Vanderlinden gets to work, targets titles New Terps coach wants Florida State, perfect season

He aims to fill staff quickly

UM must 'throw a net' over recruiting area

December 05, 1996|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- Ron Vanderlinden's temporary home is a motel room, but he doesn't require much more than a bed and a telephone anyway. When Vanderlinden is awake, he's working the phone, selling a coaching crony or a high school senior on the merits of Maryland.

Vanderlinden was introduced as the Terps' new football coach yesterday, one day after he signed a five-year contract that has an annual base salary of $130,000. He met the media, assured Maryland's returning players that their time in limbo was over, then set about securing a staff and targeting the prospects who will be in his first recruiting class.

Vanderlinden got everyone's attention with the bravado that led athletic director Debbie Yow to offer him the job less than a

week after Mark Duffner had been fired.

"It's my hope that when we do win the ACC," Vanderlinden said, "we're undefeated so we have a chance for the national championship."

Won't No. 1 Florida State, the Atlantic Coast Conference leader which has beaten the Terps by an average of 38 points during the past five years, have something to say about that?

"We won't be satisfied until we win the ACC championship," Vanderlinden said. "That is our only goal. I know it goes through Tallahassee. I'm looking at maps right now, figuring out how we're going to get there."

After helping Colorado to a national championship and Northwestern to a Rose Bowl in the span of six seasons, Vanderlinden is familiar with the national landscape.

What he needs is a primer on Maryland's recruiting base. To that end, last night he met with Jim Miceli, the recruiting coordinator who was dismissed along with the rest of Duffner's staff 10 days ago, and tried to finish the deal to bring Lou Tepper here as defensive coordinator.

Tepper, who worked with Vanderlinden at Colorado, recently resigned as coach at Illinois. He's a native of western Pennsylvania, an area where Maryland has prospered in the past.

Vanderlinden, who two days ago was still Northwestern's assistant head coach, is also expected to hire Craig Johnson, the Wildcats' quarterback coach, as his offensive coordinator. He is negotiating with several other Northwestern coaches, and the hiring and recruiting process could be slowed by that program's participation in the Citrus Bowl New Year's Day.

"Coach [Gary] Barnett and I have an agreement," Vanderlinden said. "The Northwestern guys are going to coach through the bowl game."

Vanderlinden said that he hoped to fill out his nine-man staff next week, and he needs some assistants who can come on board quickly.

"He'd like to have recruits on campus while students are here," Yow said. "There's only two more weekends until the semester break, and then they're gone. It's always better to have recruits on campus when students are here, and there's life on campus."

For all of the goodwill Duffner made, the program doesn't have a scholarship player from the Baltimore metropolitan area with any remaining eligibility.

"To me, what makes a football job a really good job is your proximity to the population and recruiting base you have to work with," Vanderlinden said. "There's 10 million people within a two-hour drive, close to that. The first thing you have to control is Maryland, Northern Virginia, you need to get up into Philadelphia. We have to throw a net over this area."

Maryland has room for the full complement of 25 recruits allowed annually by the NCAA, but Vanderlinden said he wasn't going to sign players just to pad the roster.

"My approach is it's not the ones you lose that beat you," Vanderlinden said, "it's the ones that can't play that defeat you."

Vanderlinden stated it another way when he met with Maryland's returning players.

"He said when he looked at tape of prospects, he'd base his evaluation on one thing," defensive tackle Johnnie Hicks said. "He said, 'Can this guy help us beat Florida State?' I like that a lot."

There are some gaping holes in an offense that struggled for much of the season, but Duffner didn't leave the cupboard entirely bare. Barring academic problems, Vanderlinden could have as many as 59 scholarship players in spring practice. Those are the ones he'll have to win with next fall.

"I like the direction he wants to go in," said quarterback Brian Cummings, who has one year of eligibility left. "He feels the talent is here to win next year."

His first full day as the Terps' coach was not without some minor mishaps. On three separate occasions, Vanderlinden referred to his team as Northwestern, instead of Maryland. No one seemed to mind, not when he was talking about taking on Florida State.

"I think if you're afraid to stand up and say who you are, what you believe in, what your goals are, then what's the point?" Vanderlinden said. "If I'm not successful, maybe I won't be here in five years, but that's my goal. I want everyone to know, clearly, that's where we're headed. That's where I envision we're going.

"I'm going to have to screw it up to not be successful."

Pub Date: 12/05/96

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