Sunday, September 28, 2008

Terps get surprise verbal

More good news for Maryland basketball fans on the heels of the news that Steve Goins was cleared to join the team. The Terps received a commitment from 4-star power forward James Padgett out of Brooklyn, New York the other day. The 6'8" and 220 pound senior is a power forward with lots of ability to improve his game. In contrast to many so called "freshmen" college players like Jeff Allen, Padgett won't be a 20 year old when he sets foot on campus next year. He doesn't even turn 18 until April 2009. It seems his choice came down to Maryland or Pitt but with Pitt signing two big men for 2009, including the coveted PF Dante Taylor who the Terps lost in a recruiting battle to the Panthers, Padgett liked his chances of playing sooner in College Park. Like with SG Sean Mosley coming to Maryland at least in part to Syracuse's recruiting other players at his position the Terps land another player because the inn was too crowded elsewhere. It is also nice to get a recruit to land at Maryland for a change because he wanted to go away for college instead of the other way around. You can read more about Padgett's decision here and here. Gary Williams track record putting big men into the NBA was cited by Padgett as a reason to pick Maryland. He also considered West Virginia, St. Johns, Providence and South Carolina. Padgett had originally said he would wait till late October or November to give his commitment but perhaps the Terps interest in PF Arsalan Kazemi made him decide to take the scholarship offer from Gary Williams first.

In an interview earlier in the summer you can tell Padgett is a different kind of cat as you can see by the fact that he likes math, Harry Potter and The Great Gatsby, which I think is refreshing. Don't fret though because he likes sleeping in and relaxing too.

Padgett plays for Lincoln High in New York City and will play against good competition this season which will help him contribute sooner rather than later at Maryland. He got experience playing with Juice All-Stars this summer on the AAU circuit. Padgett seems to play close to the rim and is an aggressive rebounder but that doesn't mean he isn't athletic. In some ways he reminds me of a tougher and more physical version of James Gist, but without the jump shot. To me that is a good thing because there were too many times last year Maryland could have used Gist closer to the basket but James was never really comfortable in the lane. Given all the rotten news in regards to the basketball program this is great news. 

Maryland is also putting the full court press on 4-star C Jordan Williams from Connecticut who was here on an official visit in recent days. If they can land Williams too it would be the best big man class Maryland has had in years and go a long way towards shoring up the weak front court.

To watch some more video of Padgett click here or watch the videos below.







Terps outlast Clemson

As head coach Ralph Friedgen hinted afterwards this was a game that Maryland had no business winning. After being thoroughly dominated in the 1st half the Terps made an improbable comeback and shut out the Tigers in the 2nd half to escape with a 20-17 victory. There wasn't any aspect of the game that ended up looking great for Maryland. Clemson outgained the Terps by almost 100 yards on the ground, had eight more first downs, won time of possession, ran more plays, had more yards per pass and rushing attempt, and had fewer penalties.

About the only thing Maryland did better was protect the football. When the Tigers had a chance to put Maryland away for good early in the game they fumbled the ball twice, one on a punt return and once on a tipped lateral pass, and gave Maryland six points and a little hope they could turn things around. The Terps we lucky to only be trailing 17-6 at halftime because it should have been much worse the way Clemson was marching up and down the field. In games like this one the first 7 minutes of the 3rd quarter are usually decisive and this game wasn't any different. After an inept Maryland possession that included two penalties the defense forced Clemson to punt with the assistance of two penalties on the Tigers one of which negated a second down and short situation.

When Maryland got the ball back on its own 20 yard line offensive coordinator James Franklin decided to use Clemson's aggressiveness against them and called a reverse to Darrius Heyward-Bey who streaked 76 yards down field to the Tiger's 4 yard line. Heyward-Bey struggled most of the game with Clemson's double coverage and when he did have chances the ball went through his hands twice. Like the rest of the team when the situation called for a big play he rose to the occasion. Two plays later Chris Turner threw a touchdown to Torrey Smith to close the gap to 17-13 and the game changed in an instant. The swagger that Clemson had shown in the first half was gone. After Maryland scored to cut the lead to 4 points Clemson's offense went sour with just four rushing yards and 69 passing yards. Cullen Harper did go 9/12 to end the game but many of those passes were dump off routes as shown by the 5.75 yards per attempt during that stretch. Only a phenomenal 17 yard run after the catch by C.J. Spiller, and some horrendous tackling, allowed Clemson to stay alive. Harper was stuffed on a 4th down play that I'm sure Tiger fans will be griping about until next season. I thought the spot was fairly good and after the officials reviewed it they confirmed that Clemson was short of the first down. A heady play by safety Terrell Skinner prevented Harper from extending to reach the first down on second effort.

