Overcast skies above Byrd Stadium trap-blocked the sun yesterday, but the Maryland Terrapins thought it was the brightest day in the world. Uniforms were free of grass stains and shirt sleeves were rolled back to show how the summer could polish those muscles.
"Picture day is all-good, all-optimistic, all-smiling," kicker Jess Atkinson said succinctly. "Nothing can go wrong today."
There were an incredible number of bright smiles yesterday, replacing the looks of apprehension that met Coach Bobby Ross on picture day a year ago.
There was a smile from Peter Koch, for three years a fill-in, who now must anchor the defensive line from his tackle position.
"Spirits are noticeably higher than a year ago today," Koch said. "Quite frankly, we were optimistic last year, but nobody knew what would happen when a new coaching staff hit certain pressures. We certainly know now. The smiles you see today reflect a peace of mind."
There was a smile from Willie Joyner, the 1,000-yard rusher, who looked at his teammates being interviewed all over the stadium and said, "I'm so excited. Look how pumped up everybody is. It's good to have people saying you're good, you're worth something."
There was a smile from J.D. Gross, the linebacker who had what Ross called, "J.D.'s biggest thrill in sports"--just finishing the 1 1/2-mile run in the required time. "I had two television interviews and it blew my mind," said Gross, one of the background stars last year. "The questions they asked me reinforced what I'd been thinking all summer--that I have a lot of responsibility this season."
And there was a mischievous grin on the face of punter Alan Sadler, who had his own definition for the day's activities. "Picture day means Boomer day," Sadler said, pointing 30 yards cross-field to quarterback Boomer Esiason, his roommate and buddy in friendly insults. Esiason, as expected, was the featured guest; the media asked him his opinion on everything from the upcoming season to the war in Chad.
There was even a smile--well, maybe a tiny one--on the face of Ross, who will officially start the training season Friday with testing at 8 a.m., then a session of two-a-day workouts that will run through Aug. 30. Ross could look around and see Dave D'Addio, the bulky fullback, report to camp 10 pounds heavier (240), stronger and faster.
"It's apparent to me," said Ross, "that our players have made a good preparation, even better than last year."
The NCAA has granted Maryland an "exception" to televise the football season opener, Sept. 10 at Vanderbilt, at 8 p.m. on WTTG-TV-5.