Spring football practice won't even begin at the University of Maryland until March 28, but already exciting reports are coming out of College Park about new head coach Mark Duffner.
The word is that Duffner, who was hired only six weeks ago, has his players working harder than they ever have on weight training and running four days a week -- and the players are said to be loving it.
"These kids have a great attitude," Duffner said after the ACC football banquet at the Hyatt Regency over the weekend. "They're eager to turn things around from however they were before [2-9 last fall]. You work too hard in this game to prepare for 11 Saturdays for you not to be successful."
Despite a late start, Duffner and his young staff recruited well, attracting several players from Florida, a new hunting ground for the Terps.
"There's an awful lot of talent in Florida," Duffner said. "By the time we got to Maryland the Florida kids had more visits left. Some of the kids we were interested in up here had already used all the campus visits the NCAA allows."
* Listen to this from Joe Blair, who began publicizing University of Maryland sports 41 years ago:
"One of the greatest things I've experienced in all those years was our women's basketball game last week against Virginia. Not just the game [which then-No. 1 ranked Maryland lost by a point to the No. 2 Cavaliers], but the whole scene. It was unbelievable."
The Cole Field House crowd of nearly 15,000 at the women's game exceeded the number permitted by the fire marshal. Nearly 2,000 more were turned away. The Terps women lost their second straight at Clemson Saturday, 72-55, before 3,118.
* Perhaps no one in Baltimore is more interested in the Albertville Olympics than Toni Linhart, the former Colts kicker. Linhart grew up and attended university in Austria, where he was a champion skier. Toni's one complaint about TV's coverage of the Games: "I think the network is selling the announcers instead of the athletes."
* Neither 12-11 Towson State nor 7-16 UMBC is capable of doing much damage in the NCAA men's basketball tournament anyway, so it's hardly a tragedy that the East Coast Conference champion no longer has an automatic bid to the tourney. But the talent on display Saturday in their 113-103 shootout at Towson (won by TSU) caused UMBC play-by-play announcer Howard Mash to observe that a combined five consisting of Towson's Terrance Jacobs, Chuck Lightening and Terrance Alexander plus UMBC's 6-8 Sonique Nixon and 43-point scorer Derell Thompson would be formidable in any competition.
* The most publicized players in the history of lacrosse are the Gaits, Gary and Paul (ex-Syracuse U., now Detroit Turbos in the Major Indoor Lacrosse League), but some of the top indoor and club players will tell you they'd take Baltimorean John Tucker over the twins from Canada.
Tucker, playing this winter with the Philadelphia Wings, was high scorer with four goals and four assists in the 16-12 win over the Baltimore Thunder over the weekend. Tucker is a teacher and head lacrosse coach at Gilman.
* The Bullets' Larry Stewart continues to surprise the NBA. Though overlooked in the pro draft, the 6-8 Coppin State product got his shot as a Bullets free agent and is now being mentioned for the NBA's all-rookie team. Says San Antonio's David Robinson of Stewart:
"He's the kind of player who sneaks up on you. When you come out and start a game, you don't respect him like you really should. I don't know how a player who plays like that slips by everybody's attention."