Friday, October 28, 2005

Freeman to decide

According to Josh Barr in the Washington Post it looks as if Dematha junior Austin Freeman will decide fairly soon where he is going to college. The 6-4 SG is a scoring machine and would fill a void at the position with the departure of Mike Jones. If the staff signs Vasquez, and it seems they will, then Hayes and Vasquez are the only two guards on the squad for 2007 at this point. Initial rumors had Freeman favoring Syracuse but recent indications may point to Georgetown. Maryland is still an unlikely destination. Recruiting coordinator Rob Moxley is working hard on Freeman and other 2007 targets.

Terps in the news

Nice article by Seth Davis, who grew up in Montgomery county, about the upcoming Maryland basketball season. According to him you should Fear the Turtle again. It is fairly good at setting up the coming season and why he thinks this Terps squad will be better than last year. His hypothetical lineup of DJ Strawberry, Nik Caner-Medley, James Gist, Ekene Ibekwe and Will Bowers is highly unlikely to ever take the court. Medley struggles to cover slower and less agile small forwards in the ACC. He'd never be able to keep up with any shooting guard.

I do agree that Travis Garrison may have to accept coming off the bench and be more of a role playing senior like Tahj Holden in 2003. They are very similar players. Both have physiques that would make you think they would be better in the post than they are and both have a nice outside shot. Williams has always liked to rotate players in the post if he has the depth so Garrison won't have his minutes totally taken away, but he could lose 10 minutes to Ibekwe and Gist. He still has a habit of fouling early in games and landing himself on the bench. If the other forwards can play well enough to put him on the bench Garrison could actually be more valuable as a sub than a starter.

Some who have seen the recent scrimmages and practices have been raving about the progress of Ibekwe and Gist. Gist has added muscle and is showing off a slew of low post moves. If he can round out his game to go along with impressive athleticism he could dominate the depleted ACC. Ibekwe disappointed last season with his inconsistency. Against a physical Wisconsin team he played his best game of the year with 21 points and 12 rebounds, he also showed up for both Duke games, but disappeared in too many other contests. He worked on retooling his absurd jump shot technique over the summer and has fully recovered from his broken rib that may have hampered him late in the season. Gary Williams has been cautiously optimistic that Ibekwe has matured and is willing to show the discipline necessary to raise his play on a nightly basis.

Aerial Fireworks

Florida State has usually had great offensive firepower over the years. Charlie Ward, Chris Weinke, Warrick Dunn, Peter Warrick and many others made sure that the Seminoles would always be able to put points up against any defense. Over the last few seasons that hasn't been that same threat from FSU. Some would argue it is the offensive coordinator, Bobby Bowden's son. Maybe, but the talent in Doak isn't up to the historical level recently. Chris Rix was an overall disappointment and there has been no dominant game breaking receiver the last 3 seasons. The Seminoles always have speed, but they haven't had many football players on offense. Highly coveted freshman WR Fred Rouse was supposed to help change that but he is most well known for his public feuding with the coaching staff instead of big plays. The offensive line has also dealt with injuries and inconsistency.

True freshman Greg Carr is making an impact. He has an amazing 8 touchdown catches this year and is averaging 23 yards per reception. About half of his receiving yards and 5 touchdowns came against Duke and the Citadel but at 6-6 he is an impressive target.

Lorenzo Booker and Leon Washington are splitting the tailback duties. It's not exactly Thunder & Lightening but they are getting the job done. Neither has a 100 yard game this year on their own but together they make a decent running back. With Maryland struggling to stop the run the two of them will be formidable indeed.

Drew Weatherford has been the starter at QB for most of the season but backup Xavier Lee has also seen action. Lee is a threat with both his legs and arm but hasn't seen much action this season. Weatherford is more of the classic pocket passer but like Sam Hollenbach is prone to throwing interceptions.

Maryland's defense had struggled at forcing turnovers until they got four from Virginia Tech last week, including three interceptions from Marcus Vick. If they can do the same to Weatherford then the Terps have a chance. If the offense can keep from reciprocating then they may be able to shock the Seminoles again this year.

The game really boils down to the health of Sam Hollenbach. Ralph Friedgen is engaging in a little gamesmanship and won't reveal the starter until game time tomorrow. If Hollenbach is healthy and effective then the Terps stand a fighting chance, if not then it will be another blowout.

My prediction:
Maryland 17
Florida State 38

Other notes

I happened to watch most of the Boston College and Virginia Tech game. As opposed to VT I am not unhappy that BC is part of the ACC now. I respect their school and athletic programs and if expansion had to happen and you forced me to pick new schools you could do much worse than BC. They don't have much in common with the rest of the ACC but the days of small and tight conferences that had a neighborhood feel are long gone.

Those special Nike jerseys that VT wore were horrible. Truly a fashion nightmare. They looked like a knockoff of a bad Star Trek uniform. Nike was clearly trying to copy off the Under Armor jerseys that UA makes for Maryland. Virginia Tech's uniforms are bad enough but Nike managed to make them look worse.

I could not believe Mike Tirico actually compared the backgrounds of BC's Mathias Kiwanuka and Marcus Vick. In a bumbling and awkward moment he mentioned something about the "leadership" that Vick and Kiwanuka had in their families. For those who don't know Kiwanuka's grandfather, Benidicto Kiwanuka, was elected as the first prime minister of Uganda in 1961 and after losing an election was jailed as a political prisoner. After being released he was appointed as Uganda's first chief justice which brought him into conflict with the ruling hunta resulting in his assassination by the monstrous Idi Amin in 1972.

To compare this brave and noble heredity on equal terms to the ignoble and sordid behavior of Mike Vick is worse than ridiculous, it's obscene. Vick is well known for having to use aliases to cover his testing for genital herpes and being sued for passing the disease along to women he has had sex with. To mention him in a comparison to Benidicto Kiwanuka, let alone in the same sentence, is a sick mockery. Apparently ESPN will stoop beyond the lowest sewer to hype both the Vick brothers. I was so outraged I had to turn off the game.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Hollenbach "50/50"

News today was that QB Sam Hollenbach was a game time decision for the Florida State game on Saturday. He sprained his shoulder in the loss to Virginia Tech last Thursday. If he cannot go then Joel Statham will start in his place.

I would give the Terps about zero chance to win with Statham under center. He is the same turnover prone quarterback who locks onto receivers that he was last year. Please no more talk about how he "beat" FSU last season. That win was a fluke, kids.

Keon Lattimore also partially dislocated his shoulder and will likely miss the Florida State game as well. Former FB Ricardo Dickerson has been tried at the hybrid rush end again. Apparently Friedgen feels like the guys at that position are not getting it done. Trey Covington has had flashes but is still not ready to be an everyday player. The loss of Robert Armstrong for the year due to a back injury has hurt depth on the inside. Conrad Bolston is getting worn down at the end of games and none of the young backups at tackle seem to be able to spell him.

Gary on senior leadership

He gave this interview to EA Sports for their new basketball game:

If you have a group of seniors that are willing to play hard out in practice, play great defense, dive for the basketball every time it’s loose, then you have a tremendous situation. Great senior leaders are the guys who are consistent. They’re going to put in the necessary work on their shot after practice, they’re the guys that play defense a half an hour at a time in practice and don’t complain because they know that’s what is going to make the team better. There hasn’t been a great team that doesn’t play really aggressive, outstanding defense and those seniors know that. To me, rather than having a real vocal guy, I’d rather have a guy that does it on the court.

