Maryland, with the pressure of trying to duplicate last year's unbeaten record, and Howard, hoping to improve on last season's 5-5-1 mark, begin workouts Tuesday.
The Terrapins, 11-0 in 1976 before losing, 31-20, to Houston in Cotton Bowl, will have talented quarterback Mark Manges back directing a deep and experienced backfield.
Howard coach Doug Porteer is anxious for the running of the Bison Mile, the traditional start of football practice at Howard.
Porter would walk at least a Bison mile for some added strength at line-backer where he lost two starters, and on the defensive line. The offense is well-stocked, led by fullback James Breakfield, the first 1,000-yard rusher in Howard's history. Porter has 15 starters returning.
Manges and running back Steve Atkins, now recovered from a knee injury, are major reasons for optimism that Maryland ca* n achieve its fourth straight Atlantic Coast Conference title (the Terps have won 20 consecutive ACC games) and fifth straight bowl appearance. Success, however, is dependent on a group of large but inexperienced players coming along to fill the vacancies left by the graduation of six of last year's top seven offensive linemen.
"The offensive line is one of the toughest places to get experience," points out Claiborne, who knows his replacements will have to learn fast. Highly ranked Penn State lurks just around the corner on Sept. 24, and the Nittany Lions have gobbled up the Terps in 21 of 22 previous meetings.
The rest of the roster is impressive. Manges and Atkins are not the only All-America hopefuls in College Park. Linebacker Brad Carr and defensive guard-turned-tackle Ernie Salley are candidates as well.
Atkins, who hasn't carried a football since last October because of his left knee, is back for his junior year. Big things are expected of him, but he is back up capably by his friend, Alvin (Preacher) Maddox. Maddox filled in so nicely last season that Atkins admitted, "It scared me."
Steve Koziol and George Scott will be dueling for the fullback spot vacated by Tim Wilson, completing a formidable backfield. Receivers Vince Kinney, Chuck White and Dean Richards all return, able targets for Manges if he can remain on his feet long enough to spot them.
Claiborne is understandably vague about the offensive line he hopes will protect Manges and open holes for the gifted running backs. "We've got some people," he says. That is undoubtedly true, but strong guard Mike Yeates is the only returning starter.
The others, who have approximately 20 days to emerge before the Sept. 10 opener at Clemson, likely will be chosen from among Larry Stewart (6-foot-5,275). Phil Livingston (6-7, 250), Paul Glamp (6-2, 235), Jim Ulam (6-3, 242), Glen Nick (6-2, 225) and Mike Simon (6-3, 237).
The defense returns seven starters and lettermen at every position in Claiborne's wide-tackle six. Salley moves over to replace All-America Joe Campbell at tackle, and the other empty tackle spot probably will go to Charlie Johnson.
There are only two holes elsewhere in the defense: at linebacker. where Neal Olkewicz and John Douglas are hopeful, and at left cornerback, where Lloyd Burruss is the prime candidate.
Maryland is seventh in the nation in defense over the past five years, having given up an average of 250 yards a game.
The Terps are 20th in offense with 367 yards in passing offense, averaging 153 yards a game.
Navy begins double-practice days Aug. 22, and faces a difficult task in trying to better last year's 4-7 mark with opponents of the stature of Michigan. Notre Dame and Pittsburgh. The Midshipmen need solid replacements at tight end and middle guard before the season opener Sept. 10 against The Citadel.
Virginia starts hitting Aug. 23 after four days of run-throughs. The Cavaliers were 2-9 last season and have a more difficult schedule this year with the addition of Texas, Syracuse, N.C. State, Clemson and West Virginia.
Virginia has three walk-ons and five freshmen from which to choose its quarterback, a weak spot last year. Coach Dick Bestwick opens his season Sept. 10 at N.C. State.
Catholic University graduates from club football to Division III and will open practice Aug. 29. Newcomers on the schedule include Brooklyn College and Trenton State.
Georgetown, which opens against Catholic Sept. 24, begins real preparation Aug. 30.
Georgetown was 1-7 last season, its worst record in years. The Hoyas are strong in both backfields but need linemen on either side before their schedule, one game fatter this year, gets under way.
Gallaudet starts full-scale practice Aug. 26 for a nine-game schedule, one game more than last year (2-6).
Gallaudet is inexperienced in some key positions: quarterback, safety and linebacker. But the line looks good for the Sept. 24 opener at the University of the District of Columbia.
Virginia Tech double days begin Sept. 1, with the opening 16 days later at home against Texas A&M.
Tech returns 38 lettermen, 17 of them starters, for one of the most difficult campaigns in the school's history. Besides A & M, Tech takes on tough Memphis State and Kentucky away from home plus playing three straight state opponents.
Virginia Tech needs a quarterback, a fullback and three linemen, enough vacancies to make last year's 6-5 record a difficult target.
On the bright side, school rushing record-holder Roscoe Coles of Virginia Beach is going for his third straight 1,000-yard season, and linebacker Rick Razzano will attempt a perfect four-year record of starting every game.