Maryland was able to run out the clock with a five minute drive that included two game sealing third down completions by Chris Turner on third and eight and third and four respectively. While Turner was erratic in the early part of the game he settled down and had some really great reads in the 2nd half. He went 7/11 for 101 yards on Maryland's last three possessions. I was pleased to see Turner looking to Danny Oquendo, who is a warrior at the slot receiver position, on the critical drive to take the lead. With Heyward-Bey being blanketed the sure handed Oquendo found the seams in the coverage and made some tough over the middle grabs while getting blasted. To me he should get the game ball on offense. Turner wasn't helped by his receivers in the first half as both Heyward-Bey and Isaiah Williams dropped passes they should have caught, in Williams case it should have been a touchdown.

The offensive line had a bizarre day as the run blocking was awful and they were bedeviled by false starts and holding penalties. Yet their pass blocking, which has been an ongoing weakness, was decent enough in the 2nd half for Turner to find his targets. They had five false starts (two of which were inside the Clemson 10 yard line) and at least one holding penalty. I think one holding call was on Landsford Watson at the end of the game.  Turner helped his line by getting rid of the ball quickly and avoiding the Clemson pass rush. Take out the 76 yard run by Heyward-Bey and the team had 27 rushes for 63 yards for an average of 2.3 yards per carry. The power running game evaporated against Clemson and their fast and aggressive secondary and linebackers.

I have been a vocal critic of defensive coordinator Chris Cosh but I will give him his due in this game. For the first time he actually went into halftime and changed a scheme that wasn't working to a plan that actually had success. I'm not sure what he was doing in the first half as he normally had seven or even six defenders in the box resulting in Spiller and James Davis looking like they were part of some track relay race. Clemson does try and spread teams out so they can attack with Spiller and Davis but Cullen Harper has not proven that he can beat anyone on his own this year so why not make him beat you instead. Stack more players inside, bring the safety up and challenge Harper to make plays passing. I'll have to look more closely at the second half film to see what precisely were the adjustments that Ralph Friedgen said they have never even practiced before Saturday. The pass rush was certainly better in the 2nd half and Clemson helped with several critical penalties including a personal foul on Clemson's last drive that put them in third and long.

Other notes:

I'm not sure Da'Rel Scott is really healthy right now. Clemson's defense may have had something to do with that but he looked tentative out there. He tried running away from defenders more often than in the first three games. I guess Davin Meggett's hamstring may be worse than we thought because he only came in once.

Dan Gronkowsi continues to be a very good weapon in the passing game with over 20 yard per catch yesterday. With all the attention Heyward-Bey receives Gronkowski and Landsford Watson will get some opportunities in the passing game.

Alex Wujciak had a nice game with 16 tackles but 13 of those were assists, he isn't E.J. Henderson yet.

Dave Philistin needs to learn how to shed blockers and not just be a guy who can only make plays if he is running free. He looked like Deon Sanders in the first half playing paddy cake with Clemson's banged up and inexperienced offensive line.

Dean Muhtadi is a pure effort guy. His skills are marginal but he will never give up and that usually pays off in the 2nd half of games like when he got a critical sack after Maryland had closed the gap to 17-13. It put Clemson in a third and long and resulted in a punt.

Jamari McCollough picked off another pass to make it three in the last two games. After losing most of his first two years with a knee injury he is making tremendous strides this year. Odds on favorite to start at safety next season and he'll make some big plays for Maryland down the stretch this year as well.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Goins joins roundball squad

Steve Goins was cleared by the NCAA to join the Maryland basketball team giving the squad 12 members out of the 13 player limit. Goins is more of a project at the moment but his size, 6-10 260 pounds, may make him useful this fall with a dearth of inside players. If Goins works hard at defense and rebounding he may be a factor this season but he is probably going to provide depth in case of injury or foul trouble. My hope is that the early conference schedule will give him the chance to get some valuable game experience. Last season the Terps were shaky in the out of conference games requiring the starters to see more time on the court, along with some substitution patterns that came back to bite the team in the ass later in the year, resulting in some young bench players not progressing as much as they should have.

Goins joins Sean Mosely and perhaps Jin Soo Kim (also waiting NCAA clearance but likely to be granted it) as members of an important 2008 class. If this group flops and fails to challenge some of the incumbent players, who badly need someone nipping at their heels, then Maryland could be in for it's worst season since coming off NCAA sanctions. I think Mosley will play right away and if Kim or Goins can push some of the frontcourt players the Terps could really surprise some teams in a very weak ACC.

Goins will wear number 25. Other notable Terps to wear number 25 include All-American Gene Shue, Steve Blake, Tony Massenburg, Rodney Elliot, Ekene Ibekwe and Ernie Graham.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Terps rout Eastern Michigan

I didn't get a chance to watch the video of the game so I can't really give much analysis. The offense only punted once all game so that is pretty impressive. The defense appears to need some serious work before facing Clemson this weekend. 

