Thursday, September 27, 2007

New and Notes

I'm shocked, shocked that there is cheating going on at Florida State.

A high school sophomore announced he intends to commit to North Carolina two years from now. Kendall Marshall, a highly regarded point guard prospect, picked the Tarheels over Connecticut, Georgetown and Ohio State among others. They had better hope that Ty Lawson is a four year player because if he leaves early it will be very hard for UNC to recruit a top point guard talent to replace him with Marshall waiting in the wings.

Former Maryland target Duke Crews was suspended indefinitely from Tennessee's basketball team for unspecified reasons.

Carmelo Anthony now has a basketball facility named after him at Syracuse after having played only one season at the university. I wonder how many other buildings on the campus are named after people who didn't even graduate and appeared in "stop snitchn" videos. That Carmelo is a classy guy.

Shooting guard Anthony Gurley has transferred from Wake Forest to UMass. Gurley was shaken by the death of Skip Prosser in the off season and wanted to be closer to his family in Massachusetts. Gurley was ranked the 58th player overall in the 2006 recruiting class and was a 4-star rated talent. This is the latest in a transfer exodus from the Deacon's program that started before Prosser's untimely passing. Forward Kevin Swinton, PF Casey Crawford, and PG Shamaine Dukes have all transferred since the end of that season. That leaves only two out of the original four players in the 2005 class and four out of the original six in the 2006 class. With the departure of Gurley and the graduation of Michael Drum it leaves Wake very thin at shooting guard. Incumbent Harvey Hale, with 18 starts last season, will need some help from someone off the bench, perhaps freshman Gary Clark or Jeff Teague. Unless one of them surprises the lack of depth from the transfers and graduation will make it another rough season for Wake Forest.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Something's not kosher in Denmark

As the developments continue in the Terrence Jennings recruitment there seems to be something fishy going on. Not that recruiting is a sanitized and squeaky clean aspect of college sports, far from it, but this recruitment has taken a turn that is getting it much closer to the sewer.

Some examples of fishiness? Jennings coach at Mt. Zion wasn't even informed of his decision to revoke his verbal pledge to Maryland. The coach said it was in the hands of Jennings and his father. Then there were reports based on the statements from the coach at Mount Zion that Jennings was going to transfer to Notre Dame prep in Massachustets, a noted Rick Pitino funneling school, which Jennings later denied. The short question is cui bono, who benefits?

Take a look at the list of schools that Jennings has indicated he is considering: Memphis, Louisville, West Virginia, LSU, Kentucky, Connecticut.

As my brother said, that is a veritable who's who of cheaters in college basketball! If only Jerry Tarkanian was still coaching somewhere he'd be on the list too.

Maryland needs to run, not walk, away from these shenanigans. Quintrell Thomas is, based on the reports I've seen, a honest kid with solid academics. Maryland should lock him up and move on to the loaded 2009 class with Isaiah Armwood et al.

Midweek review

I was able to review the game again last night after the rebroadcast on Comcast Sportsnet. In some ways it wasn't quite as bad as the initial impression and in other ways much worse. It wasn't so much a terrible loss as a terrible way to lose. Wake Forest was the better team. Their coaching staff does a better job preparing the players and their in-game adjustments were better than Maryland. The Wake players execute better than the (supposedly) more talented Maryland players. Without getting into comparing the talent levels on the respective teams Wake Forest is a better football team and there isn't an real shame in losing to them. Still, the team blew a golden opportunity.

My thoughts on the game:

The lines for Maryland were both dominated in the really critical periods of the game. The offensive line couldn't protect Jordan Steffy and couldn't open running lanes when it was really needed. Steffy's poor hot reads when Wake blitzed, which accounted for most of their sacks, didn't help matters. I'm not sure he audibled once when Wake showed a blitz look. On the final play Wake only rushed two defensive ends and still sacked Steffy, as both the tackles engaged and then stood in what looked like a spy responsibility. Tackle Dane Randolph was bowled over by Jeremy Thompson to end the game in overtime on a desperate 4th down play. Keon Lattimore seems to try to bounce everything to the outside and had one of the worst plays of the day when he ran towards the sideline trying to turn the corner and fumbled the ball. Sure Lattimore may break a few decent runs here and there but he lacks the kind of break away speed or instincts to turn those into touchdown runs. Those 20 yard runs are tempered by all the runs where he loses yardage trying to make something out of nothing. Out of Lattimore's 27 carries there were an astonishing 11 in which he gained a yard or less. With an offense that is struggling as badly as Maryland's you can't have those kinds of negative plays that put you in disadvantageous down and distance situations. He needs to start putting his head down and getting tough yards when that is the best option or start yielding more carries to Lance Ball.