When you have guys who all of a sudden just start showing up shooting extra in the gym on the road, are there early for practice, stay after practice shooting, that’s really great leadership. If you have real seniors that are willing to do it, then that has the ripple effect on the other players that they naturally gravitate toward. A great senior leader cannot only have a great effect on the players, but he can also have a great effect on the coach.

I’ve been fortunate here at Maryland to have a couple of guys who were just incredible. Steve Blake was our starting point guard for four years, starting point guard for the national championship team as a junior, and the toughest year he had was the year after he won the championship. With his leadership we were able to get back to the sweet sixteen, even after losing four other starters on our team.

Another, of course, was Juan Dixon. He’s the all-time leading scorer at Maryland -- he’s one of those guys that could get you 30 in the game, but that wouldn’t affect the way he played defense. He always wanted to guard the other team’s best offensive guard -- he was willing to put a lot of energy on the defensive end.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Roundball starts up

Greivis Vasquez is rumored to be close to making a decision and it could come in the nest few weeks. He visited Virginia Tech last week for their midnight madness celebration. It appears Maryland and VT are the two finalists for the 6-5 Montrose senior guard. It is somewhat unusual for a Montrose kid to commit before the spring but my hunch is that Greivis liked what he saw at Maryland and is confident with his decision. If it sounds like I'm confident he'll be a Terp, I am. I think the Hokie talk is just to hype up the kid's decision and add a little suspense to it. Vasquez would be a nice finish to a underrated 2006 class. He has good ball handling skills which means he could play PG in a pinch, he can shoot from outside, he can pass well and has the size to play up to SF. A very versatile player.

A number of high 2007 recruits attended the Midnight Madness celebration at Comcast center.
Kosta Koufus: a 7 foot giant out of Ohio who has some family in the area and has had several unofficial visits to College Park. Ohio State is going strong for him.
Braxton Dupree: a 6-8 bulldozer from Baltimore who is high on the Terps
Several other local prospects were present including PG Malcolm Delaney who could be a top target for depth at the point.
It seems Gary Williams is back to focusing on bulldog types. Guys who are not highly ranked but are scrapers with lots of motivation. Let's hope he also lands a few guys who can be game changers too. You need a mix of the two types to win.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Passing game goes flat

For one half Maryland gave Virginia Tech all they could handle and went into halftime trailing only 7-3. In the second half the offense would get their chances to even the game with Marcus Vick throwing 3 interceptions in the 3rd quarter alone, but could convert on none of those. Four turnovers and zero points off them. That won't give you a chance to beat anyone, let alone a team that feels it should go to the Rose bowl. The three possessions after Vick interceptions resulted in 47 total yards on 13 plays. Two of those possessions were inside the Hokie 35 yard line.

Perhaps the most surprising thing was the inability of Sam Hollenbach to convert in the passing game. He finished with a paltry 158 yards and completed less than 50% of his attempts. It's not as if Virginia Tech had shut down the passing lanes, Maryland receivers were clearly open for several big plays, but Hollenbach could not connect. I'm not sure if his shoulder sprain effected his play and Friedgen seemed to imply that it wasn't a factor. Still Maryland had moved the ball well in the prior series and never seemed right after that until a final garbage touchdown at the end. Perhaps it was a combination of the injury and the big game atmosphere that rattled Hollenbach. He showed his two biggest weaknesses again, a proclivity to throw interceptions in the red zone and holding onto the ball too long and taking bad sacks.

The big game atmosphere seemed to rattle kicker Dan Ennis as well. In a rain soaked and sloppy game against Temple he missed his first field goal of the season and since then has only made one out his last five. Three of those misses were within 40 yards. No one was expecting Ennis to step right in and replace Nick Novak, but I would think the staff will give Obi Egekeze another chance to take over place kicking duties if he is healthy. To be fair to Ennis I felt it was clear after the first miss that he was going to have a shaky night and wouldn't have put him in a position to try a career long 47 yard attempt. The staff made a mistake in not going for it in that situation.

The defensive line did a decent job during the first half in containing the Hokie running backs. Vick's scrambling had done most of the damage on the ground as the running backs for VT were mostly shut down. The line still managed little pass rush and continues to be a weak spot on the defense. In the 2nd half they wore down and began to give up larger chunks of yardage on the ground. The offense could muster few sustained drives and in the pivotal 3rd quarter the longest possession was 6 plays. On three of Maryland's last four possessions they could not even muster a first down.

Lance Ball had another solid game and showed determination in running up the middle. I'll say it again, Lance Ball should be the feature back. The rotation scheme that the staff is using should be thrown out and they should stick with Ball. Right now he is the best all around back on the roster.

It was an emotional game for some of the players and certainly D'Qwell Jackson played his heart out. After a crucial touchdown by VT the ESPN cameras caught him in an emotional outburst on the sideline surrounded by his defensive teammates. At the end of that 10 play 99 yard drive the defensive was full of guys with their heads down and hands on their hips. They were beaten. Jackson was trying to get them motivated and play with pride. His leadership will be hard to replace next season.

The last Maryland drive was kept going by two personal foul calls against Virginia Tech. This is the kind of stupid play that results when you have a team with flawed character. The game was over, 28-3 at the time, and the VT defense couldn't keep its composure. To me it was obvious at the half that a team that struggled so badly against a mediocre Maryland squad was not a championship caliber squad. Let's stop all the silly national title talk for VT. They are a flawed group that will likely lose before the ACC title game.

Quick Grades:

Quarterback: C-
Runningback: C+
Receivers: C
Offensive Line: C-

Defensive Line: C
Linebackers: C
Secondary: C+

Recruit Update:

Maryland verbal Da'rel Scott from Pennsylvania is putting up some mind boggling numbers. In a 55-15 win over Upper Merion Scott scored 6 touchdowns and ran for 230 yards in less than three quarters. He does play in one of the less competitive divisions in Pennsylvania but he goes out week to week and puts up dominating numbers. The opposing coach called him a "man among boys". He could possess some of the big play ability that has been lacking on offense this season outside of Vernon Davis.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Game day notes

The big night is finally here and after Maryland hasn't played since October 8th the team should be focused and well prepared for this battle against the third ranked Hokies. The memories of last season's nightmare against Virginia Tech should be a motivating factor. In my mind the two biggest matchups of the night will be:

Maryland's DL vs the VT offensive line

Maryland's receivers vs the VT secondary

The one matchup that I think is decidedly in Maryland's favor is in the passing game. Hollenbach and his receivers are getting better week to week and have racked up yardage versus every team they have played this year. Vernon Davis is the best TE that the Hokies will see this season. They will have to double team him since neither their LBs or safeties can cover him alone. Georgia Tech WR Calvin Johnson put up 125 yards and a TD against the Hokies in a loss and I think Davis can produce a similar game. The impressive thing about the receivers is that in various games different guys have come up big. Try to shut down Davis and Dan Melendez can burn you for 125 yards like he did to Virginia. Jo Jo Walker will go over the middle against any secondary in America. Derrick Fenner still has deep threat speed on those sideline fly patterns. Lance Ball can even do damage out of the backfield.