I'll post more by Wednesday after I get a chance to watch the game film.

[UPDATE]

I watched the film the other night and overall I thought the team played well. I'll only give a few short thoughts on some particular topics since I'm not sure what you can take away from this game given that it was Eastern Michigan.

Offense:

I can see why Chris Turner drives Fridge crazy. One play he has a phenomenal throw back across his body for a touchdown to TE Dan Gronknowski and then his misses a wide open receiver by throwing it behind them. He forced a few throws that he shouldn't have, including the interception at the end of the half, but overall he was solid especially on third down.

Some of the other receivers stepped up a little. I'll never figure out why Isaiah Williams can't show any consistency. He is wasting his talent.

I've read some consider this offensive line among Freidgen's best, which is ludicrous. This is actually a fairly mediocre group. The run blocking wasn't great until the end of the game when Portis came in and Franklin called about twenty QB runs in a row.

Eastern Michigan and Middle Tennessee State really attacked the defense in the space behind the linebackers and in front of the safeties. This is a real weak spot in Chris Cosh's scheme and don't you think Clemson will notice that in scouting? In between the underneath zone coverages and the deep zones there is lots of space to exploit for the opponents. This linebacker group is being force to cover more ground this season in pass defense and, with the exception of Adrian Moten, they are not best suited for that role.

The linebacker and the defensive line really need to do a better job at shedding blockers. Seems like once the blocker latches on Maryland's defenders get swallowed up. This will be especially important in the league games. The run defense wasn't all that great against Eastern Michigan.

When the backers or DB's blitz they need to sack the QB, there were at least three sacks that the defense left on the field when blitzers took terrible angles and whiffed on the Eastern Michigan QB. Cosh needs to be more aggressive but the players have to make plays when they are there.

Jamari McCollough got picked on a little but held his own with two big interceptions. He looks like he could be a future star at safety. His early interception changed the whole tone of the game and helped put Eastern Michigan away. Terrell Skinner may be another week away from returning so McCollough's play has been welcome. 

Cory Jackson continues to be an excellent run blocker. He can really get out and block down field unlike most fullbacks who stay right around the line of scrimmage.

I can't point to anything tangible but I think this team is more cohesive now than it was a few weeks ago. I think the QB controversy hurt the team chemistry a little and now that is out of the way this group seems to be gaining a little team unity. They'll need it with the upcoming schedule.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Numbers game

Interesting piece in the Washington Times by Patrick Stevens regarding the importance of jersey numbers to players on the football team. If you want to find out how Terrell Skinner got number 1, why Kevin Barnes chose number 2, or what freshman Masengo Kabongo thinks of his number check it out.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Football Notes

After giving up 21 points to California last weekend the question arose if Maryland has a conditioning problem. For all the chatter about the heat and humidity having an effect on the Bears they were the ones who looked fresher and more aggressive in the 4th quarter and not Maryland. Ralph Friedgen also wondered if the conditioning was an issue for his team in the post game interviews. There isn't much you can do about that with the season already started but it may be something worth watching. Last year Maryland gave up a bunch of games when they faded in the 4th quarter and this club may have trouble with that as well.

Only N.C. State (65) has given up more second half points than Maryland's 42. True a bunch of teams like Florida State have not played anyone but the next closest team in second half points surrendered is Virginia Tech with 34.

Even if Da'Rel Scott misses the Eastern Michigan game he is still the early favorite to claim the ACC rushing title. He has 139 more yards than the second place rusher and is averaging almost 50 yards per game more than anyone in the ACC. The only concern is that he will wear down like Bruce Perry did in 2001 with assorted injuries but if he stays healthy the best running back duoin the ACC may not be Clemson's ballyhooed Spiller and Davis but Scott and Davin Meggett.

After enduring death by a thousand cuts against Middle Tennessee and their spread passing game the Maryland defense got dumped in a wood chipper by Cal's passing attack last Saturday. That dropped them to last in the ACC in pass defense. The Terps are only 9th in pass efficiency defense with Virginia, Virginia Tech and N.C. State below them.

Two other weak points worth pondering are the kick coverage which is the worst in the ACC and the Red Zone offense, also last in the ACC. Maryland is only 5/9 in the Red Zone but that is mostly due to Obi Egekeze's kicking struggles as he has missed two field goals inside the 20.

