Last year's football season was a big disappointment for sophomore Mike Tice. He arrived at the University of Maryland campus in August eager and, he thought, ready to take over as the starting Terrapin quarterback.
But he lost the job to the more-experienced Tim O'Hare and spent the season sitting on the bench watching the senior lead Maryland to a 0-3 season. Tice said he thought about transferring.
But he did a fine job in spring practice, and had clearly earned the starting job for this season. Then, on the final day of spring workouts, the 6-foot-7, 230-pounder separated his right shoulder.
"That was extremely discouraging," he said yesterday as he slipped gingerly into shoulder pads so he could join his teammates for Maryland's annual picture day at Byrd Stadium. "I started thinking that maybe this was an omen or something, that things weren't going to go right.
"But now after a whole summer of working to get my shoulder back in shape I've stopped thinking about that. I'm just trying to block the whole thing from my mind and get ready."
How quickly Tice can get ready has to be one of Coach Jerry Claiborne's main concerns as the Terps begin two-a-day practices today. He is counting on Tice to replace O'Hare in what will be an inexperienced Maryland backfield.
Yesterday, Tice said he can throw a football about 30 yards without pain and fells "close to 100 percent." But he probably will not be fully ready to participate in workouts for at least 10 days.
"It has to worry you," Jerry Eisaman, Maryland's quarterback coach, said. "Each day of preseason practice you want to see your quarterback improve. And if Mike can't go all out, that's going to slow his progress."
Tice played in nine games behind O'Hare last season, completing 20 of 37 passes. Not a very good runner, he has a gun for an arm when healthy. Backup Bob Milkovich, also beginning his third year at Maryland, even though he is a sophomore in eligibility, will run the team in practice, at least until Tice is ready.
"It's going to be rough mentally not being able to go all our right away," said Tice. "I'll feel a little bit cheated I guess. But there's other things for me to do to get ready."
Tice wants to be ready when Maryland opens its season Sept. 8 against Villanova. He did not enjoy the view from the bench last season.
"Last year was very tough for me," he said. "At times I got really discouraged. Once, I thought about going someplace else but when I did I thought about some of the other schools I had considered in high school and how little they had won compared to Maryland.
"I like being with a winner, and when we got to be 8-0 I was really into it from a team point of view.
"I know the system now, I've been here three years and it feels like I've been working to get ready for 10 years. I think I'm ready now."
Milkovich, a former All-Met at Wootton High School, also feels ready. At 6-3 he does not have the pure arm of a healthy Tice but has a strong arm and is more mobile. He will not admit in direct terms that the early days of this summer practice are an opportunity for him. But being the starter is clearly on his mind.
"Think about it?" he said. "Yeah, I think about the (starting) job about 24 hours a day every day. It's important to me. I'd like to start.
"But," he added quickly, "I don't look upon Mike as my competition. Villanova's the competition. Mike and I are teammates, we're working for something together."
There were reports last season that Tice and predecessor O'Hare had a less than harmonious relationship, teammates or not.
"That was really blown out of proportion," said Tice. "Tim and I were friends, we got along well.
"Look, any time you have competitors involved where one guy has to sit there's bound to be some heat. But the whole thing was exaggerated by a lot of people."
Tice is aware of his physical skills and the high expectations people have of him. In explaining why he would like to work with handicapped children when he graduates, he said bluntly: "I'm big and strong. A lot of these kids can't even walk for themselves. It would be nice to use what I have to help them."
"If he stays healthy he can be as good a quarterback as we've ever had here," said Disaman.
"I know what I have to do," said Tice, walking out of the locker room. "I have to be ready to throw 100 percent and I have to be ready to hit. I'm looking forward to it. I'm looking forward to playing."
And at the same time he is trying hard not to look back.
All-America hurdler Greg (Fly) Robertson was in uniform yesterday. He will try out for the team as a wide receiver. While his eligibility in track has expired, he is still eligible for football in his fifth year in school.... Claiborne, starting his eighth season at College Park, was in midseason form talking to reporters yesterday. Asked by a TV reporter what the Terps had to do to improve on last season's 9-3 record Claiborne, straight-faced, answered: "Win 10 games." CAPTION: Picture, Maryland's Greg (Fly) Robertson, All-America hurdler, will try out at wide receiver. By Richard Darcey - The Washington Post