Terps recruits may rate in top 25

February 04, 1994|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Sun Staff Writer

COLLEGE PARK -- The recruiting expects have put their seal of approval on the Maryland recruiting class, which coach Mark Duffner discussed for the first time yesterday.

The consensus is that it is among the top 25 to 30 recruiting classes in the country, and only defending national champion Florida State and North Carolina supposedly did better in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The experts were saying much the same thing last year, but an infusion of new blood wasn't enough to stem the hemorrhaging Maryland sustained on defense in 1993.

Eight of the Terps' top 12 tacklers were first-year players in a 2-9 season, and Duffner couldn't afford to stand pat on defense. The youth movement will continue for a unit that set an NCAA record for yards allowed per game (553), a mark that helped cost the defensive coordinator his job.

Kevin Coyle, who replaced Larry Slade as the defensive coordinator, echoed Duffner when he said, "We've got to establish depth at every position. When guys know that people are competing for jobs on a daily basis, it's going to make them better."

The Terps operated with fewer than 75 scholarship players last season, and before the fourth game, they had lost five veteran defenders to injury or ineligibility. They had four healthy defensive backs for the season finale at Wake Forest. There won't be a senior on the defensive line next season, and the linebacking corps has one senior.

Coyle, who's in charge of the secondary, won't get a look at his five new prospects until August. Troy Fowlkes, The Baltimore Sun's Defensive Player of the Year, will arrive with the other high-schoolers, but two linebacking prospects, junior-college transfers Robert Moore and Gary Talbot, are enrolled and will participate in spring practice.

There will be five additions to the defensive line, including Arundelgrad Richard Abrams.

The lack of a field-goal kicker limited Maryland's options in the attack zone last season. Brad Rhodes is supposed to return the 35-yard field goal to the Terps' arsenal, and before spring practice begins March 28, the offensive staff will be tinkering with the addition of power-oriented sets that include a tight end or two backs.

Production at the superback position lagged last season, and competition for playing time there could be fierce. Allen Williams, Doug Burnett,Larry Washington -- who's trying out for the baseball team -- and Brian Underwood will be in spring practice, but August will mark the arrival of Buddy Rodgers and Kendall Ogle, a first-team Parade All-American and one of the most sought backs in New Jersey, respectively.

"We're entertaining the possibility of some two-back looks or using a tight end, but we're still going to be a run-and-shoot team," Duffner said. "The offense is going to be as wide-open as ever."

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