The Ron Vanderlinden era will enter a new phase today, when he conducts his first practice as Maryland's football coach.
Vanderlinden and his staff have gotten to know the players during six weeks of conditioning, but today will be the first of 15 spring practices allowed by the NCAA.
"I feel we've already done quite a bit in terms of evaluating talent and getting the players to do things our way," Vanderlinden said. "Now, we're ready to teach techniques and install our system."
Vanderlinden was hired Dec. 3, after the firing of Mark Duffner, who is now an assistant with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Vanderlinden spent the past five years at Northwestern, where he was defensive coordinator and assistant head coach during the Wildcats' surge to the top of the Big Ten. Offensively, he'll be installing one-back and two-back sets, and he will add a three-man front to the 4-3 alignment to which the defense is accustomed.
Maryland has a depth chart, but Vanderlinden said it doesn't mean much. Senior Brian Cummings, for instance, is listed as the No. 1 quarterback, but Vanderlinden said that the spring will be about competition.
"If he [Cummings] proves to the best quarterback, he'll be No. 1 at the end of spring," Vanderlinden said. "That's the same with every position. At all positions, we're going to open it up. If you've had problems before, you're going to get a fresh start. We've got no preconceived ideas.
"We graduated seven players who had started on offense and six on defense, so it's been hard to watch the younger players on tape. We're going to send everyone down to the scout team at some point, and we're going to give the kids who have been second- and third-teamers a legitimate shot."
Vanderlinden said that Ken Mastrole, who got several starts last year when Cummings was injured, has fully recovered from the broken collarbone that he suffered in the Terps' seventh game last year.
Maryland ranked last in the Atlantic Coast Conference in total offense. The Terps must come up with some fullback and H-back types, and improved line play is a must. On defense, the Terps must replace four starters in the secondary.
It was an odd semester break; Vanderlinden lost only one player to academics, but saw three assistant coaches change their minds and leave the staff before ever working a practice.
Defensive tackle Tim Watson was the lone academic casualty, but the Terps won't be hurting on the line, as end Rasheed Simmons comes in from Michigan and tackle Anthony Jenkins becomes academically eligible.
Vanderlinden said he'll have 84 players in spring camp, and approximately 60 are scholarship players. The latest addition to that group is offensive lineman Mitch Watkins, a Salisbury native who was the only walk-on to start in the ACC last year.
Spring practice ends April 26, with a 3 p.m. intersquad game at Byrd Stadium. Vanderlinden said he will divide the squads as evenly as possible, instead of having the first-team offenses and defenses stay together. Weekday practices start at 3: 45, the Saturday workouts are at 1 p.m. All are open to the public.
"I've never been paranoid about that," Vanderlinden said. "If people are going to skunk you, they're going to skunk you."
New staff in place
After three of his original hires left before ever working a practice at Maryland, Ron Vanderlinden has assembled the following staff:
Name .. .. .. .. .. .. Position . .. .. .. Previous team
Ron Vanderlinden .. .. Head coach .. .. .. Northwestern
Wally Ake ... .. .. .. Defensive coord. .. Rice
Craig Johnson .. .. .. Offensive coord. .. Northwestern
Rubin Carter ... .. .. Defensive line . .. San Jose State
Chris Cosh .. .. .. .. Recruiting coord. . Illinois
Steve Greatwood ... .. Offensive line . .. St. Louis Rams
Mike Gundy .. .. .. .. Wide receivers . .. Baylor
Bob Heffner . .. .. .. Tight ends .. .. .. Northern Illinois
Mike Locksley .. .. .. Running backs .. .. Army
Doug Mallory ... .. .. Defensive backs ... Indiana
Pub Date: 4/01/97