The biggest problem solver of all could be the defense, which promises to be one of Royal's best ever. "If we can't score as much as we did last year," says Tackle Brad Shearer, "we just can't let the other teams score as much either. But I guess that's obvious." And probably necessary.
Perhaps it is Maryland's proximity to the nation's capital that makes Terrapin Coach Jerry Claiborne sound a bit more like a politician than most coaches. Going into last season with only seven of the previous year's 22 starters on hand, Claiborne declared 1975 a "rebuilding year" as he appraised a schedule that included Tennessee, Penn State and a bevy of strengthened rivals from the Atlantic Coast Conference. But although it lost to the former pair, the Terrapins defeated all five ACC foes, won their second straight conference title and flattened favored Florida in the Gator Bowl, finishing 11th in a post-bowl poll, the school's highest ranking since 1955.
O.K., Jerry, then 1976 ought to be a sleigh ride. With two superior quarterbacks, a dazzling runner, a freight train offensive line, one of the country's best defensive linemen and no rival ( Syracuse? West Virginia?) bearing the remotest resemblance to last year's spoilers, it doesn't take George Gallup to predict 11-0 for the Terps and a New Year's date with—Alabama? Nebraska?
Either Mark Manges or Larry Dick (both 6'3") will be running Maryland's versatile offense behind a veteran line that averages 237 pounds a man. Manges opened last season by throwing four TD passes against Villanova, but he separated a shoulder in the Tennessee game, whereupon Dick came off the bench to hit 15 of 24. Manges returned to nearly beat Penn State, and the two took turns bailing each other out the rest of the way. Completing 57% of 205 passes with only five interceptions is not bad for a two-headed quarterback.
Fullback Tim Wilson (6'3", 215) will be leading the way for Tailback Steve Atkins (6'1", 225), who gained 127 yards in the Gator Bowl as a freshman. Claiborne isn't hard to please. All he wants from his offense is 30 points and 400 yards a game. "Not just do that a few times," he says, "but average it."
That of course would put less burden on the defense. Although Maryland lost four ends, two linebackers and three backs, Linebacker Brad Carr, Back Ken Roy and Tackles Ralph Fisher and 6'6", 255-pound Joe Campbell, the Terrapins' best lineman since Randy White, are still wearing the red and white.
Claiborne converted two defensive backs, JC transfer John Douglas and sophomore Joe Muffler, to end, where he also will have redshirt Keith Calta. He moved a wing-back, John Stanford, to safety, where the Coach is also trying his son Jonathan.
By the third or fourth game, the Terps should be clicking. But Claiborne isn't going out on a limb. "No way I'm going to say our team will go undefeated," he says. But it sure must be tempting.