The four major-college football teams in the Washington area will begin spring practice within the next 10 days. All three Division I schools have new head coaches.
Maryland, under Bobby Ross, will begin its 20-day spring session Wednesday and will end with an intrasquad game April 25. Ross will begin installing a totally new, pro-style offense for the Terrapins, 4-6-1 last season.
At Virginia, George Welsh will install the I-formation offense that he was successful with at Navy. The Cavaliers, coming off a 1-10 season, will begin practice March 29 and will play an intrasquad game April 24.
The third new coach, Navy's Gary Tranquill, will begin working the Midshipmen (7-4-1 last year) Monday and will practice until April 23. Navy does not play a spring game.
Floyd Keith returns to direct Division I-AA Howard. The Bison will begin March 29 and will go until April 24. Keith said he will base a spring scrimmage decision on his team's injury situation.
The most drastic changes probably will take place at Maryland, where Ross, most recently an assistant coach for the Kansas City Chiefs, will jettison many of the things that became so familiar in College Park under Jerry Claiborne over 10 years.
Ross will emphasize a balanced attack. Maryland no longer will use the tailback formation, instead operating with a split backfield. The wingback position has been eliminated. Maryland will play with two wide receivers and no longer will the linemen flip flop to play what Claiborne called "strong- and weak-side" positions; they will play more conventionally on either side of the line.
Ross will use the wide-tackle-six defense, but even that will be different. The defense will be more flexible to defend against the pass and more emphasis will be placed on specialized pass coverage.
Maryland is strong and deep at quarterback and running back, but must improve in the defensive backfield. The Terrapins will also have to find a punter, since Alan Sadler will probably miss most of the spring session with a broken foot that he suffered playing pickup basketball.
In Annapolis, Tranquill has invited 130 candidates to a largely experimental spring session. Tranquill plans to let many players try whatever positions they want. Navy must improve its defensive line and defensive backfield and find a kicker and punter.
Andy Ponsiego, Navy's top linebacker, will not practice much this spring because he is hitting better than .400 for the Navy baseball team. Of the 130 candidates expected at the spring session, 30 will be lettermen.
In Charlottesville, the most important addition could be that of quarterback Wayne Schuchts, who passed for more than 1,000 yards at Colgate before tranferring to Virginia. He is expected to compete with senior Gordie Whitehead for the starting job.
At Howard, Keith said he is mostly concerned with replacing graduated seniors at center, tight end and wide receiver. "On defense, we want to improve against the rush and, in general, we're trying to get better team balance." Keith will have 30-plus lettermen, and said, "We do have a lot of experienced people returning, and that's a big plus."