Terps to retool springs on offense, defense

March 29, 1994|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Sun Staff Writer

COLLEGE PARK -- After an off-season in which he hired five assistant coaches, signed 23 prospects to letters of intent and weighed adjustments on offense and defense, Maryland football coach Mark Duffner pushed the start of spring practice back one week to give the new mix time to set.

Nature, however, didn't cut the Terps any breaks for yesterday's scheduled spring start. Soggy fields caused Duffner to delay practice until today, conditions permitting.

When practice period ends with the Alumni Game at Byrd Stadium on April 23, some of the questions left after a 2-9 season might be answered. But with eight players missing spring practice to improve academically and starting safety Orlando Strozier out after knee surgery, an accurate picture of Maryland won't be taken until August, when those players return and 21 new players arrive.

In the meantime, Duffner will tinker with adding two-back and tight end sets to the Terps' one-back, run-and-shoot offense and attempt to right a defense that gave up 553 yards a game in 1993.

"We're still going to be a run-and-shoot team, but there are a lot of things on offense we're kicking around," Duffner said. "We have to establish ourselves as a more physical team, both when we're running the ball and when we're on run defense."

Defensively, Duffner couldn't afford to stand pat after the Terps set an NCAA Division I-A record last season for yards allowed per game. Coordinator Larry Slade was fired and replaced with Kevin Coyle, a former Syracuse assistant who has worked 13 seasons at various stops with Duffner.

Two junior college transfers, linebackers Robert Moore and Gary Talbot, will be in for spring practice. The Terps also will look at Jermaine Stewart and Wade Inge, wide receivers in 1993, as safeties.

"We're still going to be one of the youngest defenses in the nation," Coyle said.

"We've got to establish better depth at every position. The great teams play a lot of people on defense."

With Allen Williams, Doug Burnett and Larry Washington returning, and Brian Underwood, Chaney Milner and two top freshmen coming in, the Terps have the talent at running back to consider two-back schemes. Kevin Plank, formerly a reserve linebacker, will be tested as a blocking back.

Likewise, a tight end would add power to an attack that struggled inside the opponents' 20-yard line and in short-yardage situations, a shortcoming exacerbated by Maryland's poor place-kicking.

The offense can handle some experimentation, because junior-to-be quarterback Scott Milanovich, his top three receivers -- Jermaine Lewis, Russ Weaver and Andrew Carter, who together caught 162 passes -- and all five linemen return to a unit that proved itself well-versed in the run-and-shoot.

Walk-ons attempting to make the roster include Calvert Hall graduate Luther Alexander, a defensive end transfer from Penn; Adam Waxman, a linebacker from Pikesville; and Mike Weichert, who was an All-Metro kicker at C. Milton Wright.

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