TSU’s Shannon returns to Terps’ territory

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 2, 2001

When the Troy State football team travels to Maryland this week, the trip will be somewhat of a homecoming for first-year TSU offensive coordinator John Shannon.

The Troy State assistant coach spent two seasons as the wide receivers coach at Maryland from 1992-93, working under then-head coach Mark Duffner. He remembers his time in College Park fondly.

"I’ve got a lot of good friends back there," Shannon said. "A lot of the auxiliary staff people ­ the strength coach, the trainer, the equipment manager ­ are still there. I’ve looked forward to this trip all year, and especially this week."

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In addition to his time at Maryland, Shannon also spent five seasons as the offensive coordinator at Richmond, where he recruited Washington D.C. and northern Virginia. College Park is less than a 30-minute drive from Washington.

"It is a great place to live," Shannon said of College Park. "It is different from a lot of places we have lived in that it is big. We lived in Columbia, which is closer to Baltimore, but it is a great area. We were able to take our kids through so much history (in Washington D.C.). We really enjoyed it. I wouldn’t trade the time we had there for anything."

Through six years of living in the area, the Shannon family developed some strong friendships. Shannon and his wife, Sally, hope to make contact with just a few of those acquaintances while the Trojans are in town, although the team will be in the area for only about 30 hours ­ arriving at noon Eastern on Friday and departing directly after the game.

For Shannon, however, the trip will not be strictly about contacting old friends or visiting old stomping grounds. His current football team has a monumental task standing before it.

The Trojans (4-3) and Maryland (7-1) will kick off at 1 p.m. Eastern time at Byrd Stadium. The Terrapins are ranked 15th nationally in the latest Associated Press poll and 16th in the latest Coaches poll.

This will mark Troy State’s third game against a nationally ranked opponent this year, losing to top-ranked Miami (38-7) and second-ranked Nebraska (42-14). The Terrapins will offer a similar challenge with a physical defense that leads the nation in turnovers gained (26) and interceptions (18).

"We’ve got to play our ‘A’ game," Shannon said. "We can’t afford to beat ourselves and hurt ourselves. We’ve got to play four quarters, be consistent and play smart. If the big play is there, we need to take it, but we need to stay within ourselves and try to get four, five and six yards a play. If we can do that, we’ll see what happens."

Eight years after he coached his final game at the school, Shannon does find himself admiring what the Terrapins have accomplished this season ­ winning their first seven games before falling at Florida State last week. While first-year Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen has had a tremendous impact, Shannon said he believes the previous coaching staffs ­ including the ones he was on ­ had a hand in the success as well.

"They are very good, and they are playing with a lot of confidence right now," Shannon said. "And Ralph has done a fantastic job, but he is seeing the rewards of what the earlier two and three staffs did, as far as getting players back in there, and improving facilities. He’s doing a great job coaching, though, and has things working really well."

Shannon has had his own rebuilding project underway in Troy this year, installing the "Trojan Spread" offense on a team that has been primarily run-oriented for most of the last three decades. The Trojans struggled last week against Southern Utah, managing just 159 yards total offense, but had scored 65 points in the previous two games in wins over Mississippi State and Cal State Northridge.

This Saturday, the "Trojan Spread" will face its biggest challenge since playing top-ranked Miami on Oct. 6. For Shannon, however, the game will in some ways be like going home.

"When I walk on that field, I’m going to be pumped up," Shannon said. "There is no doubt about that. It will be fun to go back. Our most important goal, however, is to play well."

In other notes:

The game will be re-broadcast on Comcast Charter Sports Southeast at 2:30 p.m. Central Time on Sunday.

Saturday’s game, the first meeting between the schools, will be available as a pay-per-view broadcast in Pike County on Troy Cablevision. The cost is $24.95. For more information, call (334) 566-3310.