Since assuming the job as Morgan State's football coach in February, Ricky Diggs has decided not to spend a lot of time looking at game films from last year's 1-10 season. "Not much time at all," Diggs said yesterday. "I'm going to judge everybody as I see them -- not on any preconceived notions. The guys that work the hardest will be the guys that play."
With that in mind, the competition for starting positions for the 1991 football season will begin this afternoon when Morgan opens its spring practice.
Navy and Maryland will open spring practice Saturday, with Towson State getting under way Monday.
And so the opening of Morgan's spring practice will hold lots of surprises for Diggs, who was an assistant at the Air Force Academy before being hired at Morgan. But one thing he knows for sure: His job is difficult. Five coaches have gone 18-83-1 since 1981, and the Bears haven't had a winning season since 1979.
"It's just a new day and a new program, one that we have to build a foundation brick by brick," Diggs said. "I'm really excited. I'm keeping an open mind and just waiting to see what happens."
The good news is that all 11 offensive starters return for Morgan, but the bad news is that the unit never really clicked last season and failed to score in Morgan's only win -- a 2-0 victory over Cheney State in the season finale. Sophomore Orlando Persell, the front-runner at quarterback, started three games last season and completed 12 of 30 passes for 163 yards.
A plus for the team will be the return of wide receiver Glenny Moore, who was granted a medical hardship after missing the last nine games of the season with a leg injury. In 1989 Moore caught 41 passes for 637 yards and was named to the first team of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, and he earned a spot on the Black College All-America squad.
Since taking over, Diggs has been pleased with his team's off-season weight program. Although he doesn't know what to expect on the field today, he has a good idea of when he wants accomplished by the time spring practice ends April 24.
"What I'd like to see is for the young men to understand what we as coaches expect of them," Diggs said. "I'd like for them to just do their best and get an idea of what we're trying to accomplish. If we can end the spring with that much, I would think we'd accomplished a lot."
In College Park, Maryland coach Joe Krivak will be hoping to build on last year's 6-5-1 record and trip to the Poulan-Weed Eater Independence Bowl when spring practice begins Saturday. The Terrapins were tied by Louisiana Tech, 34-34, in the closing seconds of the Independence Bowl -- the Terrapins' first bowl appearance since 1985.
"We're out to evaluate some of the younger guys and move some of them around," said Krivak, who was given a contract extension at the end of the season. "We'll experiment with some things offensively and there are five guys that need to get some work at quarterback."
When Navy starts practice Saturday, coach George Chaump will attempt to steer his team toward its first winning season since 1982 -- an accomplishment that eluded the team when its season-ending loss to Army dropped the Midshipmen to 5-6.
"We've been working hard in the weight room," Chaump said. "To a man, they've increased their weight and size."
While defense will be a main emphasis for a team that allowed an average of 26.7 points, Chaump will also have to decide between two quarterbacks -- junior Brian Ellis and sophomore Jason Van Matre. Neither has attempted a pass in college.
"[Ellis] is more of a passer, while [Van Matre] is an option-type quarterback," Chaump said. "We have a couple of guys with contrasting styles, and we'll have to find a way to utilize the talents of both."
At Towson State, the team is looking forward to a calmer season after playing most of last year under a threat by the administration to shut the program down for financial reasons.
"We feel good that that's over with," coach Phil Albert said. "Physically we were outmanned on the field, and psychologically we were distracted by what was going on off the field."
After a 2-9 season, Albert will again attempt to build up a program that had been successful on the Division II level. Since ++ going to I-AA four years ago, the Tigers have yet to record a winning season.
"We have to have the philosophy that the university is going to help us get in the position to compete at this level," Albert said. "Our team did an excellent job of working through the problems from last year, and I know we'll be a much better team next fall."
The Tigers will need a new offensive leader, with the departure of senior quarterback Chris Goetz, who finished his career with 7,882 passing yards.