Mastrole armed, ready for challenge Football: In Maryland's drive to regain respectability, much of the burden rests on junior quarterback's broad shoulders.

August 22, 1998|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- Ken Mastrole was looking for a new start in a new football environment three years ago when he left sunny Fort Lauderdale for the University of Maryland and the hustle and bustle of the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area.

A 6-foot-3, 230-pound quarterback, he already had been offered a scholarship by the University of Miami in his junior year of high school and there was some pressure from family and friends to stay close to home.

But Mastrole yearned to travel out of state to a schoolwhere he could take advantage of his ability to throw the ball.

"At the time, I felt like my best interests had me leaving the state and kind of starting my life over," he said. "I wanted to branch out to different schools. Maryland threw the ball a lot, I liked the campus, the academics are great and there are a lot of job opportunities in the area. I feel like I made the right decision even though we've been through some hard times in football."

Mastrole, a junior who was redshirted his first year at Maryland, has seen only 13 wins in three years and now steps into the pressure-filled role of the team's No. 1 quarterback.

Scott Milanovich is in the NFL. Brian Cummings has moved on. It's showtime now for Mastrole, whose main claim to fame was two years ago when he became the first redshirt freshman quarterback in school history to start a game.

His job is to lead the Terrapins back to respectability from a 2-9 season last year and none of the experts believe he can do it.

Mastrole admitted this week he is tempted to scoff at the people who are forecasting another dismal Maryland season and make some predictions of his own.

"I'd love to predict some good things for us," he said with a little grin. "But I better not."

Still, Mastrole did talk about a sense of urgency to win and team confidence.

"I think we have the players," he said. "If these guys keep working, we can win. The biggest thing is focus and preparation. If you believe in yourself and your team, I don't think a team can be stopped if they're focused.

"I've been reading this Lou Holtz book and a lot of things he talks about are success and winning. He talked about a lot of his teams that won when they weren't expected to. And I'm also taking a lot from what Coach Vandy [Maryland's Ron Vanderlinden] says about attending to details and discipline."

For Mastrole, his first big shot at quarterback comes after he completed 43 of 108 passes for 437 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions over two seasons.

His only three starts came as a redshirt freshman when he replaced an injured Cummings.

The biggest hurdle Mastrole has to overcome is a reputation for being slow with his footwork.

"I was pinpointed out of high school as being slow," he said. "But I did a lot of footwork on drills over the past winter and don't see that as a problem now. I believe the only thing I need now is more reps."

Vanderlinden doesn't think Mastrole should be judged on those three starts and the parts of eight games he played in 1996. His stats that season were 36 completions in 89 attempts for 354 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.

"It was difficult to come in as a redshirt freshman and perform," Vanderlinden said. "He has the ability you look for in a quarterback. He has size, weighs 230 pounds yet runs a good solid low 4.8 in the 40, and I was surprised at his quickness last spring. He has a low percent body fat which makes him a good 230 pounds. And he has a rifle for an arm."

With many tough and talented Atlantic Coast Conference defenses featuring speed and an attacking style, Vanderlinden knows he has to buy Mastrole some time to use his arm.

"If you're in a position where you have to drop back all day long and throw the ball on their terms instead of your terms, they're going to come get you," Vanderlinden said. "And until you match up athletically, they're going to win most of those battles.

"As soon as you crack the line of scrimmage, there is no flow to a pressure defense and you can hit several big plays. That's just exactly the kind of attack we want to employ. We want to keep a defense honest. We want to throw the ball, hopefully on our terms, off play-action."

Pub Date: 8/22/98

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