Joe Krivak begins his 5th season as football coach at Maryland with higher expectations, but also more questions

BUILDING ON THE PAST

August 11, 1991|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Sun Staff Correspondent

College Park -- Will it be the one-back offensive set or multiple two-back look? Can unproven Jim Sandwisch be an effective major-college quarterback? Can two highly recruited freshmen make an impact? Who will start at tailback, senior Troy Jackson or sophomore Mark Mason? And will it make a difference, with only one regular starter back on the offensive line?

Questions, questions, questions.

Never have there been so many about the University of Maryland's offense in the previous four seasons under head coach Joe Krivak.

Krivak, 56, begins finding some answers today, when 17 freshmen report to preseason camp. Veterans will report Thursday.

"It's easier for this team to gain momentum. We're coming off a bowl, and that pumped everyone up. We proved we could do it, and the team is more confident this time around," said Krivak, who is in the first year of a new, four-year contract and has an 18-25-2 record at Maryland, his only college head-coaching position.

"All the good things surrounding the program -- the rebuilding of Byrd Stadium, our new athletic director, a winning attitude in the athletic department -- had impact on us in a positive way. Maryland is on the move. I think the worst days are behind us. We hope to improve on last season."

Ah, last year.

The Terps finished 6-5-1 and tied Louisiana Tech, 34-34, in the Poulan Weed-Eater Independence Bowl, the team's first bowl appearance since the 1985 Cherry Bowl. But that was just part of the euphoria surrounding the program from a year ago.

It really all started after Maryland's thrilling, 35-30, comeback win over No. 9 Virginia in the season finale. Two weeks later, Maryland athletic director Andy Geiger, who replaced Lew Perkins last July, signed Krivak to a new contract. Also, school officials, after years of planning, finally began renovations on Maryland's outdated athletic facilities.

Presto.

Maryland had its best recruiting season during the Krivak era, including the signing of three blue-chippers -- DeMatha place-kicker David DeArmas and running backs Raphael Wall of Wilde Lake and Larry Washington of Randallstown. The Terps also signed two of the best high school quarterbacks in the East -- Tom Marchese from Dunmore, Pa., and Scott Milanovich from Butler, Pa.

"It's tough to evaluate a recruiting class until they are finished, but I have a good feeling about this one," said Krivak recently.

It's a much better picture at Maryland than when Krivak took over for Bobby Ross following the 1986 season. Until last season, Maryland endured four straight non-winning seasons and the Terps never seriously challenged for the Atlantic Coast Conference title or a bowl bid. Hard times also included mediocre recruiting classes resulting from the fallout after the death of Maryland basketball All-American Len Bias on June 19, 1986, and National Collegiate Athletic Association sanctions on that program.

There was also the uncertainty of whether Krivak would return as coach after last season.

"That's over with," said Krivak. "I've signed a new contract, and I anticipate honoring it. My coaching methods haven't changed, and I still have the same goal as Day 1, to help the players graduate and have a winning program."

Krivak was criticized most for being too conservative on offense.

But last season, the Terps' pass-happy, one-back set was a success. The Terps averaged 344 yards, including 252.2 passing. Maryland's offense was at its unpredictable, prolific best during the last two games, when Mason was inserted into the lineup. The central figure, though, was senior quarterback Scott Zolak, who completed 225 of 418 passes for 2,589 yards and 10 touchdowns last season.

But that was last year. Duplicating the excitement could be difficult.

Zolak was drafted by the New England Patriots in April, along with offensive tackle O'Neil Glenn. Clarence Jones, the Terps' other offensive tackle, was selected by the New York Giants. The Terps lost a total of five starters, including All-ACC wide receiver Barry Johnson, who signed as a free agent with the Denver Broncos.

The departures leave the Terps with only one returnee on the offensive line who has started more than one season, senior center Mitch Suplee, and several other offensive players who started only as fill-ins.

And the big question, of course, is about Sandwisch.

It will be the first time in the past three seasons that the Terps won't have a professional prospect at quarterback.

Krivak named Sandwisch No. 1 after spring practice following an anticipated battle at the position. But Sandwisch, No. 2 last season, was clearly above Montgomery-Rockville Junior College transfer and All-America John Kaleo and redshirt freshman Tony Scarpino.

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