The defensive line mustered little pressure on Riley Skinner, even on obvious passing downs. When they were able to hurry Skinner he was able to deftly scramble away from the Terappin linemen. It was almost sad to watch him juke and fake out his pursuers. When Barrod Heggs flunked off the team Maryland lost its only true pass rusher. Trey Covington and Jeremy Navarre just don't have much pass rush ability and neither anchor well against the run. Most of the attention has been focused on the 4th quarter but Wake Forest moved the ball fairly well against the defense the whole game. They shot themselves in the foot with turnovers, miscues and big drops on some critical passes more than Maryland's defense stopped them. This current group is the epitome of the "bend but don't break" defense. They don't have the ability to dictate anything to an offense. Without any pass rush the mediocre secondary looks even worse. I'm not going to single anyone out but it is obvious who missed tackles and blew coverage assignments on the game tying drive by Wake Forest.

Jordan Steffy had a very rough outing. He missed some reads, threw a few passes that should have been intercepted and turned the ball over too often. He didn't get much help from his line or receiver corps, which has been perhaps the biggest disappointment of the season, but he must improve dramatically if Maryland is going to get to a bowl game.

The playcalling was perplexing for the second straight game. I think the head coach/offensive coordinator experiment needs to end after this year. Given that the offense was struggling I'm not sure why there were so many gadget plays like flanker screens though the the reverse to Heyward-Bey did work beautifully. I would think you would need to get back to basics: running between the tackles and short three and five step drops on passing downs.

On special teams punter Travis Baltz is improving and kicker Obi Egekeze made his only attempt. Kickoffs are not too deep and that is a field position problem with Wake getting the ball near the 30 yard line on every kick except one with a holding penalty. New returner Da'Rel Scott gained over 100 return yards and is a significant boost to the return game. He has impressive speed and should get better as this was his first real game experience.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

No Waking up from this nightmare

Last season an improbable comeback against Virginia was the turning point in a season that ended in a thrashing of Purdue in a bowl game. The collapse of this Maryland team against Wake Forest yesterday could have the same bell weather effect for this season. Losses like that can wreck a team's confidence or that can steel their resolve to work harder. We'll have to see which result comes to pass for this group.

There isn't any single thing that resulted in the blown lead. Jordan Steffy was erratic, the offensive and defensive playcalling was shaky, the defense couldn't make a stand when they had to, the offensive line and running backs couldn't get crucial yardage. It was a myriad of problems. I'll need to review the game tape to see the details but a few observations can be made today.

A number of articles about the game mentioned the defense getting worn out in the 4th quarter when the offense sputtered. Even Friedgen himself suggested that the defense was on the field for a long time. Perhaps they did wear down, but there are two points that seem to contradict this theory. First, Wake Forest had the ball for just under five minutes of the 3rd quarter and only half of the 4th quarter. So from halftime the defense got worn out by being on the field for under five minutes before the crucial possessions late in the 4th quarter? Unlikely. In the two possessions that ended the 3rd and went into the 4th quarter (one of which ended with the 100 yard interception return for a touchdown) Maryland's offense held the ball for about six minutes. If the defense got worn out by that then they have some serious conditioning issues. For the game Maryland won the time of possession battle 33 minutes to 26 minutes. I'm not sure where this argument comes from. Certainly the offense should have been able to grind out the clock when Riley Skinner threw the last of three interceptions but that doesn't mean the defenses' implosion was because they were tired.

The second point is based off of a quote by defensive leader Erin Henderson.

