The college football propaganda season opened yesterday with Maryland Coach Jerry Claiborne and Villanova Coach Dick Bedesem trying to drown each other in plaudits.
The Terps and Wildcats open the 1979 season Saturday at 1:30 p.m. in Byrd Stadium and, even though Maryland is a heavy favorite, Claiborne did his best yesterday to make Villanova sound like Penn State.
Speaking of Villanova, 5-6 a year ago and 0-6 against Claiborne-coached Maryland teams, Claiborne said, "They were 5-6 last season but I know Coach Bedesem felt, and so did we looking at films, that they could have been 9-2." (They could also conceivably have been 1-10 since four of their five wins were by a touchdown or less.)
"They run that wishbone, which is a problem to defense, especially the way they run it. In the past they've used the run almost exclusively but this year they've picked up an excellent, fast receiver in (Willie) Sydnor (a transfer from Northwestern) and their quarterback, (Pat) O'Brien has two years' experience. So we have to be careful not to get burned deep."
(A year ago O'Brien was 55 for 139 as a passer (40 percent) with one touchdown and nine interceptions.)
"They've got all juniors in the backfield, a lot of experience. And their offensive line was primarily responsible for their success (could have been 9-2, remember) last season."
And on the defense: "They're going to be improved there. They've got more experience and some good talent up front." Claiborne also lauded the Villanova kicking game and its overall program. The one thing he forgot was the cheerleaders.
Not to be outdone, Bedesem was in good form as he prepared his team in Philadelphia for the trip south.
"There's no question in our minds that Maryland is the No. 1 team on our schedule," said Bedesem, 19-24-1 in four years at Villanova.
Rating the Terps No. 1 on a schedule that includes Massachusetts, Boston College (0-11 last year) Youngstown State, Cincinnati and Richmond hardly qualifies the Terps for the Top Ten.
When it was pointed out to Bedesem that Maryland beat Villanova by only 19-13 the last time the teams met in 1977, he was ready with the answer: "The last time we played Maryland has nothing to do with this year's game."
If Villanova does have a strength it may be its junior class-- 13 of 22 starters are juniors-- and all these players were freshmen the last time the two teams played.
Sydnor, with 9.7 speed, should provide a deep threat if O'Brien can get the ball to him, and halfback Dana Shelton averaged 6.1 yards a carry last season. John Liszka, a junior from Rockville, leads the offensive line.
The defense is thought to be the strongest Bedesem has had at Villanova-- he has had three losing seasons in four-- especially in the middle, which is where Maryland likes to run. Tommy Fitzpatrick from Bethesda and St. John's was the team's defensive player of the year as a freshman linebacker.
While Villanova is healthy, the Terps have been nagged by injuries in the preseason. Defensive back and kick returner Lloyd Burruss went down early with a broken leg and Claiborne said yesterday that offensive guard Paul Glamp, perhaps the team's best blocker this fall, would not play Saturday. He suffered a sprained ankle in Friday's scrimmage.
Starting split end Gary Ellis will play no more than four or five plays Saturday-- at-- best-- coming off a bout with mononucleosis and backup Chris Havener is extremely doubtful with a leg injury.
"The injuries and some problems with concentration have concerned me," Claiborne said. "We won't really know until Saturday how good we are. We'll find out a lot then."
Most important, Claiborne should find out how ready his club is for the ACC opener the following week at Clemson.
Jeff Rodenberger and Rick Fasano will alternate at fullback and bring plays in from the bench to quarterback Mike Tice . . . Claiborne said Tice still is not as strong as he was in the spring before his shoulder operation, "but getting better every day."
. . .Freshman John Tice, Mike's brother, is third at tight end on the current depth chart . . . Steve Duda, three-year starter at defensive end for Villanova, is the brother of Maryland freshman defensive tackle Mark Duda.