The Hokies do have a very good defense but have not been tested much this year. They have not played an offense that ranks better than 70th in the nation yet this year. Here are the rankings for the teams they have defeated:


Not very impressive and none of those teams can pass the ball anywhere near as well as Maryland, which is ranked 36th in total offense. NC State is a decent passing team and VT needed a 4th quarter touchdown to win the game in Raleigh. I feel Hollenbach is a better passer than State's Jay Davis, who put up over 300 yards against VT. I would not be surprised to see Maryland run some of the same three wideout sets they threw at UVA and throw the ball deep on the untested Hokie secondary.

Sam Hollenbach must not throw costly interceptions and avoid drive killing sacks. In the losses this year those have been crucial. I expect VT to be very aggressive on defense in an attempt to cause turnovers and there will be the opportunities for big plays as a result.

The Maryland defense needs to stop the Hokies on 3rd down. For all the hype Marcus Vick receives Virginia Tech doesn't really rely on him to win games. Like last year with Bryan Randle he is expected to make a big throw if they need it and not turn the ball over. So far this year he has been able to do that well. He's only attempted more than 20 passes once all year, at NC State, and that resulted in his worst passer rating of the season. Vick will pick his spots to scramble or attempt a shot down the field but he is nowhere near the game changing player his older brother was in college. The Hokies have 27o rushing attempts against 119 passes for the season. Well, they are ahead in all their games, you might say. In the nip and tuck NC State game they still had 41 rushes to 21 passes.

The defensive line must force the Hokies to pass the ball. VT wants to grind it out, control the clock and keep Maryland's offense off the field. They will try to stop Maryland's running game cold and then attack when the Terps become one dimensional, hoping for sacks and turnovers. My guess is it won't be so easy when it isn't Ohio, Marshall and Duke on the other side.

This one is personal for Ralph Friedgen and the coaching staff. If I had to guess he's been thinking about the game plan for this night since last December. He's going to come up with a good one. If the players can execute and avoid mistakes it will be good enough to win.

Maryland 26
Virginia Tech 21

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Clark's story

I was contacted from someone close to former Maryland recruit Shane Clark recently and they paint a very different story about what lead to his departure from College Park. They claim that Maryland assistant Dave Dickerson was contacted repeatedly about the need to complete form 48H and that the officials at Cardinal Dougherty were ready and eager to send along whatever information was needed to complete the application. Form 48H establishes the legitimacy of the classes that a student completed and requires course materials be submitted for approval.

I'm inclined to believe that Dickerson failed to do this in a timely fashion. Given the immense pressure that the staff endured last season with the Gilchrist drama and an inconsistent squad it is understandable that there were many distractions. There isn't any excuse for this kind of mistake, however. It makes the whole program look bad and a kid who put his trust in the school suffers badly as a result. Clark went to Hargrave in the hopes that the structure there would help him with his academics and he did get eligible in the end. He held up his end. Hopefully with the new crew of assistants this kind of thing won't happen again.

This person also confirmed that the ongoing feud between AD Debbie Yow and Gary Williams played a role in this as well. It would be a travesty if Shane Clark was punished in an attempt to undermine the prominent position of the basketball coach. I've never been a supporter of Yow. Her administration skills are mediocre and she's made more than a few bad hires in her time here. I think the high profile of Gary Williams has always rubbed her the wrong way. If this grudge resulted in Clark being forced out unnecessarily then she needs to go.

Maryland did try to fix the problems with Clark's eligibility but by that time it was too late. Clark had felt the bond of trust had been broken with Maryland and has no interest remaining in College Park or going to another prep school. I really can't blame him for feeling that way, though I think everyone would be been better off if he had been able to forgive Maryland's mistake.

I wish Shane Clark success in whatever he does in the future, on the court and off. I would have loved to see him come to Maryland.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Hokie Pokey

Frank Beamer dismissed another football player the other day. Redshirt freshman cornerback Theodore Miller was kicked off the team for unspecified reasons. Miller along with another Hokie player were arrested for firearms charges after threatening a fellow student with a pellet gun. Earlier in the year Beamer dismissed senior DJ Walton after he was arrested for armed robbery and drug possession. Walton had also been arrested for drunk driving the year before but was reinstated to the team. Their starting QB was arrested twice last year, including once on a rape charge. Two other Hokie players were arrested on the rape charge as well but the only player kicked off the team was a backup WR. Frank Beamer didn't need him to win.

Their program is an embarrassment to the ACC. Our own Jerry Lundegaard commissioner John Swofford included VPI as part of his money grab during the expansion debacle of 2003-4. Actually no one really wanted the Hokies in the first place. Syracuse was the original target for expansion. It was only after UNC and Duke vetoed the whole expansion that Virginia's swing vote became critical. Virginia Governer Mark Warner put pressure on UVA to hold up the vote and let VT join the ACC. The rest of the schools, hungry for the increased revenue, joined along and a university that has no business being in the ACC was offered a chance to be a member of a conference that never wanted them in the first place. It was something like watching Billy Bob Thorton walk down the red carpet at the Oscars, a vulgar and uncouth hillbilly who lucked his way into a better life.

Their football program became a national laughingstock after over 20 players were arrested during a 13 month period in the late 1990s. National newspapers and commentators pointed to Frank Beamer's program as an example of college sports run amok. There was even a Supreme Court case revolving around a gang rape of a coed by members of the football squad. They became a symbol of football programs that allowed thugs and predators, who happen to have good 40 yard dash times, to victimize its students in the pursuit of bowl money. If the people at Virginia Tech would rather win football games than improve their mediocre academics then that is their choice. The ACC should not have vindicated that Faustian bargain by giving them the legitimacy that the ACC affiliation bestows.

I feel the same way about Miami's entry into the ACC as well, but that's for another time. The Hokies are like the Beverly Hillbillies who bought their way into the country club and still don't know what fork to use at dinner. If they bring some of the football team to dinner just make sure you count the silver after they go home.

Added October 19th

Reactions from Hokies

Vulgar and uncouth?

There were some gems like "your[sic] a douche" and "I hope you die and your mother witnesses it" variations from the always unintentionally humorous Hokie fans in response to my recent entry about their program. One woman said she wasn't sure any lawyer could care about the victims of their out of control football team. Interesting, because the only people who seem to care about those victims in southwest Virginia are the lawyers at the Commonwealth Attorney's office. Another luminary guessed that I was a "Eastern shore public defender", but I must say that if I was a defense attorney I would just go down to Blacksburg and the Hokie players could keep me in business all by themselves.

I was called self righteous, arrogant, snobby, childish and a whiny brat. To the first three I'll pull a Marcus Vick and plead no contest. Further more, as it concerns the festering boil that is college football, when defenders of the corrupt status quo use those words to insult me, I take them as a badge of honor.

So I would say check and check to the above question. I would like to thank all the visitors from that cesspool over at Techsideline for proving my points with such enthusiasm. Excellent work.

What we now know is that their fondness for moral relativism and half baked working class populism are not recently acquired skills. Too bad they don't reserve some of that outrage for their own institution. I'm sure there are some decent graduates of VPI, and I would hope that they would be uncomfortable with the reputation that these shameful episodes bring to their alma mater. I wouldn't be comfortable giving money to the Terrapin Club or buying season tickets if Ralph Friedgen's program made regular headlines for off field violations. I know that he has kicked players off the team for being trouble makers and it didn't take their 3rd arrest, or their backup status, for him to make that decision. Integrity isn't something you gain by winning games, nor can you acquire it only when the circumstances make it easier. Notoriety isn't the same as respect and notorious means more than being famous. As long as Ralph Friedgen runs Maryland's football team with the probity he has to this point I'll be content regardless of what happens Thursday night or on any other gameday.

