Milanovich works to patch image Maryland QB hopes NFL's in his future

January 18, 1996|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

Scott Milanovich's Draft Emergency Plan has four phases.

Phase 1 in his attempt to re-establish himself as an NFL prospect came at the Blue-Gray Game, where Milanovich was one of the Most Valuable Players. Phase 2 comes this week: He's in Hawaii preparing for Sunday's Hula Bowl, the last chance to impress the pro scouts in an all-star setting. Phase 3 will be the scouting combines in Indianapolis in mid-February.

Phase 4 will be individual workouts for NFL scouts in College Park. Despite all of that damage control, Milanovich said he could be frozen out of the draft on April 20-21.

"After the Blue-Gray Game, I had people come up to me and say, 'You made yourself a lot of money,' but I'm not going to get excited about anything right now," Milanovich said. "I hope I get drafted, but if I don't, I'll keep on going. With all I've been through the last year, I'm not going to get my hopes up."

A year ago, Milanovich was projected as one of the nation's top quarterback prospects for 1995. He is 6 feet 3 and 227 pounds, with a strong arm and confidence to match, but his senior season at Maryland fell apart after an NCAA suspension.

Milanovich missed the Terps' first four games for violating NCAA rules against gambling. He returned in Week 5 as a starter, was benched the following week and eventually regained the starting job, but not before Maryland went into a tailspin and his draft stock dropped.

The scouting combine and the weeks leading up to all-star games are filled with a battery of physical and psychological tests. Milanovich has faced questions about the gambling activities, and tried to reclaim some lost ground.

At the Blue-Gray, playing out of a pro set after three years in the run-and-shoot, Milanovich completed nine of 20 passes for 175 yards and touchdowns of 43 and 36 yards. He was even more encouraged by his pre-game performance leading up to that Christmas Day MVP present.

"I wasn't worried about my numbers from the game," Milanovich said. "I had a good week of practice, and, in a way, that's more important. Everyone I talked to told me I really helped myself there. I think it helped. I can't see how it couldn't."

Every NFL team is represented at the Hula Bowl, but approximately 600 NFL coaches and scouts are in Mobile, Ala., site of Saturday's Senior Bowl. The East-West Shrine Classic, just behind the Senior Bowl in the pecking order of all-star games, withdrew an early invitation to Milanovich.

That invitation was issued on the basis of Milanovich's first two years at Maryland, when he passed for 6,125 yards and 47 touchdowns, and punted for a 42.8 yard average. In six games at quarterback last fall, he threw for 1,176 yards and two touchdowns; in seven games, his punting average dipped to 36.9 yards.

Mel Kiper, the Jarrettsville-based draft expert, is also the director of player personnel for the Hula Bowl. He rated Milanovich as the 12th-best quarterback prospect at midseason, but put his name first on the "Players Moving Down" list in his December newsletter, before the Blue-Gray game.

Kiper, who said that Milanovich "can push up to the third round" in the draft, has maintained that Milanovich's quickest path into the NFL is as a team's punter and third-team quarterback. He'll get a taste of that role at the Hula Bowl, because Trinity's Jon Stark will start for the East at quarterback, and Milanovich and Nebraska's Brook Berringer will be the backups.

"Scott wasn't loose, but he still knocked a couple of punts 55 yards this morning," Kiper said yesterday from Hawaii. "He was inconsistent, but that's Scott. He views this as one more opportunity after a year that didn't go his way. He isn't pressing. What's the point? There is already enough pressure on these guys."

Milanovich has seen Boomer Esiason and Neil O'Donnell, Maryland's top quarterbacks in the 1980s, go on to the Super Bowl. He also saw Terps offensive lineman Steve Ingram, at one time projected to go in the first round, plan a draft celebration and wait until the seventh round to be taken last year.

"Strange things happen in the draft," Milanovich said, "and I've been through enough already."

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