A new optimism surrounds Bowie State University's football program this fall -- and not all of it has been generated by the new facilities.
Sure, brand-new 6,000-seat Bulldog stadium may do a lot to boost the morale of the team. But, the 12 countians listed on the Bowie roster also should help the Dogs in their quest for a Division II playoff berth.
Last year, Bowie finished 4-5 overall, 2-5 in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association.
This year, the Sanders Shiver-coached team faces four conference opponents ranked in the Top 20, plus Division I-AA Howard University at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium on Halloween.
"I think we all have a better attitude this year," said ex-Brooklyn Park star Tom Butz, the Bulldogs' leading receiver last season (21 catches, 342 yards and six touchdowns).
"We have a tough schedule, and it gets tougher as we go along. So I think if we can win our first few games, then maybe that'll carry us for the rest of the season.
"We won our last two last year, and I think a lot of positive things have happened since the American International game. We won our last game of the season against Central Connecticut, and we've had a real good spring practice."
Shiver, a former Baltimore Colts linebacker, said, "Tom doesn't have great speed, but he's deceptively fast and he's a very good possession-type receiver. He's a good athlete, and he can make the big catches."
The 6-foot-3, 180-pounder made two game-winning catches last year, including one in Bowie's thrilling, 20-17 homecoming win over American International.
Mike Motta, a 1989 Meade graduate, will move from defensive back to outside linebacker. The 6-foot, 215-pounder made 24 unassisted tackles, helped out on 28 others and recorded an interception during the 1991 campaign.
"I think [the transition from defensive back to linebacker] will go pretty smooth. Everyone knows what everyone else does, so it's easy to fill in at a different spot," said Motta, a 1991 Division II batting champ for the school's baseball team.
Shiver said, "Mike has good speed and played extremely well for us last year."
Other key returnees include former Brooklyn Park tight end Wayne Fajerski (six receptions, one touchdown), linebacker Greg Avent (Glen Burnie), defensive linemen Jerry Phares and Eric Nazarenus (both of Northeast) and Brian Perry (South River).
Derrick Raikes, a 6-5, 280-pound freshman offensive tackle from South River, is listed as one of the top newcomers to the Bowie offense. An All-County performer in his first full varsity season in 1991, the entire coaching staff speaks of him in glowing terms.
"I like Derrick. He's a big kid who's got a lot of good skills. He's a lot better then I thought he would be. Just his size is enough to make a coach smile," said Shiver.
Lonnie Pierce, the 1989 Anne Arundel County Sun Player of the Year, will see some action as a wide receiver and kick returner, while Ahmed Middleton, a 1990 All-County selection at Annapolis, will add depth to the Bulldogs' offensive backfield.
Freshman linebacker Melvin Carter (Old Mill) has moved up to the third level of Shiver's depth chart, impressing the fourth-year coach with his work habits. Riva's Jimmy Dintino (DeMatha) is listed as a wide receiver.
Freshman Bill Atwell (Northeast), an offensive lineman, recently broke his foot and won't be able to play.
Bowie's coaching staff also is well-stocked with county products. Northeast baseball coach Harry Lentz begins his fifth season as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, while Annapolis baseball skipper Larry Brogden begins his second season as the offensive line coach.