All's new at Maryland -- except the players Executing complex attack is a must for Terrapins

September 04, 1992|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Staff Writer

COLLEGE PARK -- Will it be the run-and-shoot, or will it be run, and, "Oh, shoot"?

The curtain goes up on Maryland's run-and-shoot offense tomorrow at 7 p.m. when the Terps open their season against Virginia in Charlottesville.

Coach Mark Duffner has promised an exciting, competitive team as Maryland celebrates its 100th year of football. The Terps have a new coach. New uniforms. A new attitude.

And an offense that produced winning teams for the University of Houston in the late 1980s, the same offense that has been used successfully in the NFL by the Houston Oilers and Detroit Lions.

But the Terps also have many of the same players from the team that went 2-9 last season, Maryland's worst record since 1971.

Do the Terps have the speedy receivers to execute the run-and-shoot? Are their quarter backs smart enough to make the right decisions at the line of scrimmage? Can Maryland's offensive line, which allowed 36 sacks last year, pick up the various blitzes that teams throw at the run-and-shoot?

Questions, questions, questions.

"It's an exciting offense, and I like it because it puts a lot of pressure on the defense," said Duffner. "I've never considered another style of attack here. It's really a ground-floor installation we did last spring. We have tried to shape the attack to the personnel we have and their physical skills."

Defense was Duffner's forte in his six years at Holy Cross, but his calling card was the run-and-shoot offense.

Holy Cross was ranked in the top 15 nationally in passing four times as Duffner compiled a 60-5-1 record. When Duffner left for Maryland, the Crusaders had won 20 straight, the nation's longest winning streak, and the compliments kept coming for the 39-year-old native of Annandale, Va.

"Each coach that uses this offense gives it their own personality," said Southern Methodist coach Tom Rossley, a former offensive coordinator for Duffner at Holy Cross. "Mark likes the offense because you can score on almost any play. He's always tinkering, always the aggressor. You will always see something different every game. Of course, a lot of the credit goes to Mouse."

Mouse is Mouse Davis, creator of the offense that he has been refining for more than 25 years. Duffner spent many days conferring with Davis and has stayed with the basic set -- four receivers, no tight end, quarterback under center. But he has added his own wrinkles, like occasionally going without a huddle.

"What you need the very most are five very bright guys -- the quarterback and the receivers," said Davis, head coach of New York-New Jersey Knights in the World League. "The receivers need to have speed and the quarterback needs to have the most brains. And of course, a lot of repetition is involved."

That's where some of Maryland's problems begin.

A typical offensive play in the run-and-shoot is filled with several routes. Each play can have as many as 10 options depending on the defense's coverage. The unique element of the offense is that it requires all four receivers and the quarterback to make the same reads.

The two Maryland quarterbacks who are expected to see playing time have little major college experience. Senior starter John Kaleo, who spent two years at Montgomery-Rockville Junior College, threw only 55 passes last year as a backup. No. 2 quarterback Scott Milanovich is a redshirt freshman.

But maybe Duffner is still banking on the same philosophy that Rossley uses at SMU.

"You need a quarterback that makes good decisions, has quick feet, a quick arm and wants to be a winner," said Rossley. "If you have a quarterback with one of those, you can be a winner with this offense."

"Our two quarterbacks had an intense battle for the No. 1 position in preseason and even though one ended up No. 2, the great thing is that both players developed," said Duffner. "We're comfortable with either one running the offense."

As far as speed, Maryland receivers have little except for senior slot receiver Richie Harris from Mount St. Joseph. Senior wide receiver Marcus Badgett has great hands and runs decent patterns, but was timed in the 40-yard -- at 4.55. It's basically the same story for junior slot receiver Frank Wycheck (6 feet 3, 234 pounds), a converted H-back who is no deep threat. Maryland's other starting wide receiver, Wade Inge, is a true freshman.

These are not ideal situations for the run-and-shoot, where quarterbacks throw quickly off three- to five-step rollouts. It's no wonder Duffner has two assistant coaches trying to recruit more speedsters from Florida.

"We're going to have an explosive offense this year and for many years to come," said Kaleo. "If they keep on bringing in all these Florida guys and track speedsters, we're going to start spreading the defenses out in the ACC. It's going to be wide open."

The Terps might be able to get away with below-average offensive line play. The big running plays in the run-and-shoot are draws and traps. Linemen don't have to pass block long because of the quick passes.

"You can still be good and score points with a lousy offensive line," said Maryland offensive coordinator and line coach Dan Dorazio, not talking about his own unit. "As for this group, we'll be fine. We just need to get better on our run blocking."

But that's what this offense is all about. It compensates for weaknesses by spreading out the defense. If a team blitzes, Maryland hopes to burn it in one-on-one coverage. If an opponent overloads pass defense, the Terps plan to run.

It all sounds good. It worked for the Cougars. It has worked for the Oilers and the Lions.

Can it work for Maryland?

The curtain goes up tomorrow.

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