Vanderlinden is still driven

August 24, 1998|By BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Coach Ron Vanderlinden has the vehicle for success with his University of Maryland football team.

But the Terps are built to travel in basic efficiency. Forget the fancy, frilly luxuries that other teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference, such as Florida State and North Carolina, boast. The Terps have very few options.

Vanderlinden just hopes to give the 1998 team a jumpstart, something that will drive it the glory days of old enjoyed in the 1970s and 80s.

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"When I first arrived at Maryland, the program was like an old, manual car," Vanderlinden said Sunday during the annual ACC media tour stop at Byrd Stadium. "It's like that 1969 Chevy Impala I drove when I was a kid. There is no power steering and no power brakes. It's all clutch and downshifting to get uphill. But the day is coming that this program will be automatic, and it will drive itself. We'll just have to steer and give directions."


Fans hitchhiking on the fortunes of the Terps football team this season could still be in for a smoother ride than last year's 2-9 season, but Vanderlinden warns that he can't drop the "student driver" tag off this year's team just yet.

"This team has a chance to have a good season, but we're going to need a break or two, and we have to stay healthy," Vanderlinden said to the room of 25 reporters representing newspapers covering the ACC. "I'm encouraged by the progress we're making."

Most of the improvement has come on offense for the Terps, who spent the off-season changing a game with run-and-shoot properties to something that might be considered a Big Ten-styled attack and power offense tailored to speedy ACC specifications.

The weight loss of Maryland's linemen and the dominance of running back LaMont Jordan were highlighted, giving the feeling that the Terps might be fielding an offense dependent on its running game.

"We have spent time converting from the run-and-shoot offense that was here," Vanderlinden said. "There are a lot of ways to win games ... Florida State has been pretty successful throwing the ball all over the place. But we have to be able to run the ball and be physical up front to win."

Vanderlinden compared the Terps' facelift to the one the Miami Dolphins are undergoing with Jimmy Johnson and the one that transformed the Denver Broncos into Super Bowl champions.

"Denver found out it didn't have to rely on John Elway's arm," Vanderlinden said. "That's what we need to do."

The change puts the ball firmly in the breadbasket of Jordan, the second-leading freshman rusher in the ACC last season with 698 rushing and 920 all-purpose yards.

"LaMont did a great job running behind the line he had last year," Vanderlinden said. "If he had one like the other ACC freshmen had to run behind, God only knows what he would have done. He is extremely fast at 218 pounds. I'll be really disappointed if he doesn't rush well over 1,000 yards."

For now, junior Ken Mastrole gets the keys to Maryland's offense, even though he has still not received the starting blessing from Vanderlinden.

"Mastrole has done a great job to distance himself from the rest of the quarterback pack," Vanderlinden said. "He's had the ability. It was just a matter of seeing him do it. He's been throwing the ball with touch and has lost weight, so we see the mobility and the quarterback instincts that we had not seen last year."

Vanderlinden just wants some time to teach the Terps to get everything in gear, starting on Sept. 5 when Maryland hosts James Madison in the opener.

"On a positive note, we are one of the teams who have a great opportunity to rise again," he said. "We were one of those teams in the 1970s and 80s to compete for a championship, and we are located in an area where we can recruit ourselves out of this."

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