Thursday, August 30, 2007

Portis to return kicks?

No, I'm not losing my mind. That happened a long time ago. Coach Ralph Friedgen did tell reporters after practice yesterday that backup QB Josh Portis may return kicks along with starting tailback Keon Lattimore. I don't really think that makes great sense but what the Big Man wants the Big Man gets. Could this be the first hint that a possible position change might be on its way, a la Latrez Harrison? I doubt it, but this move is a head scratcher.

2007 ACC Football Preview Part 2

Coastal Division

Projected Finish
1. Virginia Tech (9-3)*
2. Georgia Tech (8-4)*
3. Miami (8-4)*
4. Virginia (7-5)*
5. North Carolina (5-7)
6. Duke (0-12)

* Bowl Game

ACC Championship Game: Boston College over Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech is probably the best out of this division but it is much closer than the experts think. If Georgia Tech or Miami had experienced quarterbacks I'd probably place them ahead of the Hokies, even so they are not that far off since Sean Glennon won't scare anyone. The defense is solid, if a bit overrated, and will need to carry Virginia Tech for most of the year. In normal Frank Beamer fashion the out of conference schedule is filled with cupcakes.

Virginia has a chance to surprise some people this year. Quarterback Jameel Sewell could be a dynamic offensive threat and Cedric Peerman provides a nice backfield complement. The defense is young and somewhat unknown but has talent. One of the major question marks is at wide receiver. Someone will have to step up if Sewell is going to have a breakout season. The first half of the season sets up nicely to hopefully season this young group for a brutal stretch run.

Georgia Tech replaces Reggie Ball, which may turn out to be a good thing, and the irreplaceable Calvin Johnson. With running back Tashard Choice coming back they will have a workhorse to rely on until new starting QB Taylor Bennett gets comfortable. One of the more underrated linebackers in the ACC, Philip Wheeler, anchors the defense and coordinator Jon Tenuta may have passed Mickey Andrews to finally be considered the best in the league.

Miami is a real wildcard. I'm not sure what to expect from their new coach but this group seems bent on underachieving. Kirby Freeman seems to have won the starting job. Until the offense can generate some more punch I think 8-4 is actually the ceiling for this squad. They have the talent to be much better.

North Carolina fans may be excited that Butch Davis is now in charge but things won't look much different for the Tarheels this season. There is nothing special about this group on either offense or defense.

Duke, well, um, basketball season should be here soon enough.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Football notes

Football News and Notes

It appears several position battles are over at least for this week. The notable outcomes:

At right tackle Jack Griffin has beaten out Dane Randolph for the start this week.

At the "Z" wideout position LaQuan Williams and Isaiah Williams are still in a toss up though my money is on LaQuan to get the starting nod.

Running back Keon Lattimore seems to have gotten the starting job this weekend. He and Lance Ball will platoon regardless.

Obi Egekeze has been awarded the kicking duties while Travis Baltz takes over as the punter.

Terrell Skinner is returning kickoffs while Da'Rel Scott is nursing an injury.

If Dave Philistin cannot go then redshirt frosh Adrian Moten will see time at middle linebacker. Philistin replaced Chase Bullock who has been nursing an ankle injury.

The game against Villanova is like a preseason game so don't get too excited about any of these developments.

Vasquez update
The last two games should further demonstrate that Vasquez isn't leaving Maryland for the NBA any time soon. Team Venezuela was routed by Argentina the other day and Greivis Vasquez had a tough night. He shot only 36% from the floor and since I mentioned his improved 3-point shooting he has gone 3-14 from beyond the arch. He had 9 points, 3 rebounds and 1 assist in the game. Nothing to worry about since this is a great learning process and perhaps a humbling experience for the sophomore. Greivis doesn't have any confidence problem so maybe this will serve to show him where he can improve.

In other news:

Dan Stienberg of the D.C. Sports Bog echoes my thoughts on the Virginia Tech tragedy and it's lack of relation to the Hokie football team.

NC State coach Tom O'Brien named his starting QB too as junior Daniel Evans, who started nine games last season, gets the job over Nebraska transfer Harrison Beck.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Steffy gets starting nod

I knew it was just a matter of time before Jordan Steffy was announced as the starting quarterback. Josh Portis may dazzle fans with his pedigree and athletic ability but he doesn't know the offense well enough. Friedgen's offense is very structured and methodical but also very intricate. His scrambling ability won't make up for being unable to regularly make the right calls.

Maryland is battling some more injury issues but it isn't clear if Big Ralph is just being cagey about his players true status or if this is something to worry about. With all the new faces this year's team will have a different flavor than last year.