Tomorrow Maryland will have Sam Hollenbach at quarterback. Sam is majoring in mechanical engineering at one of the finest programs in the nation. He is a humble, thoughtful and respectful young man. He endured some setbacks during his time on the team but worked hard and earned a starting spot. Sam now leads the ACC in passing yards. Frank Beamer starts a kid who...well, you get the point.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Terps recall blowout

It's on the minds of all the players and in all the papers so far this week. The 55-6 embarrassment at Blacksburg on national television a year ago. It was the kind of loss that became expected under Duffner or Vanderlinden but not Ralph Friedgen. The blowout in the Orange Bowl wasn't even as bad considering that Florida team should have played for the mythical national title. The Virginia Tech team of last season was not in any way comparable to that Gators squad. Some of it is about making amends for last season but more importantly it is another hurdle in qualifying for post season play.

D'Qwell Jackson is back at practice after missing the Temple game and even though he may not be 100% he'll be ready for kickoff on Thursday. DT Dennis Marsh, who missed the Temple game after spraining his ankle in warm ups, is healed and should be available for the Gobblers.

The Baltimore Sun reports that backup QB Jordan Steffy is hungry to get a chance to start but is not considering leaving the program, yet. The staff is considering a redshirt for him this season. If he doesn't come out of the spring game at least as the #2 QB I would not be surprised if he does go elsewhere for a better opportunity. He claims his knee is totally healthy again after surgery during the summer. He didn't mention his lingering arm troubles.

What a day
I can't recall a better day of college football. It was a treat to watch some great games. Starting with the 38-34 victory by Wisconsin over Minnesota on a blocked punt with under a minute to go, followed by the Michigan vs. Penn State game decided on the last play with a second on the clock and the USC vs. Notre Dame classic, it was a great day to own a 37" Sony plasma TV. The Virginia vs FSU ESPN game wasn't that bad either. There certainly seemed to be some mojo from the 1995 Virginia squad that upset a powerful FSU team for its first ACC loss.

Some will take it as a sign that USC isn't as good as everyone thinks. After watching the final minutes of their victory I take the opposite approach. They are the best team in the country until someone beats them. Texas is a great team and loaded with talent but USC's players are used to winning. They have a swagger you can't create by just winning a few games during a season. It is enough to put them over the top against a very good team even when they are not playing well.

Heels can't even scrimmage

North Carolina is down to 9 scholarship players after frosh forward Mike Copeland tore knee cartilage and will miss at least 4 weeks after surgery. Keep looking at those recruit rankings Heel fans because this season won't be much to crow about.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Twilight Madness

I can't help but feeling excited and somewhat giddy that college basketball is starting again this very night. A chance to wash the bitter taste out of Terp fans mouths from last season. The NCAA selection show, which seed the team will earn, how their bracket will set up, there is nothing better in sports.

Maryland will start "Midnight" Madness at 10:15pm after the assorted performaces that no one really cares to see. If you're going to have what amounts to a pep rally at 10 you shouldn't call it Midnight Madness. Maryland's Lefty Driesel started the whole idea of Midnight Madness back in 1970. It just seems silly to hold onto the name when part of the whole point is when you start the celebration.

I think Maryland will be back in a big way this season. I'm certainly not alone. Gary Williams is confident that the team is focused and dedicated to fullfilling their potential. For the Senior class of Chris McCray, Travis Garrison and Nik Caner-Medley this is their last chance to live up to some of the expecations that they brought to campus 3 seasons ago. It seems they may have gotten that message in the offseason.

Travis Garrison:
“We are the seniors, We are the guys everyone looks at. We are the guys who have to go out there and lead for the younger guys. We are the guys, if things go wrong, we are going to be at fault. But as a leader, that’s what you want.”

Nik Caner-Medley:
“Around the basket, being 6-8, 240 pounds, some of the moves I made were terrible, I’ve always had a habit to pump and I don’t even really notice it when I am playing. I’ll watch tape and ask ‘Why did I do that?’ I’ve really focused on that. In order to be a great team, you have to carry yourself a certain way on and off the court. And I think in the first game we play, I think everyone will notice a difference.”

Chris McCray:
“I still haven’t reached my maximum potential. I’m still working hard on the aspects of the game I need to. And I know, Nik and Travis are doing the same thing.”

It certainly sounds like they are determined to change the bad habits that plagued the team last season. Of course John Gilchrist was saying similar things to the media before last season. I think this senior trio truly are different this season. They have learned the value of leadership and team work the hard way. They have had to endure the questions about their responsibility for ending Maryland's 12 year streak of tournament appearances and all the distractions of John Gilchrist's final act with the team. That would get old for anyone and should have been a motivator for improving this season. They also seem to have taken to heart Coach Williams emphasis that hard work in June goes a long way to determining how good you are in Janurary.

Gary Williams indicated that he does not have a starting five set as of now. You can be fairly sure to pencil McCray and Caner-Medley into two of those spots. The frontcourt is a fairly muddled picture right now. Travis Garrison is probably still the starter but is hanging on to his starting job by a thread right now. He won't get Williams usual deference to senior starters. James Gist and Ekene Ibekwe could easily push past him since they are both better suited for PF or C than Garrison. Will Bowers worked on his post game in the off season but I would be surprised if it had improved enough for him to move past the more athletic trio of Gist, Ibekwe and Garrison. He is a favorite of Williams so that may earn him more time, especially against big and physical centers like Sheldon Williams and Eric Williams.

The PG spot is also unclaimed at this point. Sterling Ledbetter seemed to be anointed in the NIT as the starter but his erratic play and rumors that he was in the dog house with the coaching staff didn't help. Parrish Brown is a potentially dynamic guard with the ability to score like Gilchrist, but without the attitude or baggage. McCray and DJ Strawberry will also see some time at the position.

When asked about junior SG Mike Jones coach Williams responded by saying that Jones had some great games last year but had to do it in practice every day. He also had this to say, "Get your McDonald's All-American list out from three years ago and see how many guys are doing well in college right now, It's the most overrated thing I've seen. All those lists are bad.".

That got me thinking so I examined the 2003 McDonalds roster. Out of the 24 players picked to the team only 7 players are still with the teams they committed to that spring.

Mike Jones -Maryland
Shannon Brown -Michigan State
Mustafa Shakur -Arizona
Leon Powe -Cal
Brian Butch -Wisconsin
Ivan Harris -Ohio State
Aaron Brooks -Oregon

Powe can never stay healthy and injures may have derailed his career. Butch averaged 9.7 minutes a game last season and seemed to be best at being Bo Ryan's goon. Harris scored 7.3 ppg for Ohio State.

Two other players David Padgett and J.R. Giddens no longer play for Kansas and have since transferred elsewhere. Neither have shown much in college. So only about 1/3 of the players on the 2003 team are left in college after just two seasons! It is also worth noting that not a single player on that squad ever played on a national title team.

Other notes:
Parrish Brown took number 24 and David Neal took 35.

Could the pictures on Maryland's website be any worse? I didn't post any here because they are so bad. Get a better camera, Debbie.

