Friday, April 29, 2005

Let's Play Twelve

You've got to hand it to the NCAA, they never let their principals get in the way of a better payday. They voted yesterday to approve a 12th football game starting in 2006. That means that teams from the ACC, SEC and Big 12 will play up to 14 games a year with a bowl and conference title appearance. Odd considering that the BCS continues to reject a playoff format on the grounds that it would be too disruptive to player's "studies" to have the extra games. This is on the heels of adding another BCS game to be played after the other 4 in the second week of January. That would leave almost 45 days in between the end of the regular season and the bowl game for the participants. So it appears that adding another week to the season for a few teams isn't any problem for the BCS. Which raises the obvious question, do the NCAA and BCS officials leave a trail of slime when they adjourn their meetings?

King hypocrite Myles Brand refused to even discuss the apparent contradictions of the rhetoric used to oppose a playoff system. Refused to even discuss it. He apparently said that reporters should go talk to the BCS people. Maybe they will be able to explain how being greedy and having an insatiable appetite for more revenue isn't necessarily hypocritical.

Steffy opts against surgery for knee
Now it appears that Jordan Steffy will opt against having surgery on his ailing knee. Steffy did confirm that while he can run in a straight line cutting is "bothersome". Now that is bothersome to yours truly. He hopes to rehab the knee saying it was "too early" to think about surgery. It seems he will have a procedure done on his arm which has now been described as a "nerve problem", although he did say that "maybe a different set of exercises could make it heal". Steffy apparently thinks he still has a decent chance to win the starting job in the fall in spite of the fact that he and Coach Fridgen have discussed redshirting for this season. At this point I wouldn't count on Steffy even seeing the field this season let alone starting.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

In Like A Lion

It has been a rather stormy spring for Maryland. The basketball team had to endure a tumultuous final month of the season that included the departures of two assistant coaches and the enigmatic John Gilchrist. You can almost hear the sigh of relief from Gary William's office as he gets a chance to catch his breath before the busy summer AAU season. It seems like the team is ready for a fresh start and hoping that some of the younger players can have a breakout season this fall.

On the football field things are looking a little more muddled. Sam Hollenbach, who looked like a sure bet to transfer at the end of last season, seems to be the starter headed into the spring game on Saturday. Joel Statham who's dismal play last year was symbolic of the entire team is said to be not far behind Hollenbach on the depth chart. I'm not sure if that speaks well for Statham or badly for Hollenbach. The missing piece in this quaterback triangle is sophomore Jordan Steffy.

The most highly recruited QB of the Fridgen era came to College Park with some lofty expectations. It now appears that those hopes have suffered a setback. Bothered by a bum elbow Steffy will have surgery to repair a "muscular defect" which will sideline him at least two months. More serious is the chronic knee problem that has dogged Steffy since last season. He is mulling whether or not to undergo knee surgery to correct the problem. If he has the surgery he would miss the 2005 season and likely apply for a medical redshirt. The staff has indicated that the decision to go with surgery or to resort to less serious therapy and try to play through this season is up to Steffy. Regardless of his choice Fridgen indicated that the likelihood of Steffy being the starting quaterback this season is remote. 'As long as he's not practicing, he's not getting any better,' Friedgen said. Not exactly a rosy forecast.

Given this bad news, and the lack of any discernible gamebreaker at running back or wideout, it could be another long season for the Terps.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

New Faces, New Places

Michael Adams and Rob Moxley were hired to replace the departed Dave Dickerson and Mike Lonergan as assistants to Gary Williams. I think both these hires were great moves. Moxley has the reputation as a very good recruiter having been successful in bringing several top 20 classes to Charlotte. He also has the reputation of working magic with outside shooters. This should help DJ Strawberry, Sterling Ledbetter, Chris McCray...oh just about every perimeter shooter on the team. His close affiliation with AAU program DC Assault is a little troubling. Some fans may see it as a boon for recruiting but getting cozy with slimy AAU programs will eventually backfire.

Adams played for Gary Williams at Boston College back in the 80's. He was an All-Big East selection for two years and had an 11 year NBA career. He led the NBA in 3-point shooting twice and was 1st or 2nd for 4 straight years. He was an NBA All-Star in 1992. After playing in the NBA he was an assistant for the Vancouver Grizzlies from 2000-2002. He recently returned to coaching when he became the head coach for the WNBA Washington Mystics. There seems to be great respect and mutual admiration between Williams and Adams and this could be a great fit for both of them. After taking on Mike Lonergan, who was just using Maryland as a stepping stone, they now have two coaches who are happy to be in College Park. Adams' NBA experience and background will likely also be helpful in recruiting. Dave Dickerson did great things in his time here but I think overall Gary has upgraded his staff with these hires.

News & Notes

Shawne Merriman was drafted 12th overall by the Chargers. Having been a football "free agent fan" since Miami fired Don Shula I may cultivate the Chargers as my team. I like Marty Shottenhiemer, their uniforms are decent and their cheerleaders are insanely hot. The Cowboys made a mistake picking Demarcus Ware instead of Merriman. Ware is a one dimensional pass rusher who competed against low talent at Troy State. Merriman has already said he felt misled by the Cowboy's brass. He'll get a chance to teach them a lesson on opening day as Dallas travels to San Diego on September 11th. "This was the one we really wanted to get...this is a guy we've been looking at for months" said San Diego assiatant GM Buddy Nix. Shottenheimer indicated Merriman would be used initially at OLB but would also line up as a down rusher. Shottenheimer's defensive schemes were great for players like Derrick Thomas and LaVar Arrington and Merriman can continue that legacy.