Roundball Notes

Greivis Vasquez is still playing in the FIBA Americas tournament as Venezuela knocked off the Virgin Islands to advance to the quarterfinal round. Vasquez played 38 minutes and came close to a triple double with 18 points, 10 assists and 8 rebounds. He also added 9 turnovers. Vasquez will get to extend his experience in the FIBA tournament for at least four more games and add valuable experience. Just keep your fingers crossed that he stays healthy.

In other news ESPN's Jay Bilas has put a buy rating on the Terps this season. The best college basketball analyst on ESPN has Maryland finishing third in the ACC behind Duke and North Carolina. I think his analysis is fairly good although I think Duke is a little high for my taste. Check out the comments by Gavin Grant of NC State for a laugh. Grant thinks the Wolfpack's 5-11 team from last year is capable of contending for a national title. I guess when you're facing deportation you can get a little flaky but the sheer lunacy of such a boast make me wonder about his mental condition. I guess a three game winning streak is all it takes now to allow some fool to make such a prediction. It is almost more embarrassing than funny. This is the same team, with departed point guard Engin Atsur, that got rolled by a decent but not great Maryland team by 15 and 20 points in two games last season. This is also the same team that went 2-7 against non mid-major teams they played without Atsur. In those games Grant had 50 turnovers and was a disaster at running the offense. He is DJ Strawberry without the defensive skills. State has some good players but I think getting to .500 in the ACC would be enough of an accomplishment. No need to stir up the already delusional Wolfpack fans, you'll just disappoint them again.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Vasquez plays well in FIBA

It hasn't been a fun FIBA Americas Championship for Venezuela. After getting blow out by team USA in the opening game by 43 points they followed up with a tough loss to Canada 80-73 and then played a very talented Brazil squad that put up 101 points against their 75. Maryland's Greivis Vasquez has been the starting point guard for the Venezuelan team and has played very well considering he is a college sophomore playing against professionals who are usually eight years older than him.

Some of the chatter about Vasquez declaring for the NBA is very premature. Vasquez may have held his own but he is a long way from being ready for the NBA. Unless he gets some crazy idea in his head he is at least two more college seasons away from that point. He didn't get much help from his teammates and the team defense of Venezuela is dreadful. There was little weak side rotation regardless of the man or zone defenses that Venezuela tried. The high screen help defense by the big men was practically nonexistent and Vasquez was often trying to flail through a moving screen as his teammate just stood there and the opponent drained an open 3-pointer. Despite this Vasquez did a competent job against the better scorers on the opponents squad. He still needs to improve his weak side defense as he is often slow to rotate and his defensive rebounding was apathetic. He got a little frustrated towards the end of the Brazil game and was benched after getting called for an intentional foul on Tiago Splitter. Vasquez drove into the lane and lost the ball which ended up in Splitter's hands. Vasquez tried a hard strip move on Splitter that wasn't worthy of an intentional foul call but he needs to get a handle on his sometimes volitle emotions.

His point totals in three games have been 12,9 and 13 so far. His assist to turnover ratio isn't all that great with a 9:14 mark. On big positive is that Vasquez is shooting 46.2% from 3-point range from the international line which is a big improvement from the 32% he shot in his freshman campaign. He still ran the offense well even if he got out of control sometimes and had a few too many turnovers. His ability to dribble penetrate was displayed nicely and he was able to create some opportunities for his teammates even if they had little ability to convert those chances.

Venezuela is headed for an early exit sitting at 0-3 but this has been a great experience for Greivis and will help him this fall when he transitions to the roll of leader and cornerstone player for Gary Williams.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Terps basketball schedule released

The men's basketball schedule was released yesterday and overall it is a very favorable schedule for a team that will be breaking in six freshmen and potentially two new starters. There are few marquee games for Maryland this season. The Terps will likely play two out of the trio of Missouri, Michigan State or UCLA in the CBE Classic tournament. Michigan State or UCLA would be the best out of conference(OOC) match up of the season. As I mentioned yesterday Maryland will face Illinois in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge in a rematch of one of the best games of the series from last season. Illinois figures to be slightly down from last year but will still give Maryland a good challenge at home. There is only one true road game prior to the ACC schedule with Maryland traveling to Charlotte on January 5. Maryland plays neutral site games in Kansas City in the CBE, with a potential "road" game against Missouri possible, and the annual BB&T game against Virginia Commonwealth.