Towards the end of the game we started running some basic stuff and they were able to do more things with that. But we did a good job in the first half of mixing it up. They went into halftime and made some good adjustments.
Hmm, is that a commentary on Chris Cosh's playcalling at the end of the game? Seems like it to me. Not that it should surprise anyone because Cosh is regularly outwitted by opposing offensive coordinators. Henderson and Cosh have not always seen eye to eye so we'll have to see if this rift causes more problems. Cosh probably can't afford to bench Henderson like he did last season. To be blunt the coaching staff choked at a critical time in the game.

Jordan Steffy obviously had an off game. I'll reiterate my point made on Friday about Steffy being too afraid of making a mistake. He admitted in the post game interview that on a second down play late in the 4th quarter he was more concerned with not turning the ball over than getting a first down.

I didn't want to throw a dumb pass. I didn't want to take a hit and cause a turnover.

You can't have an ultra conservative offense for 30 minutes of the game and then expect your quarterback to make critical long yardage passes. The coaching staff bears much of the blame for this. On the interception that Steffy threw Maryland had the ball on the three yard line of Wake Forest. They ran once for no gain and then passed twice. Dreadful decisions that practically set Steffy up for failure. Even if Maryland had just kicked a field goal they would have been ahead by four scores and Wake Forest would not have been able to mount its comeback.

Ralph Friedgen doesn't seem to have an idea of what he wants his offense to be and will even go back and forth during the game. If you want a conservative running game then stick with it, if you want to open things up then do that from the beginning, but don't try to do both. It won't work. Pick a philosophy and stick with it. You can't ask your QB to make plays late in the game and in overtime that he hasn't been asked to make all game long.

Wake Forest is a good team. They've had close losses to Nebraska and Boston College, both top 25 caliber teams. Maryland's lead was built on the miscues by Wake Forest and when they stopped shooting themselves in the foot Maryland's defense suddenly looked very ordinary. Wake turned the ball over four times and still won, to me that shows they were the better team. The Terps on the other hand are not as talented as most fans think they are and that will become more obvious now that the schedule is devoid of cupcakes.

This was only the first league game so all is not lost. Maryland needs to play well at home to have any chance of getting back to a bowl game. If they can hold serve against Virginia, Georgia Tech then they will be in decent shape to eek out the 6-6 record I predicted. That is no easy feat but they then need to steal a couple of wins on the road if they can't upset Clemson or Boston College. The game against Rutgers will show what kind of character this team has, win or lose.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Jennings backs up

As you may have seen 5-star PF Terrence Jennings decided to reopen his recruitment and visit a number of other schools before deciding (perhaps) finally where to sign in November. While certainly not helpful I don't think this is as big a blow as some fans may fear. Any program would like to have a player with the tantalizing talent of Jennings on board. That is why programs like Kentucky and Connecticut are sniffing around even after Jennings committed to the Terps.

You can see all the stories about this in the ticker to the right.

To me the larger picture is that Maryland's recruiting has turned around from the lows of the post Championship years. Jennings was a sign of that, not the cause. Maryland has Sean Mosley on board and is in good position to land PF Quintrell Thomas. Looking ahead the Terps are well positioned for a couple of excellent players in 2009 so there is no need to start jumping off the top of Comcast Center. If Jennings decides to go elsewhere Maryland will have good alternatives.

The fallout of Jennings not coming to Maryland won't be a repeat of the Shane Clark fiasco. Maryland won't be taking a Juco player or a recruit who is more of a high level walk on talent instead of a truly elite prospect. Chuck Driesell has not been resting on his laurels as some assistants in the past often did and he has stayed on the recruiting trail. His work will pay off handsomely if Jennings goes elsewhere and will reap a rich bounty in the 2009 recruiting class. I don't pretend to have any inside knowledge about that but don't be surprised if the Terps have another verbal or two this fall regardless of the result of Jennings' recruitment.

As for Jennings he still claims to have Maryland at the top of his list and will attend Midnight Madness in October. He gave his verbal without visiting many other schools so he now wants to look around according to the coach at Mount Zion. Given the circumstances I'd probably put the chances of him staying with the Terps somewhere south of 50%. With schools like Kentucky and Connecticut along with legendary dirtbag Bob Huggins sniffing around this may have taken an unsavory turn. If that is the case Gary Williams won't waste much time with it.

