Milanovich's pro future isn't so bright anymore Maryland's rusty QB rides bench in silence

October 18, 1995|By PAUL MCMULLEN | PAUL MCMULLEN,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- On homecoming weekend at Maryland, when fans will be reminiscing about the good old days, Scott Milanovich will be left with memories.

A fifth-year senior quarterback, Milanovich has the highest career completion percentage in Atlantic Coast Conference history and holds nearly all of Maryland's career passing records.

When he finally makes his 1995 Byrd Stadium debut Saturday against Clemson, however, he will do so as a second-teamer. Unable to shake off the rust he accumulated during a four-game gambling suspension, Milanovich was benched during a second unimpressive start, and redshirt sophomore Brian Cummings is once again the first-teamer.

"It's not the way people pictured it," Cummings said.

Cummings spoke after coach Mark Duffner's weekly news conference yesterday. The forum used to be Milanovich's, but he hasn't spoken to the press since Sept. 29, the day after his nationally televised return in a 31-3 loss at Georgia Tech, Maryland's only defeat. He remained mum before and after the offense sputtered again at Wake Forest, where he lost his starting job.

Is Milanovich frustrated? Angry? Hurt? Confused?

"All of the above," said Gary Milanovich, his father. "It's not a lot of fun for him right now, and that's sad. The pressure is unbelievable."

For nearly six months, ever since his name was linked to an internal investigation into gambling, Milanovich has been under intense scrutiny, and the pressure that his father spoke of will not lessen.

There's always a chance Milanovich could win back the job, but he may not start again. Milanovich made some preseason

All-America teams, but postseason honors are out of the question, and he may have to scale back his NFL aspirations.

Milanovich has agreed to play in the East-West Shrine Classic, and an official for the senior all-star game in San Francisco said it has no plans to rescind his invitation. After that, Milanovich will have the scouting combines and individual workouts, but time is running out for him to impress pro personnel directors in 1995.

"He needed a tremendous start, but he's on the back burner now," said Mel Kiper, ESPN's draft expert. "He has to play and display the level he's shown at times over the last two years, and also show that he's worked on his punting. At best, I thought he would go in rounds three to five, but now he may be looking at trying to make it as a free agent."

The NFL already has weighed in on Milanovich -- twice. Last December, he applied to the committee that advises underclassmen on their chances in the draft. After hearing that appraisal, he decided to return to Maryland. In July, he had less than 48 hours to decide if he would come back for a seven-game senior season or apply for the supplemental draft.

His supplemental prospects weren't good -- only one of the nine players in this year's pool was drafted -- so Milanovich came back to Maryland. Several sources have said that Milanovich received assurance from Duffner that he would start when he returned, but that arrangement only added to the pressure after the Terps started 4-0 under Cummings.

Milanovich got just three days of practice before the loss at Georgia Tech. He got a full week's reps as the starter before Wake Forest, but he was again slow recognizing the blitz, and fans cheered when the more mobile Cummings warmed up in the second quarter. Maryland went on to win, 9-6.

Duffner and quarterbacks coach Rob Spence repeatedly have acknowledged the difficulty of his comeback. There is little sympathy on the radio talk shows, however. The majority opinion there is that Cummings, the second-rated quarterback in the ACC behind Florida State's Danny Kanell, got the Terps a No. 17 ranking and that Milanovich has no one to blame but himself.

Overlooked is the defensive improvement that is the main reason Maryland is 5-1, and that outside receiver Jermaine Lewis was welcomed back into the starting lineup with nary a complaint after missing the opener on a gambling suspension.

Milanovich's form over the last five games of 1994, when he threw for 1,570 yards and 16 touchdowns, is a distant memory.

Instead of the records, now the fans remember Milanovich's mistakes.

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