The early schedule is conducive to getting many of the younger players some playing time before the league slate starts. Maryland will probably use its bench much more extensively than last season when only Eric Hayes(23.3 minutes) and Boom Osby(13.3) got significant playing time. Expect to see a fair amount of Braxton Dupree, Jerome Burney, Adrian Bowie and Cliff Tucker in November and December. Gary Williams has stated he wants to get back to an 8-9 player rotation.

There are some stinkers in the OOC schedule with high Kenpom RPIs in North Florida(333), Morgan State(303), Delaware(306) and Lehigh(240). Still there are some decent mid-major opponents in Tulsa (yes, I know they are in Conference USA), Holy Cross, VCU and Ohio who are all top 120 RPI teams from last season.

I think it is a balanced schedule though I am sure that season ticket holders won't be happy with the home slate. Then again what else is new.

The ACC schedule is also very favorable. There are always surprise teams in the league who do better or worse than expected but on first glance Maryland should coast to at least an 8-8 record. The Terps get 6 games against Wake Forest, Virginia Tech and Boston College. BC and Virginia Tech will both be decimated by graduation. Al Skinner is a fairly good coach but they will struggle to post a winning record this season. The Hokies may end up being the worst team in the ACC this coming year with the loss of three seniors and the back up point guard. Wake Forest finished last year on a higher note but still was second to last in the ACC in front of lowly Miami. Their main post presence in Kyle Visser(leading scorer and rebounder) and senior scrapper Mike Drum are both gone. Three young players, Kevin Swinton, Casey Crawford and Shamaine Dukes all transfered elsewhere in the off season leaving the Deacons bench very thin and inexperienced. There are some good players left starting with point guard Ishmael Smith and some talented freshmen are coming in this year but new coach Dino Gaudio just doesn't have the firepower yet.

Add to that playing only home games against a possibly improved NC State and Clemson and Maryland should be set up nicely for another winning record in the ACC. Maryland should get off to a nice start with four out of the first six games at Comcast Center. The Terps do finish the year with three road games out of the last four but Miami, Wake Forest and Virginia are not exactly murder's row. Last year Maryland started with five of its first eight ACC games on the road and it really knocked the team for a loop that they didn't recover from until that incredible February winning streak. No such schedule quirks this coming year.

It is a thoughtful and strategic schedule. By the time January rolls around Gary Williams will likely have his team primed for the rigors of the ACC.

All of Gary Williams griping may have made a difference since Maryland has only two 9pm starts this season, both at home.

Around the ACC
Bobby Bowden has decided to settle on Drew Weatherford as his starting quarterback. Maybe sometime before kickoff Ralph will do the same.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Illini sans Smith

Maryland's opponent in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge will be without one of their starters. Illini coach Bruce Weber announced that guard Jamar Smith will miss this coming season. Smith is still dealing with legal issues arising from the bizarre drunk driving accident he was involved in last year. The Illini lost two of their top three scorers off of a team that wasn't all that great on offense anyway. The loss of Smith can't help.

The 2007-8 schedule for the men's basketball team should be released in the coming days.

Land of the Philistin

Junior linebacker Dave Philistin has been moved to the "Mike" or middle linbacker position with the injury to Alex Wujciak. Coaches seem to be impressed with his ability to pick up the new position. With incumbent Chase Bullock hobbled by an ankle injury it is a good insurance policy should Bullock not recover by the season opener. Philistin's rangy physique and impressive mobility are probably better served at an outside linebacker spot but All-ACC Erin Henderson and diamond in the rough Mosie Fokou have those positions on lock down.

Apparently Ralph Friedgen isn't too happy with frosh Tony Logan who could play either wide out or corner. Logan was one of the higher ranked players in last year's recruiting class. With fellow freshman Lansford Watson on crutches and Devonte Campbell in prep school don't expect too much early impact from the class of 2007. Ralph commented that "We'll probably see him in the spring.", oh boy. If this goes in the direction of the Bill Parcells route and Fridge starts calling Logan "She" we may have some issues.

In basketball news guard Greivis Vasquez held his own against the USA team last night. He was matched up on Kobe Bryant until Bryant got two quick fouls guarding him. Some of the early pressure defense by Bryant seemed to rattle him and he didn't shoot particularly well (3-11). Vasquez led the Venezuelan team with 12 points in 28 minutes of play. I'll have a more complete report once I get a chance to review the game tape. Vasquez isn't going to see any player in the ACC with a fraction of the talent of Bryant so that is a good sign. I expect even greater things from Vasquez this season.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Vile Michael Vick

Now that former Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Vick has agreed to plead guilty to federal charges related to his dog fighting enterprise we can take some measure of this loathsome scumbag. This is far from the end of the story on Vick it is merely the end of the beginning of a sordid and depressing saga the developed over many years.

