If it wasn't for one nagging problem, this could have been Jerry Claiborne's most enjoyable spring practice in his six years at Maryland.
But every time he wanted to relax, he'd start thinking about his offensive line, and that would ruin his mood.
"Even though it's just one problem, it's a really big one," said Claiborne. "All running backs look the same in the backfield. They become different in the open field, and you need a good offensive line to get them there."
Maryland had a marvelous line last yearM but graduation and discipline actions have eliminated seven of the top 10 players from that unit, leaving Claiborne with a massive rebuilding job which still isn't finished, despite almost 20 days of spring drills.
"This isn't as near as complete a team as we had a year ago because of the line." said Claiborne. "Everywhere wlse, we have a good idea of where we are."
Inhuries to veteran letterman Paul Glamp (broke ankie) and Kervin Wyatt (knee) hindered efforts to develop a cohesive unit. Claiborne hestitated to name a first string then decided it was impossible.
"(Guard) Mike Yeates is the only proven guy," he said. "People like Mike Simon, Jim Ulam and Larry Stwwart have had decent springs. Everyone has improved since the first day but we have a lot of improverment before we can win with them."
All least Claiborne has loads of players to choose from. His program is so advanced that he can redshirt athletes and let them develop. Most members of next year's line will have sat out one year.
Otherwise, Claiborne's only complaint centered around fullback. He had hoped to work sophomore-to-be George Scott, a tailback last year, at fullback but Scott was injured early and has missed most of the practices. Mickey Dudish, heir apparent to Tim Wilson's spot, also was hobbled.
But tailback Steve Atkins, who missed the last part of the 1976 season with a bad knee, has "he is running like he is going to have a great season.We just have to keep him healthy."
The only major position change of the season involved definisive end John Douglas, who was moved to linebacker where he is contending for a starting spot next to Brad Carr. Claiborne says he is so pleased with Douglas' progress "he'll stay at line'backer."
On defense, where only three starters off the nation's No.2 ranked unit are missing, Claiborne especially has impressive depth. At every position, he can pick and choose frim among four or five good players, a luxury that no other team in the Atlantic Coast Conference has.
A defensive surprise has been guard Marlin Van Horn, a 230-pound uncoming sophmore who has "adapgted faster than we thought to the position."
The drills end Saturday with an intra-squad game at 1.30 p.m. in Byrd Stadium. "With our backs injured, we're going to put the ball up a lot," said Claiborne.