Terps' Burnett gets start, adds muscle to backfield

October 16, 1991|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Sun Staff Correspondent

COLLEGE PARK -- While the University of Maryland was preparing for the Poulan/Weed Eater Independence Bowl last December, the Terps were involved in a bodybuilding contest with the locals from Shreveport, La. About halfway through, the Terps started chanting "Juice, Juice, Juice."

JTC A shirtless Doug Burnett, Maryland's true freshman running back, strolled onto the stage. He flexed a few pectoral muscles and flashed some abdominal shots. The crowd went wild. Burnett won easily, coming out for an encore.

The Terps (1-4 overall, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) will turn the "Juice" loose again Saturday at 1 p.m. when they meet Wake Forest (1-4, 0-2) at Groves Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Burnett will replace injured sophomore Mark Mason, who was lost for the season after suffering a non-displaced fracture of a bone in his right leg in last Saturday's 34-10 loss to Georgia Tech.

He will share the starting halfback position in Maryland's one-back set with senior Troy Jackson

"I'm real excited about this opportunity," said Burnett. "I finallget a chance to show that I can play. I always knew my time would come, I just didn't know when."

Burnett, 5 feet 8, 188 pounds, from Laurel Springs, N.J., always has impressed the coaches, but had the misfortune of playing behind Jackson, the team's leading rusher last year with 662 yards, and Mason, who was first in the conference in all purpose yards (595, 452 rushing) before the injury.

Burnett has a breakaway rushing style similar to Mason's except with more power. And oh, what a body.

"I have never seen a freshman come in here with a body like Burnett's," said Rich Nelson, a former guard at Maryland and now one of the team's conditioning coaches. "As a matter of fact, I have never seen any football player with a body like Burnett's. He's got it all."

Burnett wears a size 19 shirt and has a 32-inch waist. He bench-presses 340 and squats 550. That's on an off-day.

No one questions his ability to carry a football.

"Doug holds onto the football, he's a good blocker, he's got some good wheels [4.4 forty -- time] and he's built like Hercules," said Paul Castonia, Maryland's running back coach. "He's not the type of runner that is going to take a blow, but deliver one. What impressed me was his willingness to work hard even though he was behind Mark and Troy."

It wasn't easy. Burnett was a standout at Highland Hill High and was recruited by a number of collegiate powers, including Michigan and Clemson. He went from stardom to the bench.

"I thought about transferring, but every player thinks about that when they're not playing," said Burnett. "But when you have guys ahead of you that are producing, then you can't complain."

Actually, it was Jackson and Mason who have helped Burnett through the rough times.

"We're the best of friends," said Jackson. "I kept telling Dougie to always be ready, stay ready, because you never know when it will be your time."

Burnett rushed eight times for 32 yards after Mason went down Saturday. He even showed Mason-like speed on one run, being stopped inside then bouncing outside for a 13-yard gain.

But that's what has Burnett a little concerned about this &L Saturday -- comparisons to Mason.

"That's why I'm feeling a little pressured," said Burnett. "I don't want people saying that's not the way Mark would have done it. We're different people with somewhat different styles."

NOTE: Starting Terps QB Jim Sandwisch punted yesterday filling in for injured P/K Dan DeArmas, who has a slightly swollen left knee. . . . Starting OLB Greg Hines (sprained knee) and WR Gene Thomas (turf toe) are questionable for Saturday's game. . . . Because of injuries, the Terps will have five offensive linemen who haven't started one game together yet this year. Starting at the tackles will be freshman Dave Hack and junior Dave Dunne. Junior Dave deBruin and freshman Jade Dubis will start at the guards and senior Mitch Suplee at center. Because of the injuries and Maryland's inconsistent passing game, the Terps are expected to use the shotgun formation more against Wake Forest. . . . Maryland coach Joe Krivak and Bengals QB Boomer Esiason spoke by phone yesterday. The Bengals are 0-6. "I don't know who was consoling who," said Krivak.

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