Thursday, August 31, 2006

Randolph, Ennis get starting nods

Dane Randolph has apparently kept his starting job at right tackle for the time being. After serving his suspension for violation of team rules incumbent starter Jared Gaither was told by Ralph Friedgen that he would have to earn his starting job back. At least for the William & Mary game Gaither has failed to win the job. Gaither has an NFL body but his motivation and maturity has been questionable. Perhaps the coach is just trying to light a fire under Gaither but Randolph, who was recruited as a defensive end, also seems intent on keeping his starting job.

Kicker Dan Ennis seems to have also earned a starting spot in the opener. He has edged out Obi Egekeze, at least for now. Friedgen suggested he'll have a quick hook if Ennis looks shaky. Egekeze will handle kickoffs.

Isaiah Williams will start in place of Drew Weatherly, who was wearing a boot on one of his feet the other day. The coach would not comment on his injury. Sophomore Danny Oquendo will start opposite Williams and Joey Haynos is listed as the starter at the tight end position. It will be a very inexperienced group but Williams may have a big game against The Tribe and that could propel him to a break out season.

Comcast Broadcast
The tape delay broadcast of the game will be on Labor Day, September 4th around 7pm, instead of the normal Sunday time.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Hurray for corporate money!

Comcast SportsNet signed a 3 year deal with Maryland to broadcast a variety of Terrapin sports including football and men's basketball. Clearly Comcast wanted to lock up the premier college sports package in the area and prevent Peter Angelos' MASN from somehow acquiring the best broadcast rights outside of the professional leagues in the Baltimore and Washington markets.

Comcast will broadcast up to 42 ACC men's basketball games and have weekly shows with Ralph Friedgen and Gary Williams. A "Terrapin Replay" of Maryland football will occur on Sundays from 7-10pm during the season, including exclusive tape delay broadcasts of the games against Williams and Mary, Florida International and Middle Tennessee.

Chevy Chase Bank signed a deal for naming rights for the field at Byrd Stadium. The 25 year deal will pay $20 million dollars towards the proposed renovation of Byrd Stadium which will cost at least $50 million. Get used to the foam Chevy Chase Bank card mascot prancing around Byrd Stadium and more annoying TV timeout promotions like the ones at Comcast Center. This kind of thing is the reality of college sports these days and the disconnect between the university and the purpose of its revenue sports has never been more pronounced.

The renovation will mostly benefit corporate donors and big money boosters as the main goal of the project is to generate the lucrative luxury boxes that all football programs lust after. I'm not sure how many luxury boxes will get sold if the team keeps going 5-6 every year but that wasn't part of the thinking in the AD's office. After all the last capital project was the upper deck which was built back when Maryland football was lucky to draw 30,000 per game. It didn't matter that the upper deck was half empty every year until Ralph Friedgen came along and started winning. Clearly with all the half-baked talk about the naming rights being a step towards a "national champion" caliber program the expectation among the heavy hitters is that the football program will be back to its winning ways this season.


Football News

Coach Ralph Friedgen can't seem to decide which kicker to name as his guy as he went from declaring Obi Egekeze as the current leader of the kicking contest with Dan Ennis earlier this week to now saying that it is a dead heat. Egekeze has the better leg of the two and Ennis has struggled badly since the middle of last season. Ennis doesn't have much range outside 40 yards and unless Egekeze really falters in the next couple of weeks you can expect him to handle field goal duties. That the competition is still ongoing suggest to me that neither kicker has performed very well and that the Terps better not count on too many close victories. The post Nick Novak era hasn't been very good for Ralph Friedgen who won many close games on Novak's leg.

Safety Jamari McCollough will miss the entire season with a knee injury. This turns what looked like a deep position into a thin one. The Jack Kerouac routine of Navy transfer Hunter Reddick means that the safety position is down two from where it was in the spring.

Wideout Darrius Heyward-Bay, linebacker Erin Henderson and corner Isaiah Gardner are all battling minor injuries.

Friday, August 18, 2006

2006-7 Basketball Schedule

The schedule for the men's 2006 season was released yesterday and for a program that has been suffering the last two seasons it must give Gary Williams a sense of hope. With the rotating basketball schedule it is one of the easier set of league opponents for this season. It breaks down like this:

Home & home:
Duke
Virginia
Clemson
NC State
Florida State

One game @ home:
Miami
Georgia Tech
North Carolina

One game away:
Boston College
Virginia Tech
Wake Forest

The early schedule is even more attractive. After a visit to Boston College to open the season Maryland plays the next two games at College Park. While Clemson and Virginia may be improved teams the first half of the schedule doesn't present a difficult road. The next seven games after the opener do not present a single opponent that made the NCAA tournament last season. It is a good schedule for a team that will need time to find its identity and incorporate five new players.

The notable out of conference opponents consist of Illinois, Notre Dame and perhaps one or two of Michigan State, Texas or St. John's. That will depend on the results of the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic. It is a well balanced and manageable schedule for this group.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Path of least resistance

Heralded recruit Melvin Alaeze who lost his scholarship offer at Maryland after a long list of character and academic problems landed at Illinois earlier this month. The apparent desperation of perennial loser Ron Zook and the presence of Mike Locksley combined to make Champagne the landing pad for the troubled defensive end. In a strange twist it seems that Alaeze will be eligible to enroll this fall at Illinois even though he was never able to qualify while committed to Maryland in spite of numerous chances. Zook was quoted in the paper as saying:

"He's zero tolerance," Zook said. "But I felt good talking to him about it. We've all made mistakes. He'll be the first to tell you he screwed up. But he's very grateful for a second chance. We checked him out thoroughly."