Duke forward Dave McClure will miss the entire 2005 season with a serious knee injury. This will but more pressure on freshmen Josh McRoberts, Eric Boateng and Jamal Boykin to produce early. McRoberts is ready now but Boateng and Boykin will need to be step up for Duke to improve on its depth. I still think Duke will be vulnerable to foul trouble again this year. ranked Maryland 17th in its preseason poll. Jay Bilas ranked Maryland 18th. Andy Katz 12th. Joe Lunardi 16th.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Sneaker Money and the AAU Cesspool

Interesting article on today by Pat Forde about the role of large shoe companies like Nike in the recruiting process. The main focus is junior guard OJ Mayo, originally from Huntington, WV, who now plays for a high school in Cincinnati. Forde could barely get even an answer as to whether he could even talk to Mayo. Apparently his actual high school coach, Jamie Mahaffey, has little or no say in what Mayo and teammate Billy Walker do. Part of the deal struck when they came to his high school was that he would let the entourage of these kids have a wide latitude in handling their recruitment. Such is the predicament of many high school coaches these days. Mayo's AAU coach and "guardian" Dwaine Barnes runs the OJ show, not the man who he plays for. Mayo lives in an apartment across from the school with Barnes. A man who identified himself as the uncle of Mayo turned away Forde but then went on to say that they wanted a good relationship with ESPN. They had already frozen out Sports Illustrated for a story they deemed to be negative. With either a staggering amount of idiocy or shamelessness, I can't decide which, he claimed "[Mayo] didn't ask to be thrust into the spotlight...". That certainly makes sense when you chat with any internet guru who'll listen, give interviews to SI, show up in a made for cable special about a Las Vegas AAU tournament, create a website called when your nephew was in the 7th grade, you're just looking for a little privacy.

So this is the state of college basketball these days. Coaches rub shoulders with these kinds of sleazebags. When you boil it down all the "handlers", bagmen, go-betweens, guardians and sneaker company talent pimps are a bunch of grown men out to chisel a piece for themselves off the trafficking of a 16 year old boy.

Once again lurking in the shadows like a sinister character in some bizarre David Lynch film is Sonny Vaccaro. The 66 year old Vaccaro gladly takes credit for creating the environment that results in the trafficking of these teen phenoms today. He's now with his third shoe company, having sold his services to Nike, Adidas and now Reebok. As he proudly claims, "...No one ever paid AAU coaches before I did...High school coaches were never paid [before I did]...". Now he says the spending in this endorsement arms race is spinning out of control, "Nike and Adidas are both spending millions.". Now that everyone has sunk to Vaccaro's level he doesn't have any advantage. Whether that is just shamelessness, some sort of grotesque cynicism, or a nauseating combination of the two I don't know. Watching him hug and kiss Greg Oden on the cheek gave me the creeps. What do companies get for the millions they spend on this AAU system? If you don't think that Nike would steer a player to a program that is sponsered by them or that Reebok and Adidas don't so the same you're fooling yourself. So goes the race to sign the next Lebron James where the highest bidder wins.

Vaccaro and others like him are outraged that the NBA has instituted the new age requirement. The look at someone like Michelle Wie, another product of greedy and out of control adults, and demand the ability to make money as she will. That's what it is all about in the end, money. It's not rah, rah Carolina or any such nonsense. Colleges and the coaches are merely inconveniences, like taking a driving test so you can pilot your new Porche down the highway at 100 miles an hour. Vaccaro didn't rule out a semi-pro club team of prep players to lazy or dumb to pass the sad NCAA minimums.

If they have trouble getting into school--they might not get in--they've got to have an escape hatch. And it's not the NBDL.
So we can look forward to the Reebok Pinheads versus the Nike Nitwits on ESPN.

Love the game of college basketball and your schools players if you can, but there is nothing lovable about how they get to your local campus. Kudos to Forde for lighting a match instead of cursing the darkness.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

2007 List Trimmed

Donte Greene, the 6-9 210 lbs Towson Catholic junior PF, gave a verbal commitment to Syracuse the other day. He follows in the footsteps of Carmelo Anthony who also went from Towson to Syracuse. Let's hope he doesn't also make a witness intimidation video like Anthony did a few years back. On why he chose Syracuse over Maryland Greene had this to say:

"No disrespect to Gary Williams and his staff, Keith Booth and Coach [Rob] Moxley, but Coach [Rob] Murphy [Syracuse assistant] would call and talk to me when he was allowed to and let me know that Syracuse was there," Greene said.

"He was more consistent with keeping in touch. Coach Williams was there occasionally, but their way of recruiting is different. I'm a big guy on contact and letting me know that you're there. That was a key."

Hmm. Greene had practically begged UNC to give him an offer just a few weeks ago. It was obvious that if they had he would be off to Chapel Hill in a flash and it wouldn't matter how little Roy Williams had called him. So I guess it all depends on who's asking. A few weeks ago at the Clemson football game Greene wore the kind of bored look on his face that would indicate he'd rather be somewhere else. While several other big name recruits were chatting with the Maryland staff or joking around with Terp players Greene headed for the parking lot as soon he politely could.

It's fairly well known that Syracuse is a sleazy program. They've already been nailed once under Boeheim for cheating which in college sports means that there were probably a dozen other things they got away with. Charles Barkley joked on national TV that Carmelo Anthony had been paid in college. If Greene and his family are comfortable with that then Maryland wasn't going to be a destination anyway. It seemed like Greene was almost reading off a script from the Anti-Gary crowd about how he just doesn't put in enough effort and if he just showed a little more "love" he would land these kids. Fantasy, but it is a simple and attractive explanation.

The unpleasant truth is that Baltimore is hostile ground for Maryland basketball and has been for over a decade. Beyond the perception in some areas of the state that College Park is a "white" school there is a deep vein of animosity regarding the disastrous tenure of Bob Wade as the Maryland coach. The bad feelings were solidified when the former coach at Dunbar High was fired in the wake of anther NCAA scandal. In reality the violations were not all that serious but the problem was that Wade lied about them to investigators. This and the lingering stigma of the Len Bias tragedy was enough for the NCAA to come down on Maryland with both feet.

When Keith Booth was recruited out of Baltimore he has said there was intense pressure for him to not go to Maryland. His sister would come home from school crying because she was under such duress to convince her brother to go somewhere else. It took supreme self confidence and rock solid character for Booth to go against all the anti-Maryland bias. Consider that for a moment. Does Tom Izzo have to deal with that in Detriot? Roy Williams in Raleigh or Charlotte? Tom Barnes in Dallas or Houston? Coach Rat...anywhere? The sad fact is that little has changed in Charm City since then. Maryland is at an immediate disadvantage to most other elite programs for high level recruits. Greene is only the latest example. Rudy Gay, Carmello Anthony, Melvin Scott are just a few in the recent past to go elsewhere. Kids in the Washington/Baltimore area don't grow up dreaming of playing at Maryland. They don't have people whispering in their ear that Maryland is the place to go if you're loyal to your town or community. In fact it is more likely the complete opposite. More often than not they'll say Maryland is a "white" school and then send their young men off to places like Syracuse, UConn, Virginia Tech, Florida State, Penn State, UNC and other places that haven't graduated even close to the number of African Americans that Maryland has. It's the worst sort of ignorant cynicism. The Capital region is rich in basketball talent and Maryland should always be good because of that, but it isn't Maryland's sandbox. Every major program east of the Mississippi trolls the gyms around the beltway and with the ambivalence towards the Terps among some in the local black community they will get more than their fair share.

