John Nash, who has missed much of fall practice with injuries and ailments, has recovered in the last week and yesterday was chosen to start at fullback for Maryland in Saturday's season opener at Penn State.
Every starting position appears set, and Coach Bobby Ross says he is tired of practice. "We're at the point in practice now that we need to play a game," he said. "We may not be ready to play a game, but we need to play a game."
Dick Dull, Maryland's director of athletics, said yesterday the Penn State game could be telecast live on WDCA-TV-20 if he obtains an NCAA-dictated waiver from Bowie State, which plays host to Hampton Institute at 1:30 Saturday. Permission already has been obtained from the Naval Academy. Dull said he had been unable to reach his counterpart at Bowie State.
Nash, of those players back from last season, is the Terrapins' leading rusher and started the fall as the first-team tailback. But he has asthma and missed almost the entire first week of practice while being treated for a stomach disorder. Once he resumed practice, he was slowed by bruises and sprains. He played sparingly in last Thursday's final scrimmage.
"I feel fine now, though," Nash said yesterday. "Just a few little, nagging injuries."
Nash gained 459 yards last year, rushed for more than 100 yards three times and proved to be the Terrapins' most versatile running back. Originally a fullback, he gained most of his yards running from the tailback position when starter Charlie Wysocki was injured.
"We've moved John to fullback because there are several skills he handles well," Ross said, referring to Nash's running, blocking and pass catching. He caught 16 passes last year, one for 53 yards and a touchdown against Wake Forest.
"It doesn't make any difference to me whether I play fullback or tailback," said the senior from Baltimore. "I feel comfortable running from both positions."
Ross moved Nash back to fullback because Dave D'Addio has been slow in recovering from a groin pull suffered before the start of fall practice. Willie Joyner will be the starting tailback.
Nash should help improve the rushing offense, which disappointed Ross in the final scrimmage. And with the offensive backfield set, Ross has turned much of his attention to his defensive secondary and the kicking game.
Ross said he has "a lot of apprehensions" about the secondary. "We've made some big improvements," he said, "but we have a hard time matching our skilled defensive people with their skilled offensive people, man to man. It's a concern to me, no question about it. We'll avoid one on one (coverage) as much as possible."
Jesse Atkinson, the place kicker, is one of the Terrapins' strengths. But he and punter Alan Sadler haven't kicked in game situations as much as Ross would have liked.
Ross also is very concerned about his players' nerves, performing in front of more than 80,000 in sold out Beaver Stadium. Only the fifth-year seniors have played there.
"We had a dress rehearsal (scrimmage) last Thursday with nobody in the stands and we were tight," Ross said. "So playing in front of the largest crowd ever to watch a Maryland football game, I know we'll be tight. I don't know how the players will react to what we will confront. You know how good Penn State is. But I think we are fighters."
Ross said poise will determine how well the Terrapins perform because "we won't sit back, offensively, defensively or in the kicking game. We want to attack and run our offensive game right from the start."
Quarterback Boomer Esiason, who has played almost flawlessly in the two scrimmages, said he expects to pass 30 to 40 times against Penn State. "We want to run 85 to 90 plays, instead of the usual 75 or 80," he said.
A significant part of Ross' new offense depends on tight end John Tice, the team's leading receiver last season. Tice missed the last two days of practice with a sprained ankle, but Ross expects him to be fully healthy Saturday.