COLLEGE PARK -- The program is headed in the wrong direction, and the coach is fired. Players who don't fit in the new coach's plans leave, adding to the roster turnover that, in the best of times, is going to include a certain number of academic and physical casualties.
This is attrition, and it has left Maryland with one of the youngest teams in the nation. The Terps could use as many as 20 first-year players at North Carolina tomorrow. Contrast the Terps' inexperience with the seasoning of the 14th-ranked Tar Heels, who will start 13 seniors. The Terps will start five seniors, one a junior-college transfer.
It's part of the transition under second-year coach Mark Duffner, who is trying to overcome a recent past that includes one winning season in the past seven.
The Terps are young in part because nearly half of the players recruited between 1989 and 1991, the last three classes brought in under then-coach Joe Krivak, are no longer in the program. Of 55 players who signed letters of intent in those three years who haven't exhausted their eligibility, 29 are still on the team.
Maryland's attrition is fairly typical of programs in transition. Even in winning programs, players flunk out or stop playing because of injuries. One of the Terps was dismissed because of legal problems, but a majority moved on after seeing that they didn't fit in Duffner's plans.
The departures aren't restricted to players from the Krivak regime. At least eight players have transferred since Duffner's .. first practice in 1992, including two members of his first recruiting class.
There have been the customary complaints about the new coach wanting to bring in his own players, but Duffner said: "Playing time has nothing to do with youth. Whoever the best are, they're going to play."
Maryland's athletic director said he isn't surprised by the turnover.
"Any time you have a coaching change, there's going to be more attrition," Andy Geiger said. "You recruit players under one system, and then a different one is installed. You don't want unhappy kids, and if they can find another place to play, that's great."
The observation within the program is that players recruited under Duffner are more talented than ones recruited before he arrived.
Senior linebacker Jaime Flores, echoing other veterans, said: "The current freshmen have more potential than the freshmen from the Krivak years."
Geiger added: "We do not have enough players with physical attributes required to play five or six teams who are in the Top 25."
Krivak, who had a 20-34-1 record from 1987 to 1991, said that even if some of his recruits didn't fit in Duffner's plans, they were Division I-A caliber. "It doesn't mean those guys aren't good players," Krivak said. "Look at [Frank] Wycheck. He was barely used last year. Now he's playing for the Redskins."
Krivak said his last recruiting class "was probably our best," but only nine players from the 1991 group remain. Three flunked off the team. After playing in 1992, kicker Dave DeArmas transferred to Connecticut, quarterback Tom Marchese to Villanova and defensive end Mike Rodgers to Memphis State.
The class that arrived in 1989, which would provide Maryland with its fifth-year seniors, also has shrunk. After injuries to defensive linemen Jim Panagos and Mark Sturdivant, that group provides three starters: Flores, offensive tackle Steve Ingram and wide receiver Jason Kremus.
The group that arrived in 1990 has been more successful. Of 19 recruits who still would have eligibility, 13 remain and six start.
Not including a 1992 recruit who came to Maryland after a year of prep school, the Terps signed 26 players to letters of intent this year, but two did not enroll because of old injuries and two others didn't meet academic requirements.
"When the transition is over, we'll be the better for it," Geiger said. "It takes four to five years to populate your system with the players it needs. There isn't any other way to build than with one recruit at a time."
The number of players in recent Maryland recruiting classes who remain with the football team. Number signed refers to those signed to letters of intent and includes high school seniors and junior-college transfers who committed to Maryland and still would have eligibility. Not all met the academic eligibility requirements or attended Maryland. Chart does not include players who transferred to Maryland.
Year .. .. .. .. ..Signed .. .. .Remain .. .. ..EE*
1989 .. .. .. .. .. .20 .. .. .. ..7 .. .. .. ...3
1990 .. .. .. .. .. .20 .. .. .. .13 .. .. .. ...1
1991 .. .. .. .. .. .20 .. .. .. ..9 .. .. .. ...1
1992 .. .. .. .. .. .20 .. .. .. .16 .. .. .. .N/A
rTC Totals .. .. .. .. ..80 .. .. .. .45 .. .. .. ...5
*EE-denotes eligibility exhausted