A Maryland defensive unit that was a disappointment in 1992 lost one of its top players this week, as the career of senior nose guard Jim Panagos was declared over after back surgery.
Panagos underwent surgery Monday to repair a bulging disk in his lower back, an injury that occurred in early June. He also had back surgery in 1989, his redshirt season, to repair a herniated disk, and team doctors have advised him not to play football.
Since it was my second operation, I was told it's best that I not play anymore," Panagos said from his family's home on Long Island. "The last couple of months, I've been in a lot of pain, but things are getting better. It's real tough knowing that I'm not going to be able to play anymore, and I try to take it day by day."
A criminal justice major who needs just one more semester of study to get his degree, Panagos plans to help the Terps this season as a student assistant coach.
Coach Mark Duffner was looking for Panagos to provide strength up front on a defense that last year allowed 33.2 points a game, 100th among the nation's 107 Division I-A teams. Defensive end Mark Sturdivant, linebacker Chad Wiestling and backup nose guard Madison Bradley are the only returning players who finished among the top 12 tacklers.
"Panagos is a quality kid. The team needs him badly," Duffner said. "I'm hurt because I know how much it means to him. Any time you lose someone, it gives someone else an opportunity, and it's going to mean increased responsibility for everyone else."
Panagos missed three games last season with a sprained knee ligament, but in the eight games he started he had 34 tackles, including a team-leading five sacks. He was a reserve in 1990 and 1991.
Reserve quarterback Tom Marchese, who reportedly is seeking a transfer, is another player who won't be reporting along with the other veterans Aug. 12.
Marchese was listed as the No. 2 quarterback in spring practice behind Scott Milanovich. The two came to Maryland together in 1991 as the top-rated quarterbacks in Pennsylvania, Milanovich from western Pennsylvania and Marchese from the coal country north of Scranton.
Marchese attempted one pass last season, and none in the spring game last April.
"He has sought a transfer," Duffner said. "To my knowledge, he won't be in school this fall. I'm sorry to see him go, but Tom ## wants to play and play right away."