COLLEGE PARK — COLLEGE PARK -- The 40-yard -- time might be for real, and he might be a sculpted 275 pounds, but Mark Duffner needs to know: Is the kid ready to play against men?
The speculation about newcomers begins to end at Maryland today, when 20 freshmen, three junior college transfers and a dozen or so walk-ons stop being recruits and start being Terps. After reporting today, they'll have three more days of testing and orientation before they discover exactly where they stand Thursday, when veterans report.
"Everyone looks good in shorts," said Duffner, Maryland's second-year coach. "But who's going to be physical? Who's going to hit? I'm enthused about every recruit we have coming in, but it's useless to speculate."
Duffner isn't telling, but the man who keyed last winter's recruiting has some opinions, particularly since he's no longer at Maryland.
Kyle Lingerfelt left the Terps in June and surfaced last month in Cleveland, where he's a member of the Browns' 10-man scouting department. After losing 28 seniors, including a record-setting quarterback, the top four pass-catchers and nine of the top 12 tacklers from a 3-8 team, openings are available. Does Lingerfelt think any of the rookies are advanced enough to start? Who else is ready to provide depth this season? Who's going to be redshirted?
Lonny Calicchio was the first name mentioned by Lingerfelt. A punter/kicker who was a junior college All-American at Northwest Mississippi, Calicchio is expected to take over openings created when Dave DeArmas left the program.
"Calicchio's a guy who fills an immediate need," Lingerfelt said. "He has NFL-type talent, but he's never had much coaching. We tried to sign him out of high school when I was at Florida, but he didn't predict [meet the NCAA minimums for freshman eligibility]. Watch, [special teams coach] John Baxter will give him some great mechanics."
Maryland has some pressing needs on defense, and Lingerfelt sees linebackers Jason Brown and Ratcliff Thomas as possible contributors.
"Thomas is a year older than the other freshmen after going to prep school, and he has a great chance to play," Lingerfelt said. "Brown has great talent, but he'll have some difficult schemes to learn. In the scheme Maryland plays, inside linebacker is a lot like quarterback, a lot of decisions to make. It's a difficult position to learn."
Readiness is often affected by position.
"It's hard for a kid to step in right away at some positions," Lingerfelt said. "It's very hard for a lineman right out of high school to play right away. There's so much to learn, especially on offense. On the defensive line, there's not as much assignment football. You can take a young defensive lineman who's weaker, give him two or three things to worry about, and he can play for you.
"It's similar with wide receivers and defensive backs, where strength isn't as important as speed. In a four-wideout scheme like the run-and-shoot, you have to play with a lot of wide receivers. You usually travel with eight. The receivers coming in, Jermaine Stewart and Mancel Johnson, could play this year."
Lingerfelt also mentioned Brian Underwood, a two-way back in high school "who will fit in somewhere"; defensive lineman Johnnie Hicks Jr.; offensive lineman Ron "Bam-Bam" White; 300-pound defensive lineman Darryl Gilliam; and the two other junior college transfers besides Calicchio -- defensive back Allen Williams and offensive lineman Mark Motley.
The new group has been called Maryland's best in a decade, but Lingerfelt said more like it have to follow if the Terps, who have had just one winning record since 1985, are going to be competitive in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
"They need two more years like this one to be up at the top of the ACC," Lingerfelt said.
TERPS' KEY DATES
Today: Freshmen and other new players report.
Thursday: Veterans report.
Saturday: First practice.
Aug. 18: First day in pads.
Sept. 4: Opener against Virginia, at Byrd Stadium.