So Who's Left?

In 2007 Maryland is still in a solid position with Braxton Dupree, a 6-9 250lbs C from Calvert Hall. Dupree is a top 5 player at his position and a likely top 50 player overall. The other top local talent seems to be looking elsewhere at the moment. SG Austin Freeman and PF Julian Vaughn don't have Maryland near the top of their "list". PG Chris Wright is certain to go elsewhere and it seems the staff may have made a decision to go in a different direction. It is still early in the 2007 recruiting season and there is certain to be movement in the rankings and players not on the guru radar that become prized recruits. There is no need to panic at this point as there are still many great players looking for homes.

News of the weird

It appears that NC State sophomore basketball player Gavin Grant has been detained as an illegal alien. In a thoroughly bizarre turn of events he faces possible deportation back to Jamaica, where his mother was from. It appears she brought Grant into the country without any legal documentation. How did he go through school and into college without proving his residency? Herb Sendek would have relied on Grant this season, possibly as a starter. It is a blow to a very young team that has lost its best player in Julius Hodge. If he is unable to play this year, which looks highly likely at the moment, it would be another blow to a team that looks like it belongs in the NIT.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Tune Up

Maryland sloshed its way through a messy 38-7 victory against the Temple Owls. The first quarter must have been difficult to watch, and I'm glad I didn't have to suffer through it. There are only a few things worth talking about out of this game. Temple isn't quite Prairie View but they are perhaps the worst team in Division I-A. Temple coach Bobby Wallace announced after the game that he would not be returning next season.

Sam Hollenbach was decent in some difficult conditions. He threw another interception in the red zone, although he has gotten good at converting 3rd downs. Sam must protect the ball better if Maryland is going to get to a bowl this season.

Lance Ball played well at running back again. He was productive with 58 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown. The staff seemed intent on getting Keon Lattimore some carries in the game even though he couldn't muster much on the ground. Mario Merrills came back from the dead to score 3 TDs on 12 carries. The platoon situation needs to end now. Lance Ball is the best combination of size and speed of all the backs. He can pick up blitzing LBs which can give the smaller Merrills and Lattimore problems. Ball catches well out of the backfield and seems to have a nack for big plays.

D'Qwell Jackson was held out of the game with a nagging injury. Expect him to be healthy and ready to go for Virginia Tech.

Maryland is 3rd in the ACC in total offense and 2nd in first downs.

The defense ranks dead last in 3rd down conversions.

SS Milton Harris leads the ACC in forced fumbles (3).

Sam Hollenbach leads the league in passing yards by a wide margin (1513 yards). He has only 77 yards fewer than Joel Statham had for the entire season in 2004.

Other Football Thoughts

Did you see the throw that Matt Leinart made in the Arizona game? Rolled out to his right under pressure, threw across his body and lofted a sweet pass for 57 yards. Arizona, only down 7 at that point, was toast. Not many NFL QBs could make that throw.

Great old fashion AFL-style Pac-10 game between UCLA and Cal. It was a 47-40 shootout. Each of those programs should always be good. UCLA RB Maurice Drew was shockingly articulate in his post game interview. I usually cringe when most college players are on TV in non-scripted moments.

When asked if UPS was back after a close 17-10 victory over Ohio State Joe Paterno said, "I don't know that we ever left." Maybe he is getting too old. Was he sundowning? Joe, you've had 4 losing seasons in the last 5 years. There were about 50 teams that were more relevant than UPS. Maybe in Joe Pa's reality they won all those games he whined about losing due to reffing mistakes.

Friday, October 07, 2005

A List, UPS dreams, Ball starts

I watched the INHD's special on the Reebok's annual "Big Time Tournament" in Las Vegas. I wanted to take a shower just watching it. Is Sonny Vaccaro, Reebok's AAU "facilitator" and talent pimp, not one of the most phony guys you'll ever see? I do think he believes that he is a "father figure" to some of these kids but he's the type of father who makes sure his own wheels are greased in the process. Kevin Love a 6-8 240 monster from Oregon was very impressive, let's hope this 2007 recruit stays on the West Coast. Other 2007 recruits OJ Mayo and Billy Walker were also both dominating. Mayo is a do-everything scoring PG and will come into college with the ability to immediately play at a very high level. Walker is a skinny but incredibly athletic 6-5 wing player. His dunking ability reminded me of Hakim Warrick, but he may struggle with his size at SF in the bigger conferences. Unless he can improve his outside shot or his ballhandling he may be more of a highlight player that hides too many weaknesses. He also showed a disturbing fixation on "posterizing" other players and gave more than a few cheap elbow shots under the basket. Consensus #1 2006 recruit Greg Oden did dominate. He has good hands, a decent 7 foot frame, can rebound, score and plays good defense. He gets away with a lot based on his height and his stamina is not very good at this point. He will struggle to give 25 minutes a game as a freshman.

Some of those AAU coaches looked like Reebok cleaned the bathroom out of a racetrack and gave them whistles. It is a rotten snake pitt. The did profile a nice team from Australia that had mostly foreign players trying to just get a college scholarship. Alas if any of those kids showed promise some AAU cockroach would be all over them.

Reality Check
Up in Happy Valley the UPS faithful have been sniffing glue this whole week. Apparently their team feels like they are legitimate contenders for the fictional national title. Why wouldn't they be? It's not like they have had losing seasons in 4 out of the last 5 years. Joe Paterno scheduled himself a bowl game with South Florida, Cincinnati and Central Michigan as his out of conference foes. They just barely squeaked by Northwestern to win their fourth game. They will play in a bowl game but won't beat anyone of consequence the rest of the year. With Ohio State coming to town this week and a road trip to Ann Arbor looming you can add two losses and end any ridiculous talk of the Rose Bowl.

Ball's the Call
It appears after his 163 yard performance that RB Lance Ball will get the start this week against Temple. The game day conditions should be miserable with possible torrential rain. Count on Ball getting a heavy workload. He ran very well last week but the offensive line dominated like that had not in two seasons. This week senior C Ryan McDonald was awarded ACC lineman of the week. He graded out with a perfect score according to the coaches. If the line builds upon the success of the last few weeks Maryland may make some noise in the ACC.

McDonalds isn't Gary's kind of place

Head Coach Gary Williams gave the second part of his interview with the Diamondback and there are some doozies in it. Gary is his normal self, feisty and unapologetic. He does have a rather large chip on his shoulder that really hasn't been eroded even after two Final Fours and a national championship. You can tell he is excited about the coming season and Gary loves nothing better than proving people wrong. He pointed out that some "experts" had picked Maryland as low as sixth in the ACC or as high as 12th in the country. He's got more than enough bulletin board material for this group to do his motivating.

On new recruit David Neal:

David Neal currently weighs 257 [pounds]. He is a big strong guy. I thought we got pushed around a lot inside last year. Our height is fine, but besides Will Bowers, we aren’t that wide. David certainly helps. It helps that James Gist is a lot bigger this year. Travis Garrison is bigger. Those guys have done a lot of work in the weight room and I like the more physical look we’ll have to our team this year and David is a part of that.