His story started in the Tidewater region of Virginia, Newport News to be exact. A depressing place, once synonymous with the ship building might of America, with more than its share of poverty, gang activity and criminality. Vick only left the first behind when he headed off to Blacksburg, Virginia to play for Virginia Tech. Prior to Michael Vick becoming "Mike Vick" the Hokie program was most well known for the rampant criminality of its players. A little success often tends to obscure a heap of disrepute and so it was for both Vick and Virginia Tech. Each used the other to their benefit and didn't ask too many questions, like a marriage of convenience. The rising tide of the celebrity athlete, in this case Vick, raised the profile of the middling polytechnical university and moved it from a remote and isolated place that few people had heard about, and fewer still cared about, to the national scene.

Vick moved onto the National Football League and the Virginia Polytechnic Institute began to leverage its new found, if modest, notoriety to enlarge its enrollment and influence in the state legislature. All this paid off handsomely with its inclusion into the ACC in the fiasco that was expansion. While success may obscure the more unsavory aspects of a place or person it there all the while, even if under the surface. Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver had this to say to the Roanoke Times in response to the question of how it would handle its relationship (and the various places that bear his name on campus) with their dog fighting erstwhile football star:

"He earned that when he was here," Weaver said Monday, "before he was ever involved in these activities."

Pragmatic, if not principled. Only one flaw in that statement, it probably isn't true. There have been rumors that Michael Vick was involved in dog fighting while he was at Virginia Tech for a long time and if that is true everyone there either knew about it or should have known about it. There were also rumors that Frank Beamer himself discussed with Vick that he needed to cease his involvement in the dog fighting scene. When dead dogs started showing up in trash bins and dumped on the side of the road some people became concerned and there wasn't much mystery about where they came from. Not convinced? There is a seminar for Commonwealth's attorneys regarding gang activity and the prosecution of gang related crimes. This seminar includes a slide show to illustrate gang related clothing and other paraphernalia. I was told that one of the photos is of Michael and Marcus Vick dressed in full gang regalia and flashing gang hand signs. In the background of this photo are well known gang members from the Tidewater area. Local law enforcement officers have long suspected that there are former members of the Hokie football team that were gang members in the Tidewater region. So the Vicks and their collection of Tidewater thugs are not the only filthy connection with Blacksburg.

If you want to get an idea of the level of depravity and sadism required to be a dog fighting promoter like Vick you can read this article in the Washington Post. I'm not sure what kind of sick piece of garbage you have to be to actually enjoy watching two animals tear each other apart at the behest of other miscreants like yourself. You can't have much respect for life or any sort of common decency. Now after creating this phony and feculent hero the sports business hucksters at ESPN can pretend to return to some moral high ground by jumping on the story after it was already too clear Vick had descended into a moral sewer. Just like Virginia Tech, the Atlanta Falcons and, to a lesser extent, the entire NFL they can ignore the fact that they had little interest in digging too deep into the vile life of Michael Vick while he was helping them sell tickets and advertising. While Vick was the face of the league while on the cover of the 2004 Madden video game he was butchering and torturing dogs in his free time. Now the ACC can add the odium of having one of the biggest modern degenerates in sports history with a facility named after him at Virginia Tech and his jersey number hanging in a place of honor at Lane Stadium.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Around the ACC

Georgia Tech got some bad news when it was announced that senior power forward Ra'Sean Dickey will be ineligible for at least the first semester this coming season. Junior guard Lewis Clinch will return after getting his academics in order. Clinch is a large bonus for the Yellow Jackets since he will help ease the blow from the departure of point guard Javaris Crittenton. The arrival of top ranked Gani Lawal should help if Dickey is not able to return and Dickey's absence should allow Lawal to get some needed playing time in his absence.

The Miami Hurricanes will be leaving the Orange Bowl after this season and will move to Dolphins Stadium in 2008. So now they will go from a three quarters full Orange bowl to a less than half full Dolphins Stadium.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Greenberg sweats

Things couldn't get much worse for Virginia Tech's basketball team could they? Well, yes they could, possibly much worse. Gus Gilchrist decides that he is too good to play for the Hokies and goes back on his commitment. Starting point guard Nigel Munson decides to transfer to George Washington via community college. Now the Roanoke Times is reporting that the highest ranked player of Seth Greenberg's 2007 class Dorenzo Hudson won't be eligible to play until after December at the earliest because he didn't finish some required classes. That is of course if the NCAA clearinghouse even approves him to enroll in the first place, which they have not done yet. Fellow freshman J.T. Thompson has not passed the NCAA clearinghouse either. Greenberg is watching the solid 2007 class, maybe the best class in Hokie history, disintegrate. If you consider Nigel Munson's transfer from the 2006 class then the cupboard might be pretty bare in Blacksburg.