As with Jeff Jones who gave a verbal to Maryland and then decommitted and signed with Virginia I think this won't turn out to be all that big a deal a year from now. We'll soon see how the young frontcourt players for Maryland perform and with four freshman (Burney will be a redshirt) the odds seem good that at least a couple will emerge from that group. Braxton Dupree is the most marquee player of the group but I think the other three will be better than expected, with at least one other player showing he can be a starter in 2008. You can be sure the staff had a number of contingencies if Jennings failed to qualify and now those may get put in motion sooner than expected. I think the staff will try to reconnect with him but I also don't see the staff waiting around for Jennings' decision for too long.


Football News

Onto something else...Wake Forest QB Riley Skinner will play Saturday against Maryland. Skinner has missed the last few games after getting injured in the opener against Boston College. In that game he threw for 236 yards and completed 75% of his passes but also threw three interceptions before his injury. If he is healthy enough to run with the football he will give Maryland's defense significant problems.

Ralph Friedgen was feeling like his usual prickly self in his weekly meeting with the media. In response to Marc Carig the Washington Post beat reporter he had this to say about the pedestrian passing offense:

"We have to do a better job of getting open, protecting, reading and the whole thing. That's the problem."

"It's not going to happen overnight," Friedgen said. "I wish it would. My life, I might start growing hair and lose weight. It's going to take time. I understand that, you people don't."

"Well, it's what fans are saying, too," Marc Carig

"I know that," Friedgen said. "They don't know anything, either."

Just a tad cranky? Problem is that this sputtering offense was evident five months ago in the spring practices. I think that qualifies as longer than overnight. More to the point if it hasn't gotten any better since then what are the odds that it will magically get better before the season slips away?

Fridge does have some weapons but if you don't call plays for your playmakers then they are not going to make any plays. Jordan Steffy has had it drilled in his head over and over that making a play is less important than not making a mistake. He heard all the constant criticism of Sam Hollenbach's turnovers from the staff the last two years. Why should anyone, including the coaches, be surprised he shies away from taking chances?

Playing so conservative does give you less margin for error and a small mistake like a penalty here or there can derail your offense. Does anyone think that this team can convert on obvious passing downs?

Some of the players can help. Isaiah Williams can avoid stupid penalties, catch the ball when it is thrown to him and run the correct route. That would be a good start. He better be careful or he'll turn into the next Drew Weatherly. The receiver corps is not a young group with a senior, two juniors and a redshirt sophomore with 13 career starts at tight end and wideout. The offensive line could be a little better at pass blocking and some of the blitz pickups have been shaky by the backfield.

All in all it is an offense that just doesn't look good and doesn't seem to know how to fix things. It won't help that Wake Forest is adept at interceptions with six in three games. The defenses from here on out are probably better than what the offense has seen so far. If Maryland is going to get back to a bowl game the offense needs to get better in a hurry.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

DBR Previews Terps

Duke Basketball Report has a fairly good summary of the Maryland basketball team for this upcoming season. He makes some very solid observations. My only comments would be that, while I'm a big fan of Boom Osby, he isn't in the same conversation as Lonny Baxter. They both have similar styles of play but that is about it. I'm pretty sure that Eric Hayes will go into the season as the starter at one of the guard positions. With both Hayes and Vasquez on the floor there may not be much difference between the "1" and "2" positions. I don't see Adrian Bowie or Cliff Tucker unseating the sophomore.

Gary Williams has a new website.

Maryland may have new uniforms this season. Check out the new roster photos.




















These are the new faces on the team this season (from left to right): SG Adrian Bowie, SF Dino Gregory, C Braxton Dupree, C Shane Walker, PG Cliff Tucker, SG Dave Pearman (walk on).

Monday, September 17, 2007

Roundball updates

According to the gurus on MDVarsity.com some of the young players for Maryland are looking for a breakout year this fall. With the departure of DJ Strawberry, Mike Jones, and Ekene Ibekwe there will plenty of playing time up for grabs this coming fall. The most obvious recipient of those extra minutes is sophomore SF Landon Milbourne. He has some tantalizing athletic ability with decent shooting range. He appears to run the break very well which will help ease the departure of Strawberry who feasted on such opportunities. His ball handling and passing seems improved which is necessary if he wants to take a starting spot.