Very nice. I thought Zook gave him a chance because he was the number one defensive end according to some recruiting services, but apparently he just felt magnanimous for the pot smoking and class skipping Alaeze. Problem is that this isn't Alaeze's "second chance" it is more like his third, fourth or fifth chance. Unless Alaeze turns himself around completely he lacks the discipline or character to make much of a difference on the football field.

Pistolero

Former Maryland basketball star Lonny Baxter was arrested early yesterday morning near the White House after uniformed Secret Service agents responded to reports of gunshots nearby. The agents found shell casings and a 40 caliber handgun in Baxter's SUV. Another man in the SUV was also arrested and later released. This isn't the first time Baxter has gotten into trouble with his amateur gun slinging. He was arrested in July 2004 after the handgun he owned accidentally discharged in Northwest Washington.

Baxter is being held without bond and faces up to seven years in jail if convicted of all charges. He had recently signed a contract to play professional basketball in Italy after the NBA Charlotte Bobcats did not renew his contract.

Clearly Baxter can't be around guns without them going off so perhaps he should just not have them around all together.

At the least he and his former teammate Chris Wilcox, who was arrested on a weapons charge that was later dropped last year, shouldn't go out with loaded guns in their cars. Especially when going into DC, which prohibits possession of firearms in almost all cases. Eventually you'll end up in jail or worse.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Practice update

Maryland has finally updated its website and the results are pretty slick. Kudos to the website developer.

The Terps held a scrimmage on Saturday. They were shorthanded again and Friedgen started his yearly August lament about injuries. The results of scrimmages don't mean much at this time of year. Running back Keon Lattimore got some praise for his production but is a long shot to replace Lance Ball as the starter. Sophomore receiver Isaiah Williams is worth keeping an eye on as he may claim a starting wide out spot in the next few weeks.

Defensive tackle Robert Armstrong, a player Maryland really needed to shore up its weak front, was ruled academically ineligible.

Navy transfer S Hunter Reddick has apparently cleaned out his room and left the team. He was supposed to supply depth at the safety spot. He never informed Coach Friedgen of his intentions and may have returned to his native California.

Deege Galt tore a knee ligament and is done for the year.

Tackle Stephon Heyer suffered a concussion and LB Erin Henderson hyperextended a knee but played in the scrimmage.

Remember Jordan Steffy?

The Washington Post had a good article on backup Jordan Steffy today. Steffy is now considered the backup to starter Sam Hollenbach but some of the coaches have suggested that the competition is still open and that Steffy has a chance to finally ascend to the starting job.

Remember back a few years ago when Steffy committed to Maryland out of Lancaster Pennsylvania. He was the highest profile quarterback recruit of the Fridge era and perhaps the next Joey Hamilton. He was strong and athletic in the mold of the prototype Friedgen QB and he looked like the kind of 18 year old stud you want walking onto campus. Perhaps the announcement shenanigans he engaged in gave you a little twinge of apprehension, he pulled out a Michigan State Jersey first before saying he was coming to College Park, but things seemed to be going well for Steffy. The depth chart was fairly thin in front of him and he was the Big Man's hand picked signal caller. As the article alludes to there were whispers that he'd be ready to start a few games into the season, perhaps even right away.

Things didn't continue to look so bright for Steffy. After a spotty record in relief of Joel Statham his freshman season was ended by a concussion in the 55-6 massacre against Virginia Tech. He has battled arm and leg injuries since then and wasn't a serious contender for the starting job in his Sophomore season either. It looked at that point that perhaps Steffy will never fulfill the lofty expectations that many Maryland fans had for him. Fans are quick to move onto the next great thing and transfer Josh Portis and frosh Jeremy Ricker are the next great Friedgen quarterbacks. While Steffy will have tremendous competition if he can stay healthy, no small thing for him, I wouldn't be surprised to see him beating out both Portis and Ricker for the starting job next season. Besides that he seems to have matured into a kid who is thoughtful and decent who does your program credit in the community. His story hasn't been written yet, but I hope Maryland fans don't see him as a disappointment even if he never sees the field.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Active again

I apologize to my regular readers, if there are any of you left, for the lack of activity over the last few months. My home computer died, I bought a new house, got married and had a honeymoon in the last few months. Hopefully as of now I will be able to write regular entries on Turtlewaxing. During the time I was away things haven't been looking very good for Maryland sports. A few recruits decommited from the basketball team, a key football recruit was finally cut loose after continuing character and academic problems, Gary Williams had to replace another assistant coach and there are not any new recruits to get all that excited about. All in all it has been a fairly bad spring and summer for Maryland's revenue sports. There isn't any point in sugar coating it. I'll be writing more on some of these events in the coming month.

The latest news was that offensive tackle standout Jared Gaither and guard Jamie Thomas have both been suspended from the team until August 21st. Not the development you want with an OL that struggled badly last season and needs time to gel as a unit before the season starts. The suspensions were only characterized as violations of team rules but there were hints that both had neglected to follow some of the off season workout programs.

To all my readers, new and old, thank you for your support and let's get ready for another season of Maryland sports.