Linebacker Wujciak out for the season

As you can see in one of the article on the ticker redshirt freshman linebacker Alex Wujciak will miss the season after injuring his ACL in practice. Wujciak was going to challenge incumbent LEO Trey Covington in camp. Like Erin Henderson a two years ago Wujciak was going to infuse the linebacker corps with his energy and playmaking ability. He will be missed.

Offensive tackle Scott Burley has been granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA in a rare rational decision. Great news for Burley who was highly regarded coming out of high school but has battled a slew of injuries. Beyond that Burley is a good kid so it is nice to see he'll be sticking around a little longer.

Quarterback Jordan Steffy seems to still hold the starting job and will likely be names the starter for the season opening game soon. As I wrote earlier all the Josh Portis supporters will probably have to wait till next year unless Steffy falters badly or gets injured.

Wideout Isaiah Williams may be getting demoted. He started 11 games last year and had 379 yards recieving. LaQuan Williams and Adrian Cannon may both be seeing more time than Williams this season. Friedgen is not pleased by Williams blocking or his reluctance to go across the middle. Danny Oquendo and Darrius Heyward-Bey will see the majority of action at the wide receiver positions. Oquendo is one of the most underrated players in the ACC and is an excellent possession receiver while Heyward-Bey is a deadly deep threat.

Seems Obi Egekeze is solidifying his control over the starting kicker duties. He went 4-4 the other day on field goals.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Whitlock blasts Thompson

This is an article that is a must read. Perhaps it isn't related to Maryland sports, except in peripheral ways, but when you have the kind of candor and fearlessness that Jason Whitlock shows in this article you have to take a look. Ronnie Thompson resigned as head coach at Ball State recently under the cloud of possible NCAA violations and counter allegations of racism among the administration and boosters at the university. He called the Mike Wilbon column in the Washington Post "irresponsible" and an "embarrassment" among other things.

He crushes the Thompson clan's attempt at spin control like a he was Chingachgook in Last of the Mohicans taking out Magua. You can read Whitlock here and the Mike Wilbon pretending to be John Thompson's hand puppet here.

Perhaps the most damning part of the article are the comments of former player Peyton Stovall who considered Ronnie Thompson's claims of racial hostility at Ball State "unprofessional" and that "It's never been that way..." in the five years he was on campus. He claimed that Thompson told all the players to not to trust in any of the white people on campus, with the possible exception of his lone white assistant coach.

Not surprising when you grow up at the knee of John Thompson who has made a career out of using racial street theater as a diversion from his own hypocrisy and to bolster his phony "pillar of the black community" persona.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

First the trickle, now the flood

Maybe we'll look back a few years from now and point to the recruitment of Terrence Jennings as the moment when Maryland basketball recruiting was resurrected. No offense to the 2006 or 2007 classes who have fine players in their own right, but the kinds of players Maryland's new staff are picking up are on another level from the last two years. In addition to the 5-star PF Maryland just picked up Baltimore wing Sean Mosley who is himself a 4-star top 50 level player. Mosley made no secret of his desire to play for Syracuse but the log jam at the guard positions there forced him to focus elsewhere, while Mosley's parents have always been strong Maryland supporters. The staff may have turned up the heat on Mosley's decision by continuing to recruit the guard position while the senior weighed his options.

Burned in the recent past by some local recruits who spurned Maryland at the last minute I think Gary Williams wanted to make sure that didn't happen this time. The situation with SG Chris Turner isn't clear at this point with some reporting that he will also give a verbal commitment to Maryland in the coming days. Regardless I think the staff pursued Turner and even PG Andre Young to send a message that Maryland was willing to move on if necessary. I don't think there was any animosity in this but the staff probably wanted get a firm commitment so that they could plan out the two remaining scholarships for 2008 and 2009. With a potentially loaded local 2009 class, and many listing Maryland, the staff will have some interesting choices to make in the next 12 months.