Fromer Terp CB Domonique Foxworth was drafted in the late 3rd round by Denver. It was a good pick for the Broncos who chose 3 DBs in the first 3 selections. Although Foxworth struggled at times in his senior season he is an intelligent player with solid character. His sub 4.4 speed at the combines didn't hurt either. Third round picks rarely get cut but Foxworth will have a tough battle to get on the field with the crowded defensive backfield in Denver.

Long snapper Joe Condo signed as a free agent with Dallas.

Guard CJ Brooks, who was a potential All-American in the preseason, signed with Oakland as a free agent.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Neal makes two

O'Connell senior David Neal is a relieved and happy kid these days. Instead of accepting an offer from decent schools like Holy Cross and Manhattan he waited until his senior year in the hopes of getting an offer from Maryland. His wish was granted this week. Neal admitted being nervous at his first meeting with Gary Williams but seems to have gambled and hit the jackpot. Williams compared Neal to standout Lonny Baxter who was much shorter than his listed 6-8, but used his stout frame and good footwork to score on taller opponents. There will be doubts about his ability to play in the ACC from the know it all Maryland fans, but Neal and his high school coach seem confident they'll prove the doubters wrong.

"My answer to that is in January, February and March of this year, he was the dominant player at this level," Wootten said. "People say he is not big enough and is going to get his shot blocked, but in four years of coaching I don't remember him getting a shot blocked. He's done it against the best level in high school and those guys are the ones who are going to play in college."

"I felt like I could definitely play" at Maryland, Neal said. "I felt confident. It wasn't like, 'Wow, I don't know if I can do that.' I felt pretty confident I could play there."

This addition gives Maryland a two recruit class for 2005 with Shane Clark already on board. This will help to offset the large classes that Maryland has had in recent years (4 in 2002, 5 in 2003). Assuming John Gilchrist does not return to Maryland that leaves the team with two open scholarships for 2005 and 6 total for 2006. Two recruits have already given verbal commitments for 2006, which means Maryland could offer up to 4 more scholarships, though 2-3 is more likely.

Football Practice News

QB Jordan Steffy aggravated his knee and is being kept out of practice on a day-to-day basis. He had an operation on the same knee in the offseason. There are not many practices left before the spring game so this could effect the competition for the #1 spot at quarterback. My hunch is that the spring game starter won't have a decided advantage going into the fall and that this competition could go down to the week before the season starts. Friedgen has already indicated that he will rely less on who looks the best in practice drills and more on who moves the offense. This is an apparent admission that while last years starter Joel Statham looked good in drills his game performance was normally dreadful.

Other News

It seems more likely that the NBA will have some form of minimum age limit included in the next collective bargaining agreement. Those who automatically assume that this means the future Shaun Livingstons and LeBron Jameses will be playing in college in the future may be very disappointed. As Steve Deveney, who covers the NBA for Sporting News, explained in his column the NBA will tie this new requirement to an expansion of the NBDL. Players who are not yet 20 years old can still opt for professional basketball but only in the NBDL. What could be attractive about playing minor league basketball in places like Fayetteville and Roanoke? How about a rookie pay scale that is the same as it is for current high schoolers who enter the NBA draft. The player's union has dropped much of its opposition when this concession was made. If anything this could accelerate prep stars jumping to the NBA. People will come to see NBDL games if players like Dwight Howard, LeBron James and Amare Stoudemire are playing in them. If you were one of those kids why on earth would you go to UConn, Duke or UNC when you could get paid your full rookie salary and not have the NCAA watching you like a hawk? This rule will not "save" college basketball, if such a thing is even needed, nor will it increase the advantage that schools like Duke, UNC and Kentucky have in recruiting. Many of these top kids still won't qualify or may not bother going to basketball feeder prep schools like Oak Hill when they can get paid like a real professional.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Who's on First?

Maryland may only be losing two players this off season but the bench will look quite different than it did this season. Dave Dickerson accepted the head coach position at Tulane last week. Dickerson was considered for a number of head coaching vacancies last season. Dickerson spent nine years under Gary Williams and was a former player and team captain at Maryland. If Dickerson can elevate Tulane into a NCAA contender he will be the favorite to replace Williams when he retires. The entire assistant coaching staff now consists of Keith Booth. At least one of the hires will be an experienced coach, let's hope not the kind that are the "former head coaches trying to redeem themselves" variety. Obviously the hiring of Mike Lonergan, who is on his way to Vermont, was a mistake for Maryland. It was obvious that Lonergan had no intention of staying at Maryland for any period of time and was merely using it as a stepping stone from Division III. He often complained about the demands of the job to the media and was rumored to spend time recruiting players far more likely to end up at Vermont than in College Park.

Football Update

For some reason the staff feels that Gerrick McPhearson can start in the place of All-ACC corner back Domonique Foxworth. McPhearson is a speedy CB but anyone who saw him struggle in the West Virginia and Clemson games should know that he is better suited to be a nickel back. Generously listed at 5-10, McPhearson cannot cover big wideouts and gets manhandled in jump ball situations. If he is not beaten out by Kevin Barnes or Richard Taylor Maryland fans should get used to some big plays in the passing game.