passing and create an H-back.

"When we re-arranged the pieces of the puzzle, Wycheck stood out," Whittlesey said. "He had the hands of a wide receiver and the size [218] of a tight end."

After Maryland's opener, Wycheck no longer was a secret weapon. He set a school single-game record for receptions with 14, wiping out the mark of 11 set by tight end John Tice against Clemson in 1982 and coming within two of the ACC record set by Charlie Carr of North Carolina in 1966.

Opponents are catching on. They're starting to assign defensive backs to him rather than linebackers.

"It's great when he's matched against a defensive end or a linebacker," Zolak said. "He gets a step or two on them and beats them 10 times out of 10."

Wycheck has been in double figures twice, but in the last three games has been limited to four, three and four catches. He sees more defensive backs now than linebackers.

"I just try to run good routes, and if people double me, then Barry and Gene catch the ball," Wycheck said, referring to wide receivers Barry Johnson and Gene Thomas.

In his left ear, Wycheck has an earring in the form of "22," his uniform number. His girlfriend gave it to him. At season's end, she might consider one for the other ear, in the shape of an "H."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.