Maryland promises to be unpredictable Multiple-look Terps open with No. Illinois

August 31, 1996|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- Geroy Simon, 44 catches shy of the Atlantic Coast Conference record for career receptions, said, "We're going to have a surprise for you."

Rob Spence, the quarterbacks coach, offered that, "We're going to be fun to watch."

Erik Greenstein, the center for the Maryland offense, gave this preview of what the Terps plan in 1996: "There's only two people who know what we're going to do, the offensive coordinator and God."

Maryland opens its football season tonight at 7 at Byrd Stadium as a 23-point favorite over Northern Illinois. The off-season focus was on some new schemes that give the Terps a multiple offense, but one has to wonder how many of the options they'll reveal in the first two games.

Next week, the Terps will play Alabama-Birmingham, regarded as the weakest team in major-college football. They begin Atlantic Coast Conference play in two weeks, at defending co-champion Virginia. Are coach Mark Duffner and offensive coordinator Dan Dorazio really going to show everything in the playbook this soon?

In his first four seasons at Maryland, Duffner leaned heavily on the run-and-shoot, a one-back, four-receiver set. The I-formation was plugged in last November. A tight end came into the mix in the spring. There's a formation that has two backs and three receivers.

Oh, by the way, coach, is the run-and-shoot history?

"We could use it 50 percent or more of the time," Duffner

said, "but a lot depends on what we anticipate seeing, how we can attack the other team."

The swing man in the offense is junior Buddy Rodgers, who gained 718 yards last year. Does he anticipate much time in the one-back offense the Terps have used in the past? In the two-back formations, is he a tailback, or a fullback?

"All of the above," Rodgers said.

Duffner loves to keep the opposition guessing, but he'll be a bit in the dark himself tonight.

He knows that Northern Illinois has one of the nation's top returning rushers in Charles Talley, who gained 1,540 yards last year, but he's not entirely certain about the schemes that will be employed by Joe Novak, who was hired as coach after NIU compiled a 3-8 record in the Big West Conference last year.

At quarterback, the Huskies will start junior Brandon Parker. Bubby Brister's nephew completed 15 of 32 passes for 291 yards last season.

If it's a transition year for the Huskies, who will join the Mid-American Conference in 1997, the Terps hope it's a breakthrough campaign. They have a defense capable of winning games and an offense that will count on the leadership of junior Brian Cummings, who had a hand in five of last year's six wins.

The goal is a bowl game, something that Maryland hasn't experienced since 1990.

"We've been talking about it for years," Cummings said. "This year, I think we definitely will go."

NOTE: Linebacker Ratcliff Thomas has told Duffner that he's going to play, but the Terps' seventh all-time leading tackler is still hampered by a slight shoulder dislocation he suffered last Sunday.

Terps tonight

Opponent: Northern Illinois

When: Tonight, 7 p.m.

Site: Byrd Stadium

Radio: WBAL (1090 AM), WTOP (1500 AM)

Tickets: 18,000 still available.

Pub Date: 8/31/96

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