The University of Maryland football team was stunned Tuesday by the news that its leading rusher of 1977, George Scott, will miss the 1978 season with a leg injury.
With Scott out because of a lesion of the shin bone, the responsibility for carrying the [word illigible]running game now[word illigible]on the shoulders of senior tailbacks Steve Atkins and Alvin (Preacher) Maddox.
Terrapin Coach Jerry Claiborne, who must replace last year's top two quarterbacks, Mark Manges and Larry Dick, was hoping that depth at tailback would give his inexperienced passers a chance to develop.
Now Claiborne will have to aim for more balance and his inexperienced starting quarterback -- whoever the choice is among four non-lettermen --will have to come along quickly if the Terps are to better last year's 7-4 regular-season record.
To add to the problem, the schedule is more taxing than last year's. The Terps will travel to Penn State for the second straight year to face quarterback Chuck Fusina. Kentucky is also on the schedule, along with ACC bowl teams Clemson, North Carolina and North Carolina State.
The Terrapins will open conference play at North Carolina the fourth game of the year and the offense will have to be in gear by then.
The Terps must also fill eight spots in their wide-tackle-six defense, including those left by the top two tacklers, guard Ted Klaube and linebacker Brad Carr. But Claiborne always seems to come up with the correctly shaped pegs to fit those holes.
When the suntan oil is put away and the fans are back in Byrd Stadium, all the eyes will be on the offensive backfield.
"There are no more chances for Steve (Atkins) and he knows that, "said running backs coach Tom Groom.
"I want to prove to myself and to my teammates that I can play," sid Atkins. "This past year I didn't think too much of myself."
"My attitude is much different this year. I'm just working a whole lot harder. I finally got into weights. I'll continue lifting and maybe it will help to not get injure.
The most talented of the four in the race for the quarterback job is 19-year-old sophomore Mike Tice, who is also the tallest at 6-foot-7. His arm is already encased in legend. And although he has yet to take a snap in a varsity game, many say he could be the best quarterback ever to play at Maryland.
Tice's stiffest competition is coming from senior Tim O'Hare, who has not played enough to letter but knows the Maryland system.
Bob Milkovich and Dave McAfee will probably fight it out for the third spot.
The passing game needs to be rebuilt. The Terps need a new quarterback, a new center and a new split receiver. Dean Richards returns at wingback, where depth became a problem when Don Dotter hurt his calf in a summer basketball game.
Returning Eric Sievers and Tom Burgess provide strength at tight end. The[Words Illegible] Mickey Dudish and Steve [WORD ILLEGIBLE], also are back.
The Terps have many candidates for center. Kervin Wyatt, who was hurt starting last year's first game, will probably replace departed strong guard Mike Yeates. Last year, the line was young and injured about three deep. This year, it is full of experience and ready to block for the busy tailbacks.
Claiborne loses eight defensive starters from last year's opener, and punter and part-time placekicker Mike Sochko.
Defensively, it shapes up this way:
ENDS: The Terps are strong here, with starters Joe Muffler and Jimmy Shaffer returning, but continue to search for depth.
TACKLES: Charlie Johnson came into his own last year, voted MVP of the Hall of Fame Classic. He spliced super plays with glaring mistakes, but should cut down on the miscues this year. John Sturdivant, who might have also started, quit after the first practice. Lettermen Keith Calta and Ed Gall will have a chance to show their abilities.
GUARDS: Only one experienced player here in Bruce Palmer. "We think he will have an excellent year. If he doesn't, we'll be disappointed," said Claiborne. "Behind him, we're searching."
LINEBACKERS: Another thin spot. Only Neal Olkewicz returns with measurable experience.
HALFBACKS: Lloyd Burruss, one of the better athletes on the team, returns to left half for his junior year. Right half is up in the air.
SAFETY: Jonathan Claiborne is off to Duke law school, and he will be replaced by either John Baldante or Ralph Lary. "The thing we thought Ralph needed most was experience," said Claiborne. "But the first day of spring practice he broke his elbow." Baldante has played mostly at halfback.
Last year the Terps failed to take the ACC title after three straight championships. Injuries played a key factor as 26 first-or second-string players were hurt.
The ACC writers pick the Terps to finish third behind defending champion North Carolina and Clemson.
"I wish they had picked us seventh," said the coach's wife, Faye Claiborne. "I love to start out last and finish first."