Bobby Ross didn't mess around with the usual rites associated with the first day of spring football practice. The new Maryland football coach began installing his pro-style offense right away yesterday afteroon and the Terrapins were thrilled.
"You could really tell the difference between the first spring practice this year and the first practice of previous years," said receiver Mike Lewis. "Last year, even for the receivers, the warm-up drills were blocking and hitting and loosening up.
"Now, you feel like you're a receiver," Lewis said. "Before, you knew you were supposed to be a receiver, but you really didn't know."
Ross and his coaching staff practiced for more than two hours yesterday, with much of the time being spent on teaching the new offense. It was obvious, from the drills, that Ross is serious about his promise to have a balanced, not-so-conservative offensive game plan come September.
"We put in a lot today," said Ross, hired in January to replace Jerry Claiborne, who left for Kentucky after 10 seasons in College Park. "I didn't really think we'd do this much today. But they picked up some things better than I thought. We had a couple of very good stretches.
"We have an installation sheet," Ross said, "and we want to get most of the new running game in by the end of spring practice (April 25). We won't get all of the passing game in, though."
The emphasis on passing in yesterday's practice was certainly an unaccustomed sight at Maryland. Under Claiborne, most of the early spring sessions concentrated on conditioning, blocking and phases of the running game.
"It certainly felt good, as a receiver, to constantly move throughout practice," said Russell Davis. "We came right out to the line of scrimmage and the quarterback barked out an audible. We're still being briefed on the system, but it seems easy to pick up."
The player happiest about yesterday's practice was last year's starting quarterback, Boomer Esiason.
"It's totally different now," Esiason said. "It's a 180-degree turn from last year. It's different in every phase. The quarterback is always with a receiver. It was fun and enjoyable. It's pretty complicated, too.
"Before, all we did was call the play to the right or left," Esiason explained. "But now, we (the quarterbacks) call (for) the line, the blocks--a lot of intricate things. I called automatic plays about five or six times today.
"I think there's about 1,000 different combinations in our passing game. Today we got a glimpse of the potential for deception."
Even Maryland's offensive huddle is different under Ross. The players now form a circle instead of the triangle that Claiborne had employed.