Charlie Wysocki, Maryland's workhorse tailback, was lured from one pose to another at the school's football media kickoff yesterday and, asked by a photographer to stand behind four taller, broader types, commented: "What's this, the Pennsylvania group?"
"Charlie, don't you recognize these guys?" asked Jack Zane, the sports information director. "They do the blocking for you."
In the forefront were four candidates, none of whom lettered in 1980, for the fullback spot ably manned by graduated Rick Fasano. The embarrassed Wysocki was facetiously introduced to senior Jeff Rodenberger, out much of last year with a pinched nerve; junior John Nash, who carried the ball only three times, the first for a 30-yard touchdown; junior Dave D'Addio, a linebacker in 1980, and sophomore Joe Brkovich, the most consistent fullback in spring practice.
Introductions will be mandatory in other areas for the Terrapins, who face a number of "challenges" after watching 23 lettermen leave College Park.
"I'm an optimist, not a pessimist, and we're undefeated right now," Coach Jerry Claiborne said. "We have no problems, but we've got a lot of challenges."
Some of the biggest challenges are finding replacements for a secondary wiped out by graduation, cushioning the departure of all-America kicker Dale Castro, choosing a starting quarterback from among three candidates, uncovering a couple of speedy wide receivers and building depth in an offensive line largely populated by guards.
"The secondary is our biggest challenge," Claiborne said. "We have no lettermen at all. We have people we think are qualified, but they don't have game experience."
As of today's start of practice, the No. 1 men are safety Bill McFadden, a junior who has played briefly the last two seasons, and cornerbacks David Taylor, a fourth-year junior who saw limited action in 1978, and Jon Simmons, a sophomore with a sprint background.
Close behind are safety Wayne Wingfield, a much-publicized convert from tailback, and two sophomore cornerbacks who are Metro Conference products, Clarence Baldwin of Carroll and Gil Hoffman of De Matha.
"I've started pretty well from scratch in the past, like the year (1977) Lloyd Burruss came in and played as a freshman, but we've never had a lack of experience like this year," said Terry Strock, the defensive secondary coach who, like Claiborne, is entering his 10th season at Maryland.
"We do have a lot of good young men with exceptional athletic ability and some of them have been around and know our thoughts. It's a matter of game experience. The second unit tomorrow could be the first unit next week. We need five or six we can depend on."
The place-kicking and punting jobs, both the exclusive property of Castro a year ago, are open, with abundant candidates and no consistency thus far from any of them.
Of the potential punters, Claiborne said: "They've got good leg strength, but the ball might go 60 yards, or it might go six yards, or it might go behind their heads. Punting is like a golf swing; you have to get in a groove."
The three contenders for the quarterback spot are Bob Milkovich, a senior out of Wootton High who gained a tenuous edge in spring practice; junior Brent Dewitz, whose passes overcame a 14-0 deficit against Duke last year, and sophomore Boomer Esiason, who threw three touchdown passes for the winning White team in the spring intrasquad game.
"We can't prepare three and we have to get a decision there soon," Claiborne said. "We expect to work with two and maybe bring the third along. If we played tomorrow, Milkovich would start, because of his total spring practice, but Esiason and Dewitz were best in the spring game, so it's close."
Of the wide receiver candidates, only junior wingback Mike Lewis caught a pass in 1980, ranking third with 10 behind graduated Chris Havener and Eric Sievers. Russell Davis, a converted tight end, has the edge at split end on the basis of spring practice, but Claiborne said he would move a wingback if necessary to get more speed in the deep patterns. It is no secret that the lack of outside speed enabled opponents to stack their defenses against Wysocki a year ago.
The interior offensive line is heavily populated by guards, with converted guard David Pacella rated No. 1 at strong tackle and ex-guards Vince Tomasetti and Todd Wright battling for the center spot.
There are few challenges at tailback, where Wysocki can look back at 14 games in which he gained 100 or more yards; at tight end, where John Tice potentially ranks among the nation's best; at the defensive front, which includes preseason all-Atlantic Coast Conference selections Mark Duda and Greg Vanderhout, and at linebacker, where 1980 starters Joe Wilkins and Mike Muller return along with senior Darnell Dailey, a two-year letterman who missed last season following a weight-lifting mishap.