COLLEGE PARK -- Give Maryland football coach Ron Vanderlinden credit for being totally honest yesterday when asked why he suddenly named redshirt freshman Melvin Fowler the starting center for Saturday's home opener against James Madison.
Fowler has not played center since junior high school and has only been working out at the position for four days after spending most of fall camp as a backup nose tackle to Delbert Cowsette.
"It concerns me," said Vanderlinden. "But really there's nothing else we can do. We've just got to coach the heck out of them and get as ready as we can."
Vanderlinden had expected junior Eric Timothy and sophomore Ben Thomas to duel for the starting center position, but Thomas has decided not to report to the team because of his concerns over a lingering heart condition.
That left Timothy as the starter, but Vanderlinden said he didn't like the makeup of his line with Timothy at center instead of guard where he played last season.
So Timothy has been moved to the starting left guard position.
"We didn't have five guys that were executing well on the offensive line," said Vanderlinden. "We feel we now have the five best guys on the offensive line. We originally thought we would move Melvin Fowler to guard, but Elliot Uzelac [centers/guards coach] said it is easier to learn the center position than any other on the offensive line. Really that's true because the center either goes left or right and the guards and tackles have to do a lot of pulling."
Vanderlinden said he has been amazed by Fowler's quick ability to learn the center position.
"I sincerely believe Melvin has a chance to become one of the best centers in the ACC," he said. "He was even performing out of the shotgun in the two-minute drill Saturday after only three days at the position and he didn't have one bad snap. Sure, he'll make a mistake or two. But he'll play his butt off and be a good player in time."
Then Vanderlinden even went so far as to say Fowler has a "chance to be like a Kevin Glover [former Terps center who went on to start for the Detroit Lions] before he leaves here. He has the same size, quickness, leverage, plays hard and has a tremendous motor."
Starting on the line with Fowler and Timothy on Saturday will be junior Brad Messina at left tackle, John Feugill at right tackle and Jamie Wu at right guard.
Ogle, Terps set goals
Senior linebacker Kendall Ogle said yesterday the Terps hope to score more than 24 points against the Dukes and hold them to less than 12 points.
"That is what we're shooting for," he said. "We know they're going to try and run on us first and when they can't do that, they're going to pass."
That will put the often-maligned Maryland secondary on the spot again like it was last season and Ogle thinks the corners and safeties are much more prepared.
"We just have more experience and talent than last season."
Setting an example
The Maryland seniors met Sunday night and discussed how they plan to set an example for the many younger players on the squad this season.
"We talked about making sure we don't drink or don't go out during the week," said Ogle. "Also we talked about everybody playing all out all the time. That didn't always happen last season."
Pub Date: 9/01/98