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At Morgan State, the future is now Coach Diggs forced to rely on freshmen


Morgan State football will prosper again when Ricky Diggs doesn't have to talk about the freshmen who might play right away.

The ideal in Division I is for freshmen to redshirt their first fall, sit on the bench the following season and maybe begin to contribute by their third year on campus. Reality is radically different at Morgan State, which hired Diggs in February 1991 to turn around a program that last finished above .500 in 1979.

"You'd like to sign a kid and automatically redshirt him, but we don't have that luxury right now," Diggs said. "We have more talent in camp than we did last year, and there's the possibility that some of the rookies will be starting, but each year the experience factor has to improve. We've got to bring in quality players and hold on to them."

Diggs considers this year's newcomers his first real recruiting class, but in retrospect last year's freshman class that he threw together turned out better than expected. Diggs counted 15 in that group, and 14 are still at Morgan State, most notably quarterback Michael Moore. The only victory in a 1-10 season came in the finale against Howard.

This year's crop is expected to have a bigger impact, starting with their first workouts with the veterans tomorrow. Nearly half of the approximately 50 first-year players are walk-ons, but the recruits are a hybrid mix that Diggs hopes can plug some big holes on a team that has just seven seniors, 18 juniors and designs on leaving the depths of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.

Diggs and his staff traveled some new routes for talent:

* Some of the state's best high school football is played in Prince George's County, and 15 lined up when they called for a group photo from that county. Diggs mentioned five offensive line prospects, and three of them are from Prince George's, the smallest being 250-pound Marcus Moore. However, he has the biggest SAT score: 1,250.

* Diggs went north of the border for another offensive line prospect. Franco Rocca is 6 feet 6, 280 pounds, and he brought with him two big friends from Ontario.

* Cornerback Kelvin Bryson -- also from Prince George's -- and Floridian Jesse Humphrey came in from Montgomery College in Rockville, the state's only junior college program.

* Humphrey is contending for a pass-catching berth in a group that includes Dondeal Mixon and Antonio Moore, teammates since their days at Bedford High in Cleveland. They redshirted at Division I-A Toledo two years ago, and came east with assistant coach L.C. Cole. The plan is for them to take pressure off of quarterback Moore and top returning deep threat Dante Carter.

* One of the newcomers at defensive back is Phillip Downs, who was playing point guard for the Bears' basketball team last February. His last football action came in 1985, when he was a freshman at Potomac High, but Diggs praised his habits and said, "If he'll hit somebody, he'll be a fine addition.

* Diggs even got help from the past. Michael Andrews, the kicker the past two years, got his degree in May and planned to enter law school, but is instead enrolled in Morgan State's MBA program. He has another year of eligibility, so he'll strengthen the special teams.

Diggs had no complaints about the off-season performance of his veterans, a group headed by cornerback Eddie Hill, free safety Mario Rivers and tackle Matt Steeple on defense. Morgan State defensive backs must complete a 1 1/2 -mile run in 10 minutes, and while Hill needed a second try last year, he clocked 8:37 yesterday morning.

"I followed the coach's prescribed workout plan more closely this summer, and I know others did, too," said Hill, who'll be starting for the fourth straight year. "We won three games the first month I was here, but we've won only three times since. I can't deal with losing anymore."

Morgan schedule

Date.. .. .. .. .. Opponent.. .. .. .. ..Time

Sept. 12.. .. .. .at Liberty.. .. .. .. .1 p.m.

Sept. 19.. .. .. at N.C. A&T..; .. .. 1:30 p.m.

Sept. 26.. .. .. .J.C. Smith.. .. .. .1:30 p.m.

Oct. 3.. .. .. .. at Buffalo.. .. .. .. .1 p.m.

Oct. 10.. .. .. . at S.Carolina St... 1:30 p.m.

Oct. 17.. .. .. ...Central State.. ...1:30 p.m.

Oct. 24.. .. .. ..Delaware State.. .. .. 2 p.m.

Oct. 31.. .. .. .. at Fla. A&M..; .. .. ..2 p.m.

Nov. 7.. .. .. .. at W. Illinois.. .. 1:30 p.m.

Nov. 14.. .. .. .. .at Howard.. .. .. .. 1 p.m.

Nov. 21.. .. .. .. Beth.-Cookman.. .. 1:30 p.m.

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