I'm liking Neal better all the time. I have seen him in person and he is a load, especially for a freshman. He proved he can score at O'Connell and do it against the top prep players in the area. He will play a larger roll in 2006 than people think.

On Coach K's Amex ads:

Yeah, it was an unfair advantage. But all of those coaches that complained about that, if American Express came to them and asked them to do the commercial, they probably would have done it. I just objected to it being shown during the NCAA tournament. That’s a dead period in recruiting and his face is out there on the screen the whole time. That was the only objection. The NCAA wasn’t real smart about them allowing to use the commercial then.

Some fans from other schools raised similar concerns about the Under Armor ads with Ralph Friedgen. In those adds he's never identified and Maryland's logo is never shown which is a huge distinction to K's TV spot. I don't think it is a huge deal but Gary has a point about the appearance of those adds during the NCAA tournament.

On recruiting McDonalds All Americans:

We get our share of McDonald’s All-Americans. But if it comes down to two players, one being a McDonald’s All-American and one wasn’t, and I thought the one that wasn’t would be a better college player, I’d take him in a second. I could care less. Coaches have gotten fired trying to recruit just McDonald’s All-Americans.

Because Juan Dixon, Lonny Baxter, Steve Blake and Chris Wilcox weren’t McDonald’s All-Americans, that doesn’t mean they weren’t good high school players. Anyone can sit here and pick the top 25 high school players in the country — I don’t think so. There’s too many good players out there.

Williams has never been concerned with recruiting "names" and usually shies away from going after players who become overhyped. He's commented before about telling a recruit he's the greatest thing since Jordan and then getting him on campus where he is told his defense stinks and he needs to improve dramatically to be a great player. His recent experiences with highly rated recruiting classes, that included two McDonalds all stars, have I think only further reinforced his opinion.

On his new assistants:

Rob Moxley was ranked in the top five as one of the best recruiting young coaches. He’s a local guy, grew up in Baltimore, so he knew the people you have to know nowadays in recruiting, so I went after him. Michael Adams played for me at Boston College and had a great NBA career and was an NBA assistant. I’m very comfortable with both of those guys. ... I always want to hire coaches who can put their attitude into players.

On internet fans and the Terps program:

I look for guys who can play the way we want to play. Just because someone on the Internet says some guy is good, doesn’t mean a whole lot. A lot of that is who calls those Internet guys the most. I don’t have time for that. They can write whatever they want. Those guys would rather follow recruiting than root for Maryland.

I worked very hard to make this program respected after [Len Bias’ death and NCAA sanctions]. Whenever I leave here, I’ll remember that as much as the national championships. ... People really used to think the basketball program hurt this university and the hardest thing to do was change people’s thinking.

Gary Williams is Maryland basketball. It is well past the time that his detractors should have accepted that. His sometimes abrasive nature has made him a few enemies and ruffled the feathers of a few deep pocket boosters. The essential truth about Gary is that he doesn't care what other people think, he's going to do it his way. When he arrived at Maryland many people considered the basketball program a source of embarrassment, not a source of pride. He changed that. When applications surged after the first Final Four appearance in school history who could take credit? Where did the money come to build Comcast Center? To pay a big salary for Ralph Friedgen? To expand Bryd Stadium? The only reason Maryland is on the college basketball map is because of Gary Williams. Lefty Driesell was like the Pharaohs by the time Gary Williams came to town. His accomplishments at Maryland had all the contemporaneousness of the pyramids. By the time Juan Dixon came to campus it was becoming the majority view that Gary was incapable of getting past the Sweet 16. Adding in his drunk driving arrest there was a strong undercurrent of boosters who wanted him removed. Can you blame him for having a chip on his shoulder? The ingratitude is staggering. He could have jumped ship after the NCAA death penalty came down, but he didn't. He has a measure of loyalty to the University that few, if any, boosters can match. Sink or swim, thick and thin, he is devoted to Maryland. He has given countless hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars to Maryland. He's devoted his soul to the University and basketball program yet there are still anonymous internet jackals that cravenly accuse him of being too lazy since winning a national title. My only hope is that someday, in the distant future, they get their wish and Gary moves on to a quiet retirement. Whoever Debbie Yow brings to Maryland will in all probability fail to live up to those delusions of basketball utopia. The losses won't taste nearly as bitter to me as they will to someone who didn't realize how great a coach Williams really was. In the famous words of Teddy Roosevelt, "It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better.".

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Gary's optimistic, adds 2006 recruit

Gary Williams sat down with the Diamondback and gave a few thoughts on the upcoming season and what went wrong last year. At the point guard position he feels that Parish Brown and Sterling Ledbetter are the two best ballhandlers. He seemed to give DJ Strawberry a vote of confidence for some time at the point guard position. If Strawberry is healthy don't be surprised to see him try out for the PG slot against some of the softer teams on the early schedule. A three guard set of Chris McCray, DJ Strawberry and Mike Jones would outsize any lineup in the ACC with all three coming in at 6-5. The shortest player on the team is 6-1 Parrish Brown and Sterling Ledbetter rings in at 6-4. Maryland's height in the backcourt will give opponents problems and will hopefully improve the perimeter defense. McCray and Strawberry are long armed and lanky defenders and if Jones can improve his footwork he will be a mediocre presence if for no other reasons than his height and leaping ability.

Williams did address the departure of John Gilchrist, if only briefly. He "completely" disagreed with Gilchrist's claim that the other players didn't match his intensity last year. Let's hope now that Gilchrist has taken his surly attitude to Israel that it will be a while before we must talk about him again.

The crowd at Comcast Center was another topic of conversation. Despite being ranked #1 in a recent poll on best student crowds in college sports the student section leaves a lot to be desired. They do turn out en masse for the Blue Devils but the stands were half empty for the NIT games last season. Too many corporate season tickets and spoiled students have slowly eroded the home court advantage that Maryland enjoyed. True, the Terps were an impressive 16-3 at home last season, beat Duke in overtime and took eventual national champion North Carolina down to the last seconds, but they also lost to Clemson and NC State two teams that usually roll out of College Park with a loss.

I want the crowd to just focus on the game. We need the students here on time and I know it's a longer walk than to Cole Field House, but let'’s all suck it up and do it. It really helps when the crowd is pumped up.

I couldn't have said it better. When I started at Maryland the team was banned from TV and was playing in the ACC tournament play-in game. The students have become spoiled with success.

Jerome Burney
The 6-8 210lbs junior from Westlake high school in Georgia gave a verbal commitment to Maryland. He plays on the same AAU team as current commit Landon Milbourne and is one of the top juniors in the state of Georgia. Right now Burney is lean and athletic but a little raw in his skills. He put up 13.5 points, 11.5 rebounds and an amazing 8 blocks a game for Westlake high school last season. He appears to be a committed to defense and rebounding which is certainly one of the reasons Gary Williams wanted him. He had originally committed to Miami but then withdrew his verbal after Miami indicated that wanted him to prep for a year. His grades do not appear to be an issue so it is odd that they would make that request. Gary is well known for being one of the premier developers of frontcourt recruits and he'll have to work some of that magic with Burney. My money is on Gary. As of now the frontcourt for 2006 appears to be:

C Will Bowers (Sr)
PF Ekene Ibekwe (Sr)
F James Gist (Jr)
F David Neal (So)
F Landon Milbourne (Fr)
F Jerome Burney (Fr)

Depending on how Neal develops that isn't a bad lineup. It also puts Maryland in a good position to offer playing time to some of the elite 2007 big men like Braxton Dupree, Donte Green and Julian Vaughn. Green currently seems infatuated with UNC and Vaughn is looking at a bunch of schools right now. Dupree is the most likely commit in the near term.