Some facts about Mosley. He is a strong candidate for player of the year for Baltimore as awarded by the Baltimore Sun. He has been on the All-Metro team for three years running and is a better player than the 2007 winner, Malcolm Delaney. He averaged 21 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists for St. Francis Academy as a junior last year. He has been a member of the Baltimore Sun All Metro team for three years running. According to reports he has a versatile game and has no problems drawing contact and scoring in traffic, which has been a weakness of the Terps backcourt the last few years. Mosley may not overwhelm you with any particular part of his game but he is a winner which is what convinced him to play for Gary Williams. Mosley pledged to Maryland on his mother's birthday as a present, as she wanted him to stay close to home. It was a nice job by assistant Keith Booth and Williams to land the kind of elite Baltimore area products the Terps need to get back to the elite of college basketball. Before we give Booth too much credit realize that Mosley would probably be playing for the cheater up at Syracuse had they not gone in another direction. Still, it is a good sign and hopefully indicative of more good things to come in recruiting. For now the days of signing a mid-major caliber player at the end of the signing period appear over.

This move helps to ensure that Williams will have a flexible roster with lots of interchangeable players. The teams of the last few years had bench players with major flaws or who were fairly one dimensional. It limited Williams ability to adjust to opponents and meant that if the match ups were not in Maryland's favor it was difficult to win. The future rosters will have wing players with the ability to play a number of positions effectively. The 2006-8 classes will fit well together and have a nice balance, at least on paper. As the 2002 and 2003 classes demonstrated you never know until they start playing what you've got.

You can read more about Mosley here and here.

Another interesting note is that junior college transfers seem to have lost some luster in College Park. Consider that after this year, when Boom Osby graduates, Maryland will not have a single JUCO player on the roster. You would have to go back to before the National Championship to find the last time that was the case. I don't have anything against JUCOs, as many top programs use them, but it is another sign that things are changing for the Terps.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

2007 ACC Football Preview Part 1

Atlantic Division

Projected Standings

Boston College 8-4*
Clemson 8-4*
Florida State 7-5*
Wake Forest 7-5*
Maryland 6-6*
NC State 4-8

I think the first three teams in the standings are not all that different. I give Boston College a slight edge because of their returning starters and the fact that in a division with few established starters at quarterback BC has potential ACC Player of the Year candidate Matt Ryan. An experienced and capable quarterback can make up for many other sins on a football team. The Eagles did get some bad news when it was announced that linebacker Brian Toal would probably miss the 2007 season while recovering from shoulder surgery. Rookie coach Jeff Jagodzinski still has a veteran defense anchored by DT B.J. Raji and LB Jolonn Dunbar. On offense they have the luxury of 7 starting seniors: 3 on the offensive line and the others at the important skill positions. With such a experienced squad it may ease some of the burdens of a first year head coach and the retention of defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani will held smooth the transition. Look for Jagodzinski to spice up former coach Tom O'Brien's fossilized offense.

Clemson has some talent on their roster and probably has the best backfield duo in James Davis and C.J. Spiller but have massive turnover in the starting spots over last season. Only three starters return on offense while the defense is slightly better off with six returning starters. Like Maryland Clemson is breaking in a new quarterback and doesn't have much proven talent at wide receiver. Unless the Tigers can upgrade their passing game they shouldn't expect to do better than last season's 8-5 record. I think I may be overestimating this Tommy Bowden coached team but someone has to win the Atlantic division.

Instead of preseason article talking about how Florida State hopes to challenge for a national title lately all they have talked about is how Bobby Bowden hopes to reinvigorate his moribund program. After canning his own son and revamping his entire staff Bowden hopes to reclaim some of that Seminole magic. Jimbo Fisher takes over as the offensive coordinator, former West Virginia line coach Rick Trickett will try to bolster the anemic running attack, while Chuck Amato scurries back to Tallahassee as "Executive coach" while Mickey Andrews maintains his duties as defensive coordinator par excellance. It will be another transition year for FSU as they are still not set at quarterback with Drew Weatherford or Xavier Lee, neither of whom has shown the ability to take over the starting spot. The lack of experienced starters, quarterback troubles and a tough schedule will make the Seminoles hard pressed to win the division.

Wake Forest was a nice story last year. I knew they were going to beat Maryland to get to the ACC title game against Georgia Tech. It was almost destiny after the brutal losses the Deacons had suffered at the hands of Fridge's teams. Jim Grobe could finally fulfill his anointed title of most under rated coach in college football. The real question for Wake Forest is their defense that has only five returning starters from a unit that made just enough plays to win games. Perhaps it is a good thing that the secondary will have to be restructured since they were pretty bad for much of last season. The scary possibility is that the backups are not any better. If Riley Skinner, the most underrated signal caller in the ACC, can avoid a sophomore slump then the Deacons will be back in the race for the division. Wake Forest succeeded last year by having a close knit team that played better than the sum of its parts. Can they continue that unified team attitude after tasting some success?