Greivis Vasquez and Eric Hayes figure to be the starting guards with freshmen Cliff Tucker and Adrian Bowie competing for minutes off the bench. Tucker seems to be the more polished player of the two in terms of shooting and ball handling and did play PG for his high school team. Bowie has a reputation as a physical slasher who excels on defense and dribbles a tad too much. They offer very different skill sets so perhaps it will depend more on what the team is lacking to determine who will play more.

Boom Osby and freshman Braxton Dupree will battle it out for the "5" spot along side senior James Gist. Dupree has trimmed down to make him more active and has shown a nice low post game. His arrival seems to be pushing Osby to round out his offensive game. It will probably be the most competitive battle in the preseason practice.

Off the bench Jerome Burney seems to be recovered from his foot injury that forced him to sit out last year and red shirt. Burney and frosh Shane Walker will provide more defense and rebounding than scoring but that is precisely the kind of tough inside presence that the Terps didn't have last season off the bench. Their play could turn out to be a big upgrade even with Ekene Ibekwe's departure.

The last freshman, Dino Gregory, is a bit of a wild card. While not all that tall (probably 6'6") he has added some muscle and has a decent shooting touch inside the 3-point arch. He may be more of a defensive force than Milbourne and may earn some minutes that way.

The engine of this team will be James Gist. If he sputters on offense then the Terps will struggle to find interior scoring. Versatile, skilled and as athletic as any frontcourt player in the ACC he should be primed for a dominating season. He can play above the rim and still drain shots beyond 3-point range with regularity. Gist's only questions are in regards to his mental toughness and competitiveness. If he finds a little bit more of both then he will earn himself a boatload of cash in the NBA and lead Maryland back to the NCAA tournament again.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Mind the gap

If you recall my football predictions I felt that Maryland would probably post a 6-6 record this season. So I'm not all that surprised that the Terrapins got blown out by 4th ranked West Virginia last night. I know many Maryland fans felt like this team was capable of bigger things than the 9-4 squad from last year but the truth is this team isn't as talented as the fans think.

There was an obvious talent gap between the two teams last night. This gap was only at two positions: quarterback and running back. Now, those are two pretty critical positions. For the most part the rest of the teams were even or slightly in Maryland's favor. Ralph Friedgen has not been able to recruit those kinds of impact players at running back or QB since he has arrived in College Park. We all know the story about Steve Slaton at this point and I really don't blame Fridge for that mistake. In hindsight it looks bad, but no one, not recruiting services or even the staff at West Virginia, knew how good he was going to be in college. The lack of elite players at those positions has been a large part of the reason Maryland hasn't been able to compete against the highly ranked teams it has played.

I'm not criticizing Friedgen's recruiting, which has been decent if not spectacular in my opinion, but it has become apparent that many players have not turned out the way they were expected out of high school. Ralph may have much better athletes than he did when he arrived in 2001 but it doesn't seem like he has better football players in recent years. Jordan Steffy had a shaky outing even after the fumbled first snap. The playcalling, even in the first two cupcake games, seems to imply that the staff is scared to death to put the fate of the team in his hands. He had some nice moments when the play calling got a little more aggressive but also had some real low points. He had some ill advised throws that resulted in interceptions and took some sacks at the end of the game where he should have gotten rid of the football. It is painfully obvious that the duo of Keon Lattimore and Lance Ball are not going to scare many teams. They are both plodding runners who can break a 20-30 yard run with excellent blocking but lack the speed or elusiveness to score on a lightning strike.

Wideout Darrius Heyward-Bey has that kind of talent in abundance but he rarely got the ball. Unless the quarterbacking and playcalling improve his talent will be wasted. The passing game has some decent weapons, probably better than the backfield, but they are not being used much in this dink and dunk version of the offense. Perhaps the coach has the quarterback so scared of making a mistake that he won't take any chances down the field. I'd like to see more Danny Oquendo and Joey Haynos. I don't know what the answer really is at this point.

I do know that a number of things need to improve in a hurry. The punting game was atrocious. Travis Baltz may be a true freshman but he needs to get better in a hurry. The return game was a non-factor on punts or kickoff and isn't doing anything to help the offense with better field position.

