Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Hiding Portis

I've been critical of the token use of QB Josh Portis at times this season but in thinking about the loss to Virginia Tech I'm not sure why he wasn't used on a few plays. The Hokies were shutting down the running game and Da'Rel Scott was clearly not the same player from before his shoulder got reinjured against N.C. State so it would have made sense to put a dual threat in the backfield. Portis could even be used in the backfield with Chris Turner as that could cause some serious confusion to the opposing defense. Alternating him in at quarterback, running back or slot receiver could make his athletic skills much more dangerous, especially if the offense utilized some pre-snap shifts. Portis is of limited utility because he can't seem to read defenses or totally grasp the playbook but in limited circumstances he could be effective.

It looks like linebacker Rick Costa may be suspended indefinitely after getting into a fight outside a bar in College Park. Costa struck a bouncer and then assaulted a police officer who responded to the scene. Cost was intoxicated. It might spell the end of Costa's career at Maryland which would be a shame with only four games left in his senior season (including a bowl game).

Mike DeCourcy rated Greivis Vasquez as the 10th best point guard in the nation. That is interesting because it seems this year that Vasquez will play off the ball much more often than last season. Based on the scrimmage I think Vasquez will struggle with this transition for at least a while. He is a lightning rod of criticism for discontented fans and often gets blamed for things that are not really his fault. His poor outside shooting and questionable shot selection were often bigger detriments to the team than his turnovers but the narrative that has taken hold is that his turnovers are his major flaw. Vasquez's 77 turnovers in ACC play certainly made things difficult but the combined 80 turnovers by James Gist and Bambale Osby, who both barely handled the ball in comparison to Vasquez, get little mention. The myth that Eric Hayes was the more "steady" point guard is belied by the fact that in ACC games Hayes had a worse assist to turnover ratio than Vasquez (1.53 to 1.56). For the season Hayes, Osby and Gist all had turnover rates that were comparable to Vasquez. On average the other starters outside James Gist couldn't be expected to offer much help to Vasquez and the bench contribution was nonexistent for much of the season. Greivis was often presented with double teams because the opposing coach knew that the likelihood that Eric Hayes, Landon Milbourne or a bench player would beat them was extremely low. This season I think this team will be much better and deeper off the bench even if it will lose most of the frontcourt presence. If Jerome Burney and Braxton Durpee can chop Gist and Osby's 80 combined turnovers in half then they will have made up a good amount of those lost points.

I'm intrigued to see how, or if, Vasquez will be able to modify his game to complement the improved backcourt around him now. I think he will be able to do that because I don't think he is the kind of selfish player he has been portrayed as by some. You don't dish out 231 assists in a season if you are a selfish player and the comparisons to John Gilchrist should stop at that point alone. It is a cliche but Vasquez is a player that can be swayed by his emotions, often to a fault. If he has matured in the off season and can improve his decision making he may be a better player even if his statistics are below last season.

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