New backfield depth gives Duffner room to maneuver Coach plans to share running back workload

MARYLAND NOTEBOOK

September 04, 1996|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- Depth at running back was a major concern of Maryland coach Mark Duffner's heading into this season. Buddy Rodgers had a solid enough campaign in 1995, but beyond the big junior, Terps ball-carriers were all about potential instead of accomplishment.

One game against a rebuilding program isn't going to make Duffner declare Maryland as Tailback U., but he came out of a 30-6 win over Northern Illinois with a variety of options.

After a game in which the Terps ran for 274 yards, their most in six years, Duffner is trying to determine how to share the workload for Saturday's game at Byrd Stadium against Alabama-Birmingham.

"It's been a hot topic of discussion in our staff meetings," Duffner said. "We've got good competition there, and we're going to try to keep fresh legs in the game."

Sophomore Clifton Crosby, a converted defensive back, was the fourth player used at tailback, and he would have been the leading rusher if a penalty hadn't negated his 34-yard touchdown. Redshirt junior Brian Underwood had a team-high 74 yards, more than his total for the final seven games of last season, when the ground attack was nonexistent.

Most impressive, however, were Rodgers and true freshman Harold Westley, who made the most of his belated college debut. Westley came to Maryland last year, but was sent home to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., by the NCAA to straighten out some academic matters.

Duffner said he never has had a faster player in the backfield, and Westley wasted little time making an impression. His 109 total yards, 57 rushing and 52 receiving, were the most ever by a Terps back in his first game, but his teammates wanted to know about the yard he didn't get.

Westley took a screen pass 42 yards, but was caught on the 1-yard line.

"I don't think we've had a faster back, but I was disappointed they caught him," Duffner said. "He took a tremendous amount of grief in the locker room over hitting the wall."

Westley's speed gives Maryland another dimension, which wasn't lost on Rodgers, who was the fullback on that screen.

"It's quite obvious I'm a power runner," said Rodgers, who's 5 feet 11 and 230 pounds. "Brian is definitely a slasher, and Harold's got great speed. Until he got here, Clifton was the fastest back we had. It could be an interesting mix."

Decent crowd at Byrd

The statistic that most impressed Duffner from the opener was the crowd at Byrd Stadium, 32,517. It was more than watched last year's opener, against Atlantic Coast Conference rival North Carolina, and came on a holiday weekend with plenty of NFL competition.

"The Ravens were home, the Redskins were home and not all of our students were here," Duffner said.

Miscellaneous

Maryland expects to have Rasheed Simmons enrolled as a student by week's end. Wallace, a USA Today All-America defensive end in 1993, spent the past two seasons at Michigan. He would sit out this season and be eligible to play the next two years. . . . Duffner used 18 newcomers against Northern Illinois, including five true freshmen. Aside from Westley, running backs Kenny Rogers and Damone Boone played, along with defensive back Lewis Sanders and offensive lineman Vince Xanthos. . . . Brian Cummings is the first Terps starting quarterback to win consecutive season openers since Mike Tice in 1979-80.

Next for Maryland

Opponent: Alabama-Birmingham

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Site: Byrd Stadium, College Park

When: Saturday, 7 p.m.

Record: 0-1

Pub Date: 9/04/96

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