The defensive ends need to start making some plays. They got rolled again this year as they did last season in Morgantown. If there isn't much improvement then perhaps guys like Mack Frost should see more time.

Where is the leadership of senior DT Dre Moore? If he has NFL aspirations he needs to raise his game to another level. He wasn't much of a factor at all last night with only 3 tackles.

The middle of the defense has lots of things to work on. JJ Justice and Christian Varner need to make some plays at the safety spots. Varner had what should have been an interception bounce off his hands. Other teams will continue to attack this spot on the defense until these two get aggressive on the ball.

Forget platooning Lance Ball. He is most effective on carries 15-20 after he's had a chance to pound the defense. If you're only going to play him a few series you might as well not even bother. After WVU adjusted at halftime the running lanes dried up and Keon Lattimore wasn't effective any longer with only 31 yards on 10 carries in the 2nd half.

Besides Erin Henderson the other young linebackers didn't distinguish themselves, though they didn't embarrass themselves either.

Maryland has a rough stretch coming up. Unless the offense can really pick up its production 6-6 may be near impossible for this group. Playing close to the vest on offense means this team has no margin of error and they are not good enough to win more than a couple of games with that style. Last season they got lucky and won a slew of close games. They won't be so fortunate this season.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Terps run over

I wasn't surprised that Chris Cosh still didn't have any answer for West Virginia's running attack. Steve Slaton, Pat White and Noel Devine will make a bunch of defensive coordinators look foolish this season. The defense hung on as well as you could expect from a group that lacks playmakers with the exception of Erin Henderson. The deficiencies on the defensive line were apparent this year as they were in last season's WVU game. The game wasn't really even as close as the final score would indicate. It never felt like WVU was really threatened by Maryland even though the score remained close for much of the first half.

The bigger surprise was the emasculated offensive game plan. Clearly the coaching staff wanted to shorten the game and grind out the time of possession battle. Unfortunately Maryland doesn't have the talent to do that on offense, or perhaps the play calling didn't do much to help them. The plan didn't do a great job of keeping the explosive WVU offense off the field. The WVU defense slacked off a little at the end and allowed Jordan Steffy to complete some passes when the game was all but over. Perhaps if the coaching staff had opened up the offense earlier the Terps could have threatened instead of just scoring a meaningless touchdown with a few minutes left in the game.

There were some positive signs. The return of Rick Costa, DE Mack Frost making some plays off the bench, some potential in the passing game, and the ability to run the football.

More on what went wrong tomorrow...

Border War?

Not that the games against West Virginia have been boring since Ralph Friedgen and Rich Rodriquez both took over at Maryland and West Virginia respectively but is this really an intense rivalry? Not in the classic sense. The closest game over the last six years was an awful 19-16 overtime triumph by WVU in 2004 in which Maryland QB Joel Statham went 9-20 with three interceptions.

Besides that the rest of the games have been lopsided wins or downright blow outs.
The first four games of the series were all won by the Terps by an average score of 38.7 to 12.7 for a margin of over three touchdowns. The last three games have gone the Mountaineers way by an average of 31.7 to 19.6 for just under a two touchdown margin. I'm not sure that makes much of a rivalry or an interesting game for that matter. Not that I didn't enjoy the 30 point drubbings that Maryland gave WVU in 2002 and 2003 but it couldn't have been fun to watch for anyone other than Maryland fans.

This isn't any game with recruiting implications either regardless of what the reporters write. West Virginia does not recruit the same players Maryland does with just a few exceptions. Most Maryland high school players that end up going to Morgantown are from western Maryland, which produces few high level college players, or kids with some serious baggage like Smoothy King robber Pat Lazear.

According to Rivals.com since 2005 West Virginia has only landed about one top 20 player in Maryland per year, for a total of 6 players, and isn't a serious force in Washington DC. Most high level Maryland recruits don't even consider West Virginia, even with their recent modest success. Part of that is that West Virginia is a "scheme team" that relies on unconventional defensive and offensive formations and they look for certain types of players to fill their needs. The other part is that Morgantown doesn't hold much allure for Washington and Baltimore area recruits. Penn State, Virginia Tech and even Virginia are much more direct rivals for recruits than West Virginia. The outcome of this game won't change that.