I'll get to Maryland a little later suffice to say that the Terps have many of the same difficulties that the rest of the ACC will deal with this year. An unproven quarterback and a retooled offensive line to go with an under performing defense. Not a great combination guys. Both of those areas will have to show considerable improvement for Maryland to match its record from last year.

With sadness we recognize that the Amato era is over for the Wolfpack. With former BC coach Tom O'Brien NC State certainly got something different from old coach fancy shoes. The quarterback position for the Wolfpack looks to be a mess and with only five returning starters on defense they won't be able to bail themselves out of trouble. If they can cut down on the dumb mistakes and penalties that marked the Amato era then the Wolfpack might be competitive but this team is a long way from being a contender.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Fridge makes Navy cry

You'd think the Naval Academy would not have hired a crybaby as an athletic director but Chet Gladchuk (yes, that is his real name) is proving that we have a softer, more sensitive Navy these days. He claims to be "confused" that Maryland elected to play in the Champs Sports Bowl against Purdue last year instead of in the Meineke Car Care Bowl against Navy. You would think that Chet would be happy that Navy got to play in a bowl game against anyone, let alone Boston College (Chet's alma mater), but no. He was "disappointed" that Maryland opted to play in the higher profile bowl in Orlando in accordance with the wishes of the players. Maybe Chet would have been happier if Maryland had agreed to play in a third tier bowl in Charlotte while his alma mater got to play in a high profile game on ESPN? Interesting.

To be fair to Gladchuk, who before his current job was the AD at Houston, maybe he doesn't know how these things work. His claim to fame seems to be that his father was in the Navy and a football star at BC. After the BCS bowls the selection process is a popularity contest. You don't win any friends by snubbing the Champs Sports people because Navy's AD would like it if you came to play them. If Navy was interested in arranging an annual game against Maryland I'm sure Debbie Yow and Ralph Friedgen would be interested. Whining in the Baltimore Sun isn't going to help you out, Chet.

Perhaps I'm giving Gladchuk too much credit. Maybe he is more of a phony than a crybaby. Consider that before the 2005 game in Baltimore against Maryland Gladchuk had this to say about the rivalry between the schools:

Our focal point every season is trying to beat Army, Air Force and Notre Dame. Our game against Maryland is just another football game for us, one of 11 we play.

So maybe Gladchuk is just conjuring this "snub" to justify why Navy shouldn't schedule Maryland in the future. He seems overly bent out of shape about match up he called "Just another football game" just a few years ago. There wasn't much enthusiasm from Annapolis to continue the historic rivalry even after the success of the game in Baltimore. Navy coach Paul Johnson even went as far as saying that the game was not a "big rivalry" and that "people are looking for something in this game that's just not there." So in the face of those attitudes from Navy they now expect some kind of apology from Maryland for going to play Purdue? Ridiculous.

The 2005 game against Navy was a great contest with an atmosphere and pageantry that hasn't been present at a Maryland football game in a long time but it isn't worth dealing with a clown like Chet Gladchuk.

As Ralph Friedgen said, "He needs to get over it."

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Landon goes to Europe

Maryland small forward Landon Milbourne, a probable starter at the position this fall, will tour Europe with a traveling team called the East Coast All Stars this month. The team will play games in Holland and Belgium including a contest against the Dutch national team. Other team members include players from Rutgers, Texas A&M, Kentucky and Georgia Tech. Here is a little morsel to get you excited about Landon.

Around the ACC

Butch Davis is doing his best to bring a little south Florida flavor to Chapel Hill. Two of Carolina's 17th ranked recruiting class have failed to qualify, one of them was 5-star receiver Dwight Jones.

Standout linebacker and short yardage back Brian Toal will likely miss all of the 2007 season for Boston College. Toal injured his shoulder during the 2006 season and missed the spring game after having surgery. New head coach Jeff Jagodzinski indicated Toal will probably use his red shirt this season and come back in 2008.

The Eagles will miss Toal, who was a playmaker, but have two seniors in Jolonn Dunbar and Tyronne Pruitt at linebacker along with the promising sophomore Mark Herzlich. Junior Robert Francois filled in for Toal last season and did a adequate job.

New Miami coach Randy Shannon doesn't know who will be his starting quarterback this fall. He calls Kirby Freeman and Kyle Wright "1A and 1B" quarterbacks. I felt the same way when I awarded Gigli and Battlefield Earth as the 1A and 1B worst movies of all time. Personally I'm cheering for Kirby if only because his name sounds like he should be doing vaudeville in the Catskills.

Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel wonders if Virginia Tech has an image problem with the recent problems of thug life evangelist Michael Vick. Apparently Mandel has forgotten the recent, and not so recent, scandals that Frank Beamer's program has gotten embroiled in. There were the incidents with his younger brother Marcus and two other players that involved allegations of sex with minors. Oh, and he also stomped on another players leg on a national broadcast of the Gator Bowl. Just last year at least two other players were kicked off the team for running afoul of the law including one after he was arrested and charged with armed robbery and drug possession. That is in addition to three other players arrested during the season for various offenses (Chris Ellis, Josh Morgan, Josh Hyman). Who could forget the halcyon days of Hokie thuggery in the mid to late 1990's when over 20 players were arrested in just over a year. Former VT corner Jimmy Williams, who dropped out of the first round in the 2006 NFL draft over concerns that he had "character issues", was arrested on drug charges earlier this year. Safety Aaron Rouse was such a dirty player that I'm thinking of naming a yearly award for on the field goonishness after him. Next Stewart might tell us that there is a new device called the iPod that will sweep across the nation or that invading Iraq might cause some problems. Wake up, my friend. Vick, as despicable and loathsome as he is, is merely a symptom not the disease.

I'm already sick of the sentimentality that surrounds sports these days and I'm sure we'll be bombarded with stories about the Hokie football team being "America's team" and that everyone will be cheering for them. Please, spare me. What does the tragic murder of all those poor college students have to do with a football team? Nothing. Does the Virginia Tech cross country team have any claim on being "America's harriers" or does the swim team have some claim to a maudlin title of their own for that matter? The success of Frank Beamer's football team doesn't change anything about what happened on that terrible day in April. The victims will never grow older while their families continue to grieve, and to imply that the outcome of football games has some meaning in the face of such tragedy is obscene. Find some other way to pay homage to the victims and their families or just pay your respects and move on. Instead there will special patches on uniforms and somber sideline reporters telling stories about how the massacre affected the football players. All of it just another example of how our culture handles the profound events of our time: with empty gestures, phony solidarity and meaningless symbols.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

That old Driesell magic

Maryland kicked off the 2008 recruiting class by landing a highly regarded C/PF from Mount Zion Academy in North Carolina named Terrence Jennings.

The 6-10 230 pound class of 2008 recruit is ranked very highly by scouting services like who considers the PF to be among the top 20 players in the class and a 5-star talent. Scout's rating service has Jennings among the top 15 centers but not in the top 100. What everyone seems sure about is that Jennings likes to dunk, often. You can see some videos of Jennings doing just that below. He can really run the floor well for a big man, a must in Gary Williams system, and has some low post game. He is solid enough to not be handicapped with a slender build like Ekene Ibekwe and has great elevation. Jennings could be an immediate contributor especially if Shane Walker or Jerome Burney fail to show progress. Like all high school players Jennings needs to smooth out some rough edges to his game like rebounding and position defense but he has loads of potential. In all it is a commitment that Maryland fans are justified in being excited about.

Mount Zion has a somewhat interesting reputation but has produced players like Brandon Rush at Kansas and 2007 NC State recruit Tracy Smith. Jennings hails from California, however, and is back in the Sacramento area getting his academics in order. Maryland assistant Chuck Driesell stepped up his efforts when Jennings grades began to improve and his early work helped keep Maryland in the lead as other schools like Kentucky and Washington began going after Jennings. Jennings has moved around a bit and was originally in the class of 2006 until getting reclassified but those extra years may have allowed him to mature physically and mentally, and be ready to contribute when he arrives on campus.

Gary Williams' hiring of Driesell the younger has turned out to be a huge boon for the program. Driesell has shown an aggressiveness and energy on the recruiting trail that hasn't been present in a long time. The proof will be in how these recruits in 2007 and 2008 turn out once they get to Maryland, but the early returns on the first full class Driesell has put his stamp on from the beginning are very promising. When was the last time Maryland fought off aggressive suitors to land a rising recruit without some local connection? It seems that Driesell has been a big upgrade compared with some of the recruiting SNAFU's by some of the previous assistants. Maryland is still in the hunt for several other top 100 talents in the 2008 class and is in good position to land some elite players from the loaded 2009 class. It is early but Chuck Driesell is bringing the kind of reinvigoration that Maryland's program desperately needed. Author John Feinstein has said that hiring Chuck was like a two-for-one deal as his father's knowledge and scouting ability came along with him.

Jennings' jersey number is one in the videos below.