2006 recruit SG Greivis Vasquez is still on Maryland's radar and a personal favorite of Coach Williams. I think Maryland will have to fight for him but will close the deal after a strong showing on the court this fall. Current commit Eric Hayes is doing his own recruiting to bring Vasquez with him.

Clark Saga
Shane Clark's convoluted story continues to unfold. It now appears the NCAA clearinghouse has ruled him eligible to play this fall. He gave a rather self serving and self pitying interview to some Philly papers. "I want to go to school somewhere where people care about me, with coaches I can trust," Clark was quoted as saying. According to the story form 48H was not completed and when Maryland saw this they had no choice but to reject his admission. He called the former assistant coach at Cardinal Dougherty to give him a ride back to Philly. The implication was that either the assistant or former Maryland coach Dave Dickerson didn't do their job. My feelings are that the Terps program is under much better leadership with the current assistants, but I find Clark's claim unpersuasive. He was only at Hargrave Military because he could not qualify out of high school and was a 5th year senior. His academic were always shaky according to his former coach at Dougherty, Mark Heimerdinger, who in an interview with the Diamondback said,

"Shane was always teetering on being academically ineligible in the three years [at Cardinal Dougherty],"” Heimerdinger said. Clark would start the season doing the bare minimum his classes. By the end of the year, he would fail a class or two and would take summer school, Heimerdinger said. The coach told Clark after his junior year he was going to need to step up and be a leader because of the young incoming team. However, Clark made the decision not to return to Cardinal Dougherty so he could play at Hargrave. Heimerdinger said Clark lacked a killer instinct on the basketball court and his work ethic needed to be improved to play at a major Division I university.
Doesn't sound to good, does it? The better question is why the staff recruited a player so unmotivated and ill suited to being a student in the first place. Clark already backed out of an early commitment to Villanova after his stock rose in some summer tournaments. Not exactly an act of loyalty on his part. He now returns with no scholarship, since Nova has none to give and may not even be admitted to school there. Hopefully this is the last legacy of a really wretched collection the departed assistant staff dumped in College Park. This past year the team was filled with players who were lazy malcontents. My guess is that Gary Williams had enough of it and personally brought on a scrappy and hard working David Neal late in the recruiting season. In my view 2006 commits like Eric Hayes and Landon Milbourne and target Greivis Vasquez are repudiations of the 2002-3 classes that were high on rankings and low on work ethic.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

From the Ashes

Perhaps it is cliched to say that a season can turn itself around in a matter of one afternoon, but that is what happened for the 2005 Maryland football team on Homecoming weekend. In a tough rivalry game the young Terps made big plays on offense and held when they needed to on defense. The momentum from a hard fought win at Wake Forest was preserved and with winless Temple next up Maryland could be well positioned at 4-2 after next weekend.

Sam Hollenbach continues to progress game to game. In spite of two early interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown, he kept his poise and riddled the Virginia defense for 320 yards and two TDs. He was an amazing 7-8 on third down and also rushed for another. Fridge hinted in the post game show that Hollenbach could blossom into a very special player. If he cut down on his interceptions he'd be the best QB in the ACC, including the delinquent in Blacksburg.

Lance Ball had a career high 163 yards and two TDs. He ran hard and protected the football. He had some large holes to run through but did a good job of coming up to the line and making a cut. Too often in the past he would plow into the back of his blockers even if there was a gap off the line. In the 4th quarter he was punishing the linebackers and secondary of Virginia. Keon Lattimore got the "start" though he wasn't on the field to start the game. The package that started the game included Lance Ball so he was out there for the first play. He posted 58 yards and made a few nice runs in the first half to get the ground game moving. His average was only 2.9 yards and his did get dropped for losses on a few occasion.

As a group they had a fantastic day. Danny Melendez set career marks with 9 catches for 125 yards and a TD. He had several clutch catches and has always been a good route runner. He was Hollenbach's favorite target on the day and he went to him often on 3rd down. Derrick Fenner had a nice catch on the sidelines and finished with 57 yards. Jo Jo Walker got obliterated on a crossing pattern, even losing his helmet in the process, but held onto the ball. He is becoming an excellent possession receiver and his toughness is without peer on the team. He even had a few nice option runs. Vernon Davis was "held" to 4 catches and 59 yards with a touchdown. He was double teamed all day and still made several big plays including a TD that was called back. The blocking of the group was excellent.

The best performance of the season. The ground out 250 yards rushing and allowed only one sack in 33 pass attempts. Hollenbach had all the time in the world to pick apart the Virginia defense and late in the game Lance Ball didn't have a hand on him till he was 4 yards down the field. Jared Gaither is living up to his lofty billing. He's quickly becoming a dominant player.

Virginia's offense still put up 26 points on the defense and without two starting OL. The order of the day was bend but don't break. The line held Virginia to 3.9 yards per carry, which is good compared to the last few games but still gave up 167 yards, mostly to Hagans' scrambles. They did account for 3 sacks on the day when Maryland blitzed Virginia often. Virginia still moved the ball with disturbing ease too often. DE Trey Covington is staying in the lineup, he added two sacks to his season total. The best pass rusher on the squad. DT Conrad Bolston had a better game and pressured Hagans a few times.

D'Qwell Jackson had another "typical" game: 14 tackles and a sack. He was always around the ball as usual. William Kershaw had his best game of the season with 7 tackles and 2 TFL. He has struggled badly but seemed more focused. David Holloway showed a new ability to blitz and came up with a sack and forced fumble. He is a good coverage LB but being able to blitz off the edge is new.

Josh Wilson got the better of his matchup with childhood friend WR Deyon Williams. He had 12 tackles (9 solo) and 3 passes defensed. Gerrick McPherson was burned on a long pass play, mostly because of his height. He's simply too short to cover the taller wideouts, regardless of his speed. The safety spots were still a little weak and the Terps need more from both positions.
A for Wilson C for everyone else

Ennis was automatic again. He is an amazing story this year. Podlesh averaged almost 50 yards a punt. The return game is still floundering. Jo Jo Walker runs sideline to sideline too much instead of cutting up field. He doesn't have breakaway speed.

Maryland debuted its black jerseys for this game, though afterwards Friedgen said that Maryland's color is red and should stay that way. He told his team they'd never wear them again if they lost, sounds like we'll see them again.

Former Maryland kicker, and ACC career points record holder, NicK Novak had a special Sunday. After attending the Maryland game on Saturday he went off to his current job as kicker for the Redskins and kicked two field goals including the game winner in overtime. His first kick was blocked, which wasn't his fault, but he righted himself and displayed the clutch mentality that he had in College Park. He had to kick the game winning field goal twice as his first successful attempt was waived off due to a delay of game penalty. After the game Novak became overcome with emotion while being interviewed in the moments after his game winning kick. After being unable to speak and bowing his head he then thanked coach Friedgen and his teammates. It was a nice moment. I have a feeling that this may lead to John Hall being moved out, especially if he cannot get healthy. Regardless Novak must have made an impression across the NFL and will likely get an opportunity somewhere else if not in Washington.