Monday, September 10, 2007

No "O" in SoBe

Maryland defeated Florida International on Saturday and there was little else to be pleased with other than the result. The Terps didn't get embarrassed like Virginia, North Carolina or N.C. State have the last two weeks against non-BCS teams but it wasn't exactly something to be proud of either.

The offense was stagnant for most of the game after two quick opening scores. This is the same FIU defense that yielded 549 yards and 59 points to Penn State the previous weekend. Maryland managed only 26 points, 14 first downs and 270 yards while converting a measly 35% on third down and surrendering 4 sacks. These are not good signs.

The defense did a fairly good job against FIU holding them to 163 yards of total offense and only 8 first downs. An average of 3.3 yards per play is pretty good for this group and they also added 2 interceptions. Kevin Barnes got his second of the season and linebacker Adrian Moten snagged one was well. The pass rush is still a concern as they couldn't even muster a quarterback hurry in 23 pass attempts by FIU, which yielded seven sacks to UPS the last game. The defensive line better be able to pressure Pat White if Maryland has any hope of staying with West Virginia on Thursday.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Making it worse

Why do administrators and bureaucrats often make situations far worse than they otherwise would be? According to Brandon Bullock, the student that quarterback Josh Portis copied off of, was warned by Office of Student Conduct Director John Zacker that he was "walking on thin ice" by discussing the incident with the media. Bullock has transferred to East Carolina since the incident. So why is John Zacker trying to pressure a student into not talking about the incident and implying that he may be disclosing information protected by federal law? It is either just a colossally stupid lapse of judgment or something more nefarious. As in politics the cover up is often worse than the original crime. Lets just hope they were not trying to keep the details of this incident from the media by trying to intimidate a former student into silence.

Let's put to rest any suggestion that Portis' punishment was too severe. The Code of Academic Integrity explicitly states that no student with an XF grade may represent the University in any extracurricular activity. No football for a year, end of story.

Some brief notes from the Villanova game. Steffy looked sharp and the receiver corps should be fairly good... Second year wideout LaQuan Williams will make some noise this year...Keon Lattimore still dances around too much. He even fell down on one hand off because he was bebopping and scating so much he lost his balance...The defense struggled with Villanova's spread offense. It makes me worried that West Virginia is coming next week...The deep middle of Maryland's defense is very vulnerable and Villanova's tight end exploited that flaw.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Odds and Ends

There is more fallout from the Josh Portis cheating incident. In the Diamondback the other student involved claims that Portis copied his answers on a pop quiz for the majority of questions. There doesn't seem to be much dispute as to these facts. It certainly shows a real lapse in judgment on Portis' part. He probably could have just failed the quiz and still maintained his eligibility but he chose the lazy way out and got caught. To his credit Portis seems to be taking his punishment like a man. Many college students cheat and it is probably much more widespread than anyone would like to admit, but that doesn't excuse Portis. I'm glad the university suspended him for the season. Portis said he won't transfer and will see time on the scout team again this year.

One of my favorite recent Terrapins got a nice job offer after leaving Maryland. DJ Strawberry got a one year contract with a team option for a second year if things go well. Strawberry will make the $427,000 rookie minimum for his first season, not too shabby. As Suns GM Steve Kerr said, "The fact that he spent four years in college as part of a very strong program with a winning tradition is important.”

Former Terp great Lonny Baxter was sentenced to 60 days in jail for firearms charges related to the shooting incident near the White House last year. He plead guilty to delivering undeclared firearms to a common carrier for interstate transportation, meaning sending guns through FedEx. That is illegal unless you have a Federal Firearms license, kids. He is lucky he didn't get prosecuted for the "straw" purchases he use to obtain the weapons. Straw purchasers are those that fill out the paperwork to buy a firearm on behalf of someone else, which is illegal as well. For that he could have gotten up to 5 years in prison. Baxter probably deserved more than 60 days in jail as straw purchasing is a serious crime that is responsible for most of the illegal firearms used in crimes. He is a very lucky man.

