Sophomore Milanovich finally done passing time

August 24, 1993|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Staff Writer

College Park -- In the first grade, Scott Milanovich began studying the three Rs: reading, 'riting and rating films. He grew up in a region known for producing great passers, and he selected a college that had more of its former quarterbacks playing in the NFL last year than any other.

Milanovich could become the first sophomore to lead Maryland i passing since Boomer Esiason in 1981. But after spending a good portion of his young life preparing to quarterback a Division I-A team, Milanovich had expected to start sooner.

"I'm sure everything will turn out all right for me here," Milanovich said, "but I've had a lot more ups and downs than I expected."

Milanovich suited up for all 11 games as a true freshman in 1991 and nearly got the starting job last year. But eight days before the 1992 opener, coach Mark Duffner decided that he didn't want to put a 19-year-old without great mobility behind a young offensive line. John Kaleo got the job, and Milanovich got a blow to his ego.

"It's not something I'll ever forget, but I'm not bitter," Milanovich said. "He [Kaleo] was the senior, and I was the freshman. He won. I had to take my lumps, but I felt I could get the job done."

Duffner did, too.

"We had a difficult decision to make," Duffner said. "As great a competitor as Scott is, I know having to sit hurt him, but I don't worry about that. He bounced back and did the work that will make him the best quarterback he can be. He did what we asked for."

Second-guesses were few after Kaleo's record-setting season, and eventually even Milanovich saw the value of another year of learning, particularly because the quarterbacks were responsible for operating the run-and-shoot system being installed by Duffner.

"The situation was better suited to John," Milanovich said. "We were still learning the system, and John went out there not necessarily knowing what was open. He had to write the book. I get to read it."

It was almost a different language for Milanovich, who grew up in Butler, Pa., an hour's drive north of Pittsburgh. From 1968-89, Gary Milanovich, his father, was an assistant coach at Butler High, where Terry Hanratty and the Saul brothers, Rich and Ron, were earlier heroes.

"From the time he started school, Scott was involved in football," said Gary Milanovich, now the Butler High athletic director. "He'd help out as a ballboy and do a lot of different things for us. If I was scouting an upcoming team, he'd watch films with me. He picked up a lot of football along the way."

Scott was held out of organized football until he was in the eighth grade, but in three varsity seasons he displayed great potential, if not great numbers.

"Our base offense in high school was the wing-T," the younger Milanovich said. "In western Pennsylvania, you don't throw much. If you can play quarterback there, you can play it anywhere. I think it rained hard in five of the 11 games I played as a senior.

"I think learning to deal with the elements is one reason there are so many great quarterbacks from western Pennsylvania. The year Dan Marino and Joe Montana played against each other in the Super Bowl made a big impression."

A lesser local hero also affected Milanovich. Scott Zolak, from Monongahela, Pa., was Maryland's quarterback in the 1990 Independence Bowl, around the time high school seniors were narrowing their college choices.

"I was deciding between Maryland, Louisville and Pitt," Milanovich said. "Zolak took them to a bowl game, and my dad knew that the school had a great reputation for sending guys to the NFL. I want to throw 35 times a game, and I saw that opportunity here."

A year in Joe Krivak's pro-style offense inflated Milanovich's self-esteem. He spent parts of 1991 on the depth chart above Kaleo, but in the end was redshirted.

"After my freshman year, I was kind of ticked off that I didn't get to play," Milanovich said. "I really thought I was ready to go, but I would have definitely struggled out there.

"In the third game of the year I was going to start to play, and I didn't even know the names of the guys on the offensive line. I think Coach Krivak made the right decision," he said.

Milanovich finally got his introduction last year, coming on for the injured Kaleo in a 49-13 loss at Penn State in Week 4.

"My first college pass is something I'll definitely remember," Milanovich said.

"We called two pass plays, but one was a penalty and the other I took off and ran. Joe Paterno figured he would blitz the freshman, but [Dan] Prunzik broke a good route. I threw five yards over him, right to a defensive back."

Milanovich completed half of his next 14 passes for 128 yards against the Nittany Lions and also saw late duty against Georgia Tech and Florida State. He's been the Terps' No. 1 since Kaleo's eligibility expired, but he knows that Kevin Foley, a redshirted freshman, is looking over his shoulder and that the run-and-shoot isn't ideal for a 6-foot-5, 220-pound quarterback.

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