Maryland football Coach Jerry Claiborne has begun his spring search for next fall's quarterback, punter and defensive unit. Much is missing from last year's 8-4 team, but returning in full force is the injury problem that hampered the Terrapins.
Defensive back Ralph Lary broke his elbow colliding with Lloyd Burruss in a passing drill, bringing to five the number of players who will miss most or all of the Terps' month-long spring drills.
"We haven't even lined up offense against defense yet," said Claiborne. "We are throwing passes against the air."
Others on the injured list are possible starters Steve Atkins (tailback, thum surgery), Chris Ward (defensive tackle, shoulder). Reserve center Kyle Lorton is out with a shoulder problem.
Claiborne's team is working out afternoons Tuesday through Saturday for 28 sessions.
Claiborne says he is stressing fundamentals and looking for players to fill the many gaps in the starting lineup.
"On defense, of the 11 people we started in the opener against Clemson, eight have graduated," said Claiborne. "We almost have to rebuild our entire defensive unit, and that's very high on our priority list. On offense, we lost our whole passing game."
Among the key quarterbacks and receivers, only wingback Dean Richards and tight end Eric Seivers return. Both quarterbacks, Larry Dick and Mark Manges, await the NFL draft with star receivers Vince Kinney and Chuck White.
In the past, Claiborne has had to choose between two quarterbacks. Now he has four, all inexperienced.
"Right now you could take the four of them and pitch them into the air, and start the one that falls down first," said Clairborne.
Lefthander Tim O'Hare is the one with varsity experience and may have a slight edge over the others, future junior Dave McAfee and sophomores Mike Tice and Bob Milkovich.
"Tim is more experienced, only because he'll be the only senior and he has more of a concept of what we try to do in our system," said Clairborne. "I think he's only run about 30 plays in three years.
"They all have possibilities. I just hope someone steps forward and emerges as our No. 1 and that someone else rises up to be our No. 2. You can't work four quarterbacks, and I want to know who our first two are before summer practice."
Clairborne's other big question: who will replace punter Mike Sochko? Placekicker Eddie Loncar can punt but has not done much of it for Maryland. Claiborne is looking at walk-one Dale Castro and John Papuchis, along with Sievers and tight end Tom Burgess, who did some punting in high school.
Another concern is replacing offensive linemen Mike Yeates and Don Rhodes, the only offensive players who participated in every Maryland game last year.
The Terps are strongest in running backs with three true blue-chippers in Atkins, George Scott and Preacher Maddox. The Terrapins are expected to run to excess season, so the development of the offensive line will be as important as finding a quarterback.