COLLEGE PARK - Guilian Gary and Scooter Monroe are young, speedy, bold, restless and typical of a new breed of wide receivers that Maryland coach Ron Vanderlinden is bringing in to open up what has been a conservative passing game.
In a nutshell, Gary and Monroe are go-for-broke deep threats, and they can't wait for Saturday night's season opener against Temple. The two friends are tired of playing college football video games against each other and practicing against teammates.
Gary, a 6-foot, 177-pound junior, moved into the starting lineup Monday night when senior Jason Hatala was ruled out for the game against the 1-0 Owls with a bad lower back. Monroe, a 6-1, 189-pound sophomore from John Carroll, probably won't start, but will be part of a three-man rotation at the two wide receiver spots.
"I'd rather not get the start due to 'Hat' [Hatala] being out," Gary said. "But it's an opportunity I can't pass up. I think I worked hard in the spring to get where I am and I believe I deserve it."
Gary and Monroe will have their final video-game matchup tomorrow night in Columbia at the house of Greg Gary's (Guilian's brother). The Thursday night gatherings in Columbia became traditional during the 1999 season and they're continuing this year.
Said Monroe, "We not only play the video games, but we watch the Thursday night college game of the week. It's really a great escape for us to get away from College Park for a little bit. Especially during preseason training camp, when we're locked in here most of the time."
Monroe said tomorrow night will be even more special, since both players are basically starters in a new, wide-open passing attack that will be used to prevent defenses from stacking the line of scrimmage to shut down LaMont Jordan. Vanderlinden has tabbed the new offense as "similar to a West Coast style."
"I'm real excited about Guilian this season," Monroe said. "He's a big-play guy who has a chance to go all the way every time he gets his hands on the ball."
Senior Moises Cruz is the third receiver in the three-man rotation and figures to start after a strong comeback from a season off last fall. Cruz decided to sit out last season after being suspended indefinitely by Vanderlinden following a bottle-throwing incident in the spring of 1999.
Cruz is a tenacious receiver with good moves and is similar to the two other senior receivers, Hatala and Omar Cheeseboro, on the squad.
All of them will play some this season, but the team is looking for a lot of big things out of Gary and Monroe.
Said Monroe, "I'm much stronger and more consistent, and I've learned how to catch the ball more with my hands than my chest. I think my time has arrived."
Redshirt freshman Jafar Williams was talented enough to play last season, but he was held out of action because of nagging injuries. He is 6-2 and 182 pounds and gives Vanderlinden a third new-breed wide receiver to go along with the veterans.
And there are two more big and strong freshmen wide receivers - Mount St. Joe's Rob Abiamiri (6-3, 195) and Maurice Shanks (6-4, 175) - who would certainly play if the deck wasn't already stacked so high. Abiamiri is almost too good to redshirt and Shanks has been impressive. But both will probably redshirt.
That gives Vanderlinden eight top wide receivers, and the list grows to 10 when senior reserve Doug Patterson and little freshman Steve Suter (5-9, 175 out of North Carroll) are counted.
And Aaron Thompson is a hit again.
The outside linebacker from Baltimore has accomplished a rare feat, being named one of three Terrapins captains, even though he is a just a junior.
Thompson said he wasn't totally shocked to be voted a tri-captain because "some of the guys were already calling me 'captain' this season.
"I guess they gave it to me because I'm a 'goody two-shoes' when it comes to handling discipline between the players and Coach Vanderlinden. I always put team discipline first, but if there's an issue between myself and another player, I can know how to handle that on my own."
Thompson joins senior fullback Matt Kalapinski and senior free safety Shawn Forte as tri-captains.
"I was a little nervous when the balloting was taking place," Thompson said. "I was kind of peeking over guys' shoulders to see who they were voting for. I'm excited about handling situations between Coach Vanderlinden and the players."
Latrez Harrison, who came to College Park from Atlanta last season with a golden arm and a long list of press clippings, will most likely be redshirted this season now that Calvin McCall and Shaun Hill have clearly established themselves as the Nos. 1 and 2 quarterbacks.
Harrison, a 6-3, 222-pound sophomore, still needs time to learn the offense and improve his decision making. "I want to put some space [class designation] between Latrez and Calvin," said Vanderlinden of the two sophomores."
Vanderlinden said he has also "discussed redshirting" with sophomore running back Bruce Perry and junior running back Chris Downs, a junior college transfer.
Here's the catch
Here's a look at how four returning Terps wide receivers fared in 1999 in a conservative offense that preceded this year's more wide-open attack, one coach Ron Vanderlinden likens to the West Coast offense.
Name Rec. Yds. TD
Guilian Gary 24 257 0
Jason Hatala 11 250 1
Omar Cheeseboro 9 111 0
Scooter Monroe 3 80 1