New cast figures to send Towson to air for relief

May 06, 1994|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Sun Staff Writer

The de-emphasis on football continues at Towson State, where the proven talent pool is shrinking in conjunction with the dwindling number of scholarships. And as the Tigers prepared to wind up their spring football season with yesterday's annual intrasquad game, Gordy Combs talked about what surely will be the stiffest challenge of his three-year, head-coaching career.

"Every year is a different year. That's what I've been preaching throughout our 15 spring practices," Combs said. "Every team has its own characteristics, its own personality. We're going to be a different team from last year."

When the Tigers begin their 1994 season in four months, they will have a significantly new look. For starters, they will be without All-America running back Tony Vinson, who gained 2,016 yards to lead the Tigers to an 8-2 record last year -- their best as a Division I-AA program -- and was drafted by the San Diego Chargers last week.

Gone also is the majority of the offensive line that assisted Vinson so ably, most notably tackles Karl Nieberlein and John Loch. And gone after next season will be the last of the Tigers' scholarship players. They will open the season with 19 seniors, including 12 on full scholarship. The rest are on partial scholarship.

The Tigers' schedule has been adjusted accordingly. Towson State dropped Connecticut, Delaware and Central Connecticut, and has added three Division II schools -- American International, Kutztown and Southern Connecticut. The rest of their opponents are I-AA schools, the toughest being Howard, Delaware State and Hofstra.

As the Tigers have lost scholarships, they have become a smaller team that relies more on quickness than bulk. This fall, look for a team strong at the skill positions with players like senior quarterback Dan Crowley, senior running backs Brian McCarty and John Swigart and senior wide receiver Mark Orlando.

McCarty and Swigart will be coming back from injuries. McCarty gained 395 yards in his first four games before he missed the remainder of last season with a separated shoulder. He was held out of contract drills this spring. Swigart, who filled in capably for McCarty, tore cartilage in his knee two weeks ago and is expected to report for two-a-day practices in August.

On defense, Combs expects the backfield, led by seniors Marcellus Campbell (cornerback) and Don Zimmerman (safety), to anchor the unit, along with senior inside linebacker Mike Arbutina, who has led the Tigers in tackles for the past two seasons. The most impressive underclassmen this spring have been sophomore end John Bardak and sophomore cornerback Chad Scott. Junior Dan Nate, who has started for two years at inside linebacker, has looked good at nose guard, where he likely will open the season.

Provided he gets decent protection from a line that will include first-time starters Rob Bundy (tackle), Michael Stickle (guard) and David Snyder (center), Crowley should benefit from a more traditional offensive approach at Towson State -- the air.

Although he completed 57.6 percent of his passes and threw for 1,882 yards and 23 touchdowns -- and only four interceptions -- Crowley spent the majority of his time handing off to Vinson.

Yesterday, Crowley showed his stuff, taking advantage of a new wrinkle in the Tigers' offense -- the shotgun formation. He threw the ball well, completing long passes to Orlando and Andrew Fields to set up two of his team's four touchdowns, while running for another score.

"The shotgun is going to be a big part of our offense," Crowley said. "We'll go back to throwing a lot, like we did a couple of years ago, when we threw 40 times a game. I love it, but we can't rely on it too much. We're going to have a real good running game with Brian and John. It's going to be a productive season."

"We'll be able to move the ball. There's no doubt in my mind. And we'll be able to stop some people," Combs said. "The one thing we've seen this spring is the tremendous difference between our first group [starters] and our second group, both offensively and defensively. We can't afford a rash of injuries at any position areas."

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