COLLEGE PARK -- Players no longer can grow beards. Earrings are banished. Unfashionable and "experimental" haircuts are outlawed. Weightlifting and conditioning sessions are mandatory. And academic success has been declared the most important item on the agenda.
Such were some of the things to come out of Maryland football coach Mark Duffner's first meeting with his players, held yesterday. For the most part, Duffner, who was hired from Holy Cross on Dec. 31, left a favorable impression with the Terps.
Dressed in black pants and a blue sports coat, Duffner held separate meetings that lasted about 1 1/2 hours with the team and with the seniors.
"He has a dynamic personality," said Steve Ingram, a sophomore offensive tackle. "He talks to you, not above you. You can feel that winning aura about him. Everybody is excited."
Maryland senior linebacker Mike Jarmolowich said: "I was watching to see if he was sincere. A lot of coaches just have rhetoric, but he's for real. He's just what the players asked for: young, energetic, a players' coach and comes from a winning program. Now it's up to the play ers to perform and get focused. No more finger pointing at the coaches. It's time for us to shut up, and put out."
The players said Duffner's message was strong, firm and one that apparently will be backed by discipline. Maryland junior H-back Frank Wycheck said a big part of the meeting dealt with academics.
"He pushed academics a lot," said Wycheck. "He has checked the team's grades, and he wasn't happy about them. He also talked about the importance of being at meetings, practice and training table on time. He talked about us being a family, no one person greater than the team. The guy is a perfectionist, going over every detail of his program. You could feel the energy in the room."
Duffner drew three ovations from the team during the meetings, but not everything he said was greeted so positively.
Senior defensive tackle Darren Drozdov attended the meeting wearing a bandanna over a clean-shaven head and sporting two earrings. Drozdov is long considered the rebel among the players. He once kept a 6-foot snake in his room and has a penchant for changing hairstyles: a Mohawk, a crew-cut, braids, whatever seems in vogue that day.
"I kind of expected this," Drozdov said. "He came up with some policies that shocked some people. Everybody kept looking at me. I felt like a moving violation. But we need a little discipline after a 2-9 season. Little things like this help the team concept. And it doesn't kill me. I still have my tattoos."
Duffner, smiling, said: "Drozdov's eyes got kind of big when I was talking about some of the rules. But I think we'll get along fine. I like him. He has a great personality."
Senior cornerback Scott Rosen, laughing, said: "Droz just sat in the back of the room with this smile on his face because he had already broken a lot of the rules. But Coach said he doesn't want us drawing attention to ourselves, and just be representative of the team, university and ourselves."
Duffner, still living in a hotel, has spent most of his time recruiting, even though he has taken brief respites to evaluate the program in certain areas.
Duffner, 38, who had a 60-5-1 record in six seasons at Holy Cross, says the Terps need to make large strides in the weight room. He is instituting a six-day-a-week workout program. The Terps are to begin testing today, one day after classes started for the spring semester.
"We have a ways to go in that area, and this is not a reflection on the previous staff," said Duffner, who probably won't begin looking for a home until mid-February. "But when you look back on the tradition here at Maryland when the team was dominating, Maryland was very physical and they had an edge in that area."
Duffner said he has been received surprisingly well, despite the late start in recruiting, and he has received commitments from two players in Florida.
He said the Terps are recruiting in Maryland, Washington, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Florida, and he hopes to sign 15 players by early February.
"If you take a look at our roster, we're in need of linemen. We're also looking for speed," said Duffner, who has concentrated more on high school players than junior college players. "We're not going to give out scholarships just for the sake of giving them out. I think there are some blue-chip players still out there.
"I've sent out letters to all the schools in the immediate area, and this has been a non-stop process," said Duffner. "I'm selling the players on the academic integrity of the university, the location of the school, the people here, the great tradition at Maryland and the conference. This is an opportunity for them to be a part of a program with new facilities beginning a new era."