Vinson sitting out spring so he'll be ready for fall Towson's star runner out with sore knee COLLEGE FOOTBALL

April 14, 1993|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Staff Writer

Running back Tony Vinson will rest his right knee during spring football practice at Towson State, but coach Gordy Combs isn't concerned.

"I won't have to worry about him taking hits during contact drills," said Combs, who was expecting 71 other players for today's first workout. "Besides, we found out what he could do last year."

A school-record 1,042 yards rushing in seven games and part of an eighth was education enough. His arrival as a transfer from Purdue coincided with Combs' first season as a head coach. Vinson was the main figure in a powerful ground game that helped the Tigers finish 5-5 and make the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs their goal for 1993.

Vinson tore the medial collateral ligament in his right knee last Halloween, but the Tigers went on to improbable comeback victories over Indiana, Pa., that day and Northeastern the following week without him.

The ligament healed and Vinson, despite not being in the best of shape, was timed in 4.5 seconds for the 40-yard -- in early March. A later examination revealed a calcium deposit on the knee, however, and Vinson underwent arthroscopic surgery two weeks ago. As a precautionary measure, he was on crutches as recently as last Thursday.

"I understand that the calcium deposit would have cleared on its own, but it could have taken some time," said Vinson, who might participate in some non-contact drills this spring. "We decided to clean it out now, so I'll be ready to go next season. The thing is, I think I'll be at 100 percent just about when spring practice is finishing up. I feel great right now. I'm ready to go."

Vinson, an Army brat who spent most of childhood in Newport News, Va., spent two years at Purdue, which got a 6-foot, 170-pound wide receiver who was better known as one of the nation's top high school 400-meter -- men. He's since grown to nearly 6-3, 225 pounds and has lost little of his speed.

"Tony's the total package," Combs said. "He has the size to run inside, the speed to run outside. He has the opportunity to play on Sundays."

That would be in the NFL in 1994, but first Vinson would like to play in the NCAA I-AA tournament in '93.

It's a quixotic quest, since Towson State is in the midst of a de-emphasis that in 1995 will give only need-based financial aid. The Tigers are down to 30 scholarships, spread among 45 players who will be seniors and juniors next fall, but it might be the best group of upperclassmen ever at Towson State.

In addition to Vinson, six other regulars return on offense, including quarterback Dan Crowley and a pair of three-year starters on the offensive line, Karl Nieberlein (Mount St. Joseph) and John Loch (Arundel). The defense brings back seven starters and there's also John Swigart (Overlea), who started at fullback and linebacker.

Behind Vinson and Brian McCarty, the Tigers set six offensive records last fall. They'll work on more one-back sets, and Combs is also looking for some wide receivers and a couple of linemen. The Tigers were still out-gained, by an average of 438.3 yards to 446.5 per game, so there is obviously work needed on the defensive side.

Combs will also be looking to younger players who can provide depth next fall and start in 1994 and beyond. None of the true freshmen played last fall, but wide receiver Wes Wedmore (Perry Hall), linebackers John Bardak and John Spencer (Glen Burnie), defensive lineman Antonio Robbins and free safety Chad Scott will get a chance now.

Even though athletic scholarships aren't available, Combs and his staff have recruited 30 high school seniors who have been accepted by Towson State and say that they'll play for the Tigers. He hopes to have a freshman class of 40 next fall.

Towson at a glance

Spring game: May 7

1992 record: 5-5

Returning starters: Seven on offense: SE Mark Orlando; T Karl Nieberlein; G Andy Rehkemper; T John Loch; TE Sean Patterson; TB Tony Vinson; QB Dan Crowley. Seven on defense: LB Greg Andress; LB Mike Arbutina; LB Dan Nate; NG Mike Curcio; E Rob Stanavitch; CB Marcellus Campbell; FS Aaron Bates. Two on special teams: PK Buddy Dunn; P Alex Vodopija.

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