Duffner tackles Maryland task with those at hand Says growth can't wait for fall recruits

March 23, 1993|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Staff Writer

COLLEGE PARK -- Get ready for more changes in Maryland football.

When spring practice started in 1992, the Terps were checking out a new coach, nine new assistants and a new system. They also were finding their way through a new football complex.

The first practice of 1993 was scheduled for today, and despite the familiarity the 76 players have with coach Mark Duffner's run-and-shoot offense and attacking defense, there's still going to be a new look when they play the alumni April 17. The older group will include some of the 29 lettermen who departed after last season, so Terps who sat last year are going to play in 1993.

For some, the stay atop the depth chart could end in August, when a recruiting class rated Maryland's best in a decade arrives. For the next three weeks, however, those 21 do not exist, and Duffner must make plans to elevate a 3-8 record without them.

"We've got to practice this spring as if none of the incoming recruits will play next fall," Duffner said. "I just can't predict what they'll be able to contribute. We have some holes to fill, and we've got to plan to fill them with the people who are here."

The ones who left made the Maryland record book obsolete. For every positive mark set by the offense, however, there was a black mark by the defense, and the season-ending 53-23 upset of Clemson was so surprising because it followed a 69-21 pounding Florida State administered the Terps.

A year ago, there was little indication that the offense would turn into a fireworks show that set 27 Maryland records, so the Terps aren't intimidated by the prospect of replacing quarterback John Kaleo, his top four pass catchers and seven offensive linemen.

Freshman Kevin Foley was the first quarterback brought to Maryland by Duffner, but redshirt freshman Scott Milanovich (6 feet 4, 220) leads the pack despite rumblings that he isn't suited to the run-and-shoot.

"Any offense in the country is going to look for the biggest, most mobile quarterback it can find," Duffner said. "Scott's worked to cut his body fat and improve his mobility. I'm excited with what he can accomplish, but Foley's in the hunt, too."

Duffner knows what superback Mark Mason can do, but his durability remains in question. Mason rushed for 523 yards before fracturing a bone in his left shoulder in the fifth game. He's fully recovered, and the Terps will have to get him in sync with a new quarterback and line, where tackle Steve Ingram and center Jade Dubis return.

Jermaine Lewis and Wade Inge combined for 56 receptions as freshmen last fall. Lewis, a record-setting sprinter for Eleanor Roosevelt High last spring, might be the fastest freshman in the nation, but he won't participate in track and field this spring.

Those two made an impact after only three weeks of preseason preparation with the run-and-shoot, and there's more to learn this spring.

"Last spring, we elected to narrow the [offensive] package we were installing, because there was so much else going on," Duffner said. "The defensive style will stay intact, but we've really got to fine-tune it."

The offense averaged 466.5 yards per game last year, but the defense allowed 474.2, and the average of 33.2 points Maryland allowed was 100th among the nation's 107 Division I-A programs. Only two of the defense's top eight tacklers are back, and Duffner knows that unit must improve if the Terps are going to catch up to Florida State and the rest of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

There are only two transfers eligible for next season, and both could make an impact on defense. Outside linebacker Mike Gillespie (6-3, 230) played at Georgia Tech and has three years of eligibility remaining, and defensive back Cleveland Everhart (6-2, 215) has two years left after playing at a junior college in Oklahoma.

Help is on the way for the secondary, which was burned repeatedly last season when schemes up front weren't as effective as planned. Raphael Wall, a sophomore out of Wilde Lake, will be a full-time strong safety after playing in both backfields last year.

Outside linebacker Chad Wiestling will get a look inside, and end Mark Sturdivant is the top returnee on a line that has four of Maryland's 13 seniors.

Duffner said the defensive line "is critical in terms of leadership."

NOTES: More than 80 former letter-winners are expected for the alumni game April 17, including 35 who will suit up to play the current Terps at Byrd Stadium. . . . North County High senior Eric Howard, the Scholar-Athlete grand-prize winner, will walk on next August. . . . DB Andre Martin, a Wilde Lake grad who signed with the Terps a year ago, will come to College Park next fall after spending a year at a prep school in Ohio. . . . DL Shannon Stephens, who started four games for Georgia last season as a redshirt freshman, transferred in this semester and will be eligible in 1994.

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