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Terps' Jordan just running for yards

August 19, 1998|By BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Spring practice was a real pain for LaMont Jordan.

While the University of Maryland's offensive line was taking "target practice," the Terps' most valuable weapon found himself wearing a target.

"The thing I have to work on is my patience," Jordan said recently at the team's media day. "I know the line isn't going to get all the blocks, so I have to learn to wait until they develop. During the spring, I was getting frustrated because I kept getting hit in the backfield. The coaches had to keep reminding me that the offensive line was learning some new things and it would take time to take hold."

--cont. from sports page--

Back then, it seemed like little consolation. The offensive line was losing weight and learning to be more agile in their blocking tactics. They were getting credit for trying and changing while Jordan was just getting black and blue.

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But if Jordan's quick lesson in patience pans out, all the aches and pains of spring will become big gains and touchdowns this fall when the Terps open the 1998 season.

Maryland is advertising an offensive line which will attack opposing defenses with an ability to protect the quarterback and open holes for Jordan.

If it works, it will fulfill Jordan's first rule: success through longevity.

"I don't like to be hit," said the 5-foot-11, 214-pound sophomore. "I hate contact. I try to avoid it."

During Maryland's 2-9 season of 1997, Jordan was getting hit a lot.

He was running behind a line which was trained mainly in run-and-shoot techniques. A line that was so beefed up, it was dead if it took more than one step in any direction to throw a block. A line that had more misses than hits.

Jordan managed to rush for 689 yards in 159 attempts to gain recognition as one of the top freshmen in the Atlantic Coast Conference. He was running for yardage while, in essence, running for his life.

"To avoid getting hit, I tried to deliver the blows to the defensive players," Jordan said. "I figured that if I hit them hard enough first, they'd think twice about coming hard after me the next time."

But if the painful experiences of spring pay off, Jordan will become a dangerous part of the Maryland offense in the fourth quarter of games.

"Anytime your linemen can move, it makes the running back's job a lot easier," Jordan said. "You're not worrying about hitting people yourself to get through the line. The line is taking care of hitting people so you can hit the holes."

And hitting holes doesn't hurt or sap your energy as much as hitting defensive linemen.

"Anytime you're not getting hit, you have more energy for the back end of the game," Jordan said. "The only reason I'm considered a bruising back is because I was hitting people so I didn't get hit."

Much of Maryland's success in 1998 will depend on the ability of the offensive line to give Jordan and quarterback Ken Mastrole time to do their jobs. Maryland coach Ron Vanderlinden said it's important for the Terps to be able to use their new "attack" offense to move the ball and throw the ball when they want to throw.

Time will tell.

"It's hard to say how we will do because we haven't been able to play in a game situation yet," Jordan said. "I haven't been able to play with Ken yet and it's hard to say if the line will protect any better. But if they do, it will give both the quarterback and the running backs more confidence."

And it will make being patient and staying healthy much easier for LaMont Jordan.

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