Al Skinner got an extension to remain as the head basketball coach of Boston College until 2012. Skinner is probably the best coach in the ACC outside of Krzyzewski and messieurs Williams though he'll have his work cut out for him with the departure of Jared Dudley. Skinner seems to find a way to win with unheralded players, just like Gary Williams.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Terps claw past Wildcats

I'll wait to give out grades until after I have a chance to look at the game tape but Maryland's performance against I-AA Villanova wasn't a thing of beauty. Maryland's size and depth just wore out the Wildcats and made the game seem much less competitive than it was, but that isn't really the big news.

I'm sure you've heard by now that backup quarterback Josh Portis will miss the entire season after a violation of the University's Code of Academic Integrity. There were not many details release but it appears the violation was in regards to a pop quiz, not plagiarism. Regardless, cheating is cheating. His absence may hurt the team's chances but it was something the coaching staff had no choice in doing. I'm sure Portis will learn a tough lesson after sitting out a year and losing a season of eligibility.

I think the offense is in capable hands with Jordan Steffy. I predicted he would hold off Josh Portis in camp and was more capable of running the offense than the sophomore. Steffy played well in his debut but the real concern now is the depth at quarterback. Chris Turner's first action was pretty much a disaster. I think he'll learn from that but after him is freshman Jamarr Robinson and not much else. The position has suddenly become perilously thin after the departure of two quarterbacks in the offseason and Portis' academic problems. Steffy has battled an assortment of arm and leg injuries in his three years at Maryland and his chances of remaining completely healthy this season don't look all that great. If it comes at a critical time in the season it could sink Maryland's bowl hopes. The pass blocking of the offensive line is even more paramount and you have to think that Friedgen will be less willing to call option runs that could get Steffy injured.


Around the ACC

Not a good day for the league. Virginia got blown out by Wyoming 23-3 and it is suddenly about as hot as Death Valley in Charlottesville. My feeling that Virginia could be a sleeper team in the Coastal division looks a little crazy this morning. They could still right the ship but the poor play of quarterback Jameel Sewell and total lack of a running game is a very bad sign. The defense, which was getting some preseason hype got plowed by running back Devin Moore to the tune of 125 yards.

Tom O'Brien's debut as N.C. State's coach was fairly inauspicious. Central Florida roared out to a 25-3 lead at halftime then hung on for a 25-23 victory at Raleigh. Starting quarterback Daniel Evans may have already lost his job to Harrison Beck after Beck threw two late touchdowns to bring the Wolfpack back into the game. O'Brien was also dealt another blow when the leading rusher from last season, Toney Baker, suffered a season ending knee injury.

Virginia Tech didn't look like a top 10 team in their opener against East Carolina. The Hokies struggled to a 17-7 win that was even closer than the final score indicates. But for an early defensive touchdown the Hokies they would have trailed for most of the game. Some may excuse the performance by tying it to the tributes to those killed in the mass shooting on campus earlier in the year but there were fundamental flaws exposed by ECU. The offensive line was beyond dreadful and the backups to Sean Glennon should be getting ready because he may get knocked out of the game next week against LSU. Glennon isn't unflappable in the best of circumstances let alone when it is a jail break on every passing down. The line couldn't muster any semblance of a running game either. East Carolina wasn't even playing with their starting QB who got suspended for drunk driving. The athletic Patrick Pinkney exposed some flaws in the defense of Virginia Tech as well and the Pirates amassed 142 yards rushing on the Hokie front. Things were so out of sorts that coach Frank Beamer didn't even know the words to the Virginia Tech's alma mater when it was played after the game. That isn't a good sign. They're going to get humiliated at LSU next week without drastic improvement.

Georgia Tech pummeled Notre Dame 33-3 and the defense along with running back Tashard Choice looked excellent. Quarterback Taytor Bennett needs some work but the Yellow Jackets served notice that they may be the team to beat in the Coastal division.

Boston College held off a scrappy Wake Forest in a sloppy shootout that ended with the Eagles winning 38-28. Quarterback Matt Ryan threw for 408 yards and five scores in the victory. BC may have shown that they are powerful enough to make a slew of mistakes and still pull out a win against a quality opponent. The 366 passing yards surrendered by the defense has to be a concern, however the 4 interceptions tempers that somewhat. The Eagles will needs to establish more of a running game to help Ryan out otherwise his arm might drop off.

Miami, North Carolina and Maryland pummeled some cupcake opponents. Clemson and Florida State face off tonight in prime time.