Terps' Ogle has bowlful of optimism for season Coming off 2-9 record, linebacker still expects 'to win a lot of games'

Maryland preview

September 04, 1998|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- Kendall Ogle is a big-time senior linebacker who could stand out in any collegiate football program.

He just happens to be playing for a Maryland team that is trying desperately to climb out of a deep football depression.

But Ogle says he refuses to sit around and think about what might have been if the Terps were a more talented team or he were playing at another school.

He prefers to believe he can help change Maryland's fortunes right away this season and go out in a blaze of glory.

The 6-foot-1, 231-pounder even went on record last week with a monumental prediction that many will dismiss as nothing more than some overzealous optimism.

"I'm confident to say we're going to go to a bowl game," said Ogle without blinking. "We feel we have enough here to go to a bowl game. We have to play almost perfect or top-notch in order to do that. But we definitely feel we're going to win more games this year [than last year's 2-9 record]. I don't think it's unrealistic for us to win a lot of games."

Ogle said he isn't upset the experts have picked Maryland to finish last in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

"We feel that's a motivational tool," he said. "On the other side, we feel we didn't deserve to be ranked any higher. I kind of like the position we're in. People are not looking at us. They're starting to look over us and count a 'W' before they play us. We're going to have some responses to that.

"If you read the magazines and hear some of the commentators and so-called experts, they picked us to lose to everybody this year. They even picked us to lose to Duke and Wake Forest. We lost a lot of games last year, but we're looking to win all those

games this year."

Ogle and highly regarded senior linebacker Eric Barton carry a big burden on a defensive unit that was embarrassed a lot last season.

"If our linebackers make a mistake, we mess up the whole defense," Ogle said. "You have to be intense and into what you're doing and stay very aggressive. You have to stay focused and know what you have to do on the field."

The Maryland secondary collapsed often behind Ogle last season, and the defensive line was no great shakes.

The line is again a concern this season, and the secondary could be in for another long year.

But Ogle is ready to charge into tomorrow's 6 p.m. season opener against James Madison at Byrd Stadium on a mission.

He wants to wipe out the memories of last year's shocking, 21-14 loss to Ohio University in the season opener at home and pay back some of the ACC schools for disappointing losses last season.

"Ohio U. was a nightmare last year," said Ogle. "What we learned from that is we know not to take James Madison for granted, because they're a good team. We got to treat them like they're Florida State, like they're the No. 1 team in the country. There's no way you want to lose your opener at home, and you don't want to lose your opener to any outside teams at all."

Ogle can back up his talk with 4.5 speed in the 40-yard dash, 213 career tackles -- tops among returning ACC players -- and a lot of intensity. He led Maryland in tackles last season with 138, second in the ACC. Last season, he was nominated for the Butkus Award, college football's highest linebacking honor. There is hope of continuing his career in the NFL.

"We can beat anybody on our schedule with Kendall Ogle," said Maryland coach Ron Vanderlinden. "He's a neat kid, a winner on and off the field and a positive, powerful presence on our team. He's what you want in life. He possesses all the qualities of a super linebacker. He has great instincts, is tough, hits over and over and has great speed."

Vanderlinden, who recruited Chad Brown, now with the Seahawks, and coached two-time All-American Pat Fitzgerald at Northwestern, rates Ogle just as high among linebackers.

"[Ogle is] as good as anybody I've been around."

Maryland

Coach: Ron Vanderlinden

Last year: 2-9

Conference: Atlantic Coast

Radio: WBAL (1090 AM), WKDB (1570 AM)

Stadium: Byrd (48,055)

Offense: Multiple

Defense: 4-3

Top returning players: LB Eric Barton, LB Kendall Ogle, TB LaMont Jordan, WR Moises Cruz, RT John Feugill, NT Delbert Cowsette, CB Cliff Crosby, LT Brad Messina, TE Mike Hull, QB Ken Mastrole.

Top newcomers: QB Randall Jones, TE John Waerig, QB Calvin McCall, FS Daryl Whitmer, SS Rod Littles, CB Tony Okanlawon.

Strengths: This is an easy one. The Terps are really strong at only a few positions -- linebacker, tailback and wide receiver. Senior linebackers Barton and Ogle are probably the best players on the team. Barton has been named to several preseason All-America lists, and Ogle led Maryland in tackles last season. Sophomore tailback LaMont Jordan was the fifth-leading rusher in the ACC last season with 689 yards and was second in balloting for ACC Rookie of the Year behind Florida State's Travis Minor. Sophomore wide receiver Cruz led the team in receptions with 29 for 337 yards. Cruz was not charged with a dropped pass last season.

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