COLLEGE PARK -- Maryland's offense probably will remain a work in progress for another month.
The Terps have 13 days until their opener, against Northern Illinois. They will be heavily favored in that game and their next, against Alabama-Birmingham, so it's likely that coach Mark Duffner won't show all the cards in Maryland's offensive hand until Sept. 14, when it begins Atlantic Coast Conference play at Virginia.
"Seventy-five percent of the offense is in, but we were pretty vanilla today," Duffner said after an intrasquad scrimmage at Byrd Stadium that was open to the public.
Asked if there are still some surprises to come from the offense, Duffner answered: "We just wanted to get some reps today."
Maryland, which has gone with a one-back, four-receiver set most of the past four years, surprised N.C. State with the I-formation last November. In spring practice, the Terps worked with tight ends, but their predominant formation yesterday included a tailback, a fullback and three receivers, one lining up in the slot.
The off-season emphasis was on the ground game, but the Terps aren't going to ignore their talent at receiver. Geroy Simon has 150 career catches, and two-year starter Mancel Johnson has 81. A third senior, Walt Williams, is listed as a first-teamer while Johnson serves a two-game suspension to start the season.
With Johnson (strained hamstring) and Williams (sprained thumb) sitting out yesterday's scrimmage, sophomore Bruce James and redshirt freshman Troy Davidson got more time. James and Davidson figure to get most of their work in the slot, but most members of the receiving corps are interchangeable.
The first-team work at tailback was split between redshirt junior Brian Underwood and true freshman Harold Westley. Underwood had some decent gains, but he still shows a tendency to dance instead of hit the hole. Westley, who hasn't carried the ball in a game since 1993, showed little rust.
The highlight of the controlled scrimmage came when the first-team offense and defense matched up. Brian Cummings hit Simon on a short pattern, and it went for 46 yards.
Fitzgerald moves up
Craig Fitzgerald made a rapid ascent up the depth chart in the first week of practice.
A non-scholarship senior from Philadelphia who has played sparingly on defense the last two years, Fitzgerald spent the spring on the offensive line, but was shifted to tight end at the start of camp. He played as much as anyone there yesterday and more than several scholarship players.
"Craig has had a remarkable 16 practices," Dorazio said. "He's dependable, and he can block. The position is a concern for us, and we're looking for a guy who can hold it down."
There is also a fight for the starting position at right guard. Fifth-year senior Aaron Henne is the incumbent, but he's being challenged by Ben Thomas, a true freshman from Avoca, Pa., who played for that state's Big 33 all-star team.
Pub Date: 8/18/96