Terrapins have eyes for a pro-set offense Spring practice begins tomorrow

March 07, 1996|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- The reserve fullback weighs 190 pounds, and neither of the tight ends has played a down in Division I-A.

Maryland coach Mark Duffner says that improved personnel and a need for better balance are behind the renovation of his offense during spring practice, which begins tomorrow. There are some more compelling reasons, however, for the Terps' move from a one-back, four-receiver offense to a two-back set.

Besides the statistical evidence that defensive coordinators have wised up to the run-and-shoot, that scheme may have been too complex for a young offense last season. Additionally, after three years of saying otherwise, Duffner acknowledged that the run-and-shoot could have adversely affected the Terps' defensive preparation.

The seeds for change were sown in the middle of last season, when the run-and-shoot produced one touchdown in four games and the Terps' bowl hopes withered. A hurriedly installed I-formation got a victory at North Carolina State, secured Maryland's first winning season since 1990 and returned Duffner and his staff to the chalkboard.

Quarterback Brian Cummings said he is all for the changes. He got the Terps to 4-0 last year, gave way to Scott Milanovich, then regained the starting job and struggled behind an offensive line that had three fellow first-year starters.

"The complexity of the of fense was a burden," Cummings said. "The best thing about this is that it's simpler. There are fewer reads for everyone. In the run-and-shoot, the quarterback had to read the coverage on four receivers on every play, and the offensive line had to adjust to some crazy looks. The change takes pressure off of everyone."

Duffner said there also should be dividends for his rejuvenated defense, because it will practice against a first-team offense that's running formations it's more likely to see on game day.

"Sometimes, maybe the defense wasn't getting as good a look at the other team from our younger players on the look [scout] team," Duffner said. "When our team has some of those plays in its offense, you've got good going against good in practice."

Duffner stressed that Maryland won't entirely depart from a wide-open style, and mentioned last August. After Milanovich was suspended for the start of the season, offensive coordinator Dan Dorazio installed misdirection and bootlegs to tailor the offense to Cummings' strengths.

"The message shouldn't be that we're departing completely from what we've done in the past," Duffner said. "We're going to take some things that our players know and some things that have been successful, and, at the same time, try to expand in a couple of areas, bring in a fullback and a tight end."

Duffner defended the run-and- shoot, which rewrote the passing and receiving portions of the Maryland record book, yet failed to give the Terps any consistency on the ground.

"When we came here, if we had tried to play smash-mouth football, we would have had a difficult time," said Duffner, who used the run-and-shoot at Holy Cross. "We brought the offense that we knew, but we adapted it to what we had. We didn't feel like we had the number of players, both backs and linemen, to be a two-back team. We've got more guys who can play now."

Actually, the offensive line lacks depth, and the talent at fullback and tight end is relatively new.

The fullback, Mario Chavez, was a reserve defensive lineman through the seventh game of his junior season. Redshirt freshman Darnell Eatmon is listed as the backup, but Buddy Rodgers, who gained 718 yards last year, can be used there.

The tight ends are junior college transfers. Tim Brown starred at Nassau last season, and Josh Hough practiced with the defensive line and was redshirted. Cummings is one of Maryland's top baseball pitchers, and Duffner guaranteed him that he wouldn't miss any pitching starts this spring. He'll skip as many as three of the 15 practices, but the coaches need to see more of quarterbacks Trey Evans and Ken Mastrole anyway. They are two of the 16 who redshirted last season.

Duffner said he doesn't want Maryland to try to do too much this spring. Two years ago, the Terps experimented with an assortment of formations, and it wasn't until October 1994 that Maryland had regained the timing necessary to make the run-and-shoot click.

"We've got a lot of good ideas, but it's what the players know, not what the coaches know," Duffner said. "That will always be a key for us, not to be so play- or scheme-happy that we become jacks of all trades and masters of none."

Pub Date: 3/07/96

Less offensive

In four seasons under coach Mark Duffner, Maryland's offensive output steadily has diminished:

Season ... .... .... Total offense .... NCAA rank

1992 .... ..... .... 466.5 .... .... .. 4

1993 .... ..... .... 439.6 .... .... .. 16

1994 .... .... ..... 370.4 .... .... .. 52

1995 .... .... ..... 317.3 .... .... .. 88

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