Two huge divisional matchups this weekend with Virginia Tech travelling to North Carolina and Wake Forest visiting Florida State. The Hokies shaky pass defense will get a stern test matching up with the Tar Heel aerial attack. It may be the only game all season with two ranked ACC teams playing each other when Wake and FSU play in Tallahassee. It is tough to say if FSU is really any good since they have not played anyone worth noting so far. These two games may go a long way in determining who plays in Tampa Bay for the ACC title.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sometimes you get the bear

As Jeff Tedford, the Cal coach, said after Maryland's 35-27 win over the Bears the Terps looked much better than they did on film. That wouldn't be too difficult as the first two games were some of the worst performances that Maryland has had this decade. I'm sure Tedford's staff must have been wondering how, like most Maryland fans, the same team that stumbled and bumbled its way to a 1-1 record played so well. The Maryland staff which had been under fire all week, and deservedly so, put together a good game plan on offense and defense. It was particularly nice to see James Franklin get a little more creative on offense and use some two tight end sets as I had hoped he would. Dan Gronkowski and Landsford Watson are two good targets in the passing game with seven of Chris Turner's fifteen completions against Cal. They also helped keep some pressure off the offensive tackles who need all the help they can get. Franklin may have gotten a little too enamored with gimmicks when Maryland had a big lead but overall there was little to criticize in his game plan.

I think most of the credit in this game goes to the players who won their individual battles and made plays when needed in critical moments. I really don't think it was a question of the game plans deciding the outcome. Chris Turner proved that when he is playing well he is far and away the best QB on the team. His third down play was spectacular in the first half and was crucial to Maryland gaining a big lead early on. He spread the ball around well and didn't make any mistakes. Da'Rel Scott had another big day running the ball before going out with a shoulder injury. He sprained his AC joint and I'd be surprised if he didn't sit out the Eastern Michigan game with Davin Meggett playing so well. Was it just me or did Cal's players seem a little pissed they were getting their asses kicked on national television? Several late hits and borderline dirty plays didn't leave a good impression on me.

The offensive line did a decent job after getting embarrassed by Middle Tennessee State. The rushing totals were good, if not spectacular, but they did also surrender four sacks on only 20 pass attempts. There is still a great deal of improvement needed in this group.

The receivers were supposed to be a strength of this team but outside of Darrius Heyward-Bey, who is mostly living up to his hype, the rest of the wide outs have been a flop this season. Danny Oquendo has the most reliable hands of the group but he isn't the fastest or most dynamic player. After Oquendo starter Isaiah Williams and the rest of the bench have produced 10 catches for 60 yards. Pitiful. In one game Gronkowski and Watson almost matched that total.

The defensive line obviously played much better this week against a good Cal offense. They were able to get to Cal QB Kevin Riley five times after barely getting a whiff of the QB against Delaware and Middle Tennessee. Moise Fokou had two sacks on blitzes and Rick Costa made a strong case that he is a much better pass rushing LEO than Trey Covington. The rest of the line was able to force Riley to move around and make him uncomfortable in the pocket. He missed several key throws on third down after the pressure got to him. They also anchored well in the running game and allowed linebackers like Dave Philistin to flow to the ball and make tackles. Mack Frost may have reinjured his knee but Jared Harrell is showing some nice ability in pass rush situations.

Teams are going to stop throwing towards Kevin Barnes. He had an interception to set up the second Maryland touchdown and had a wicked hit on Cal running back Jahvid Best. It was clear that Cal was throwing the ball anywhere but his direction in the second half. Nolan Carroll was getting picked on as a result but held up well under some heavy pressure. That is a good sign since Richard Taylor (correction) may be out the rest of the season with a knee injury. Jamari McCollough (9 tackles) and Antwine Perez filled in well for the injured Terrell Skinner.

Obi Egekeze may have kicked his way out of the starting job, missing an easy chip shot that could have cost Maryland the game. He may be replaced by a walk on kicker as early as this week.

In all it was a nice win but nothing to get overly carried away with. Once Riley got settled the Cal offense was going through Maryland's defense like crap through a goose. Riley had over 200 yards passing the 3 touchdowns in the 4th quarter alone. For the game Maryland was out gained 461 to 297 total yards by Cal. That is not a formula for winning very often. If Cal wasn't so horrible on third down (2/11) or had about 10 more minutes the game probably would have been very different. Maryland jumped on the Bears early and it took them three quarters to shake off some bad penalties, questionable coaching decisions and spotty quarterback play to erase a 21 point deficit.

The ACC is pretty weak and this club isn't far off the teams that look to be the best in a mediocre bunch but this group has a long way to go before they can start dreaming about a bowl game let alone an ACC title.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

New look for Terrapinstats

Our friends over at Terrapinstats.com have revamped their website with many great new features. Terrapinstats is the first place to go when searching for information on Maryland football or basketball. One of the best new features is the use of Ajax which will allow you to filter results for various game logs. It is a great resource to reminisce about Walt Williams greatness or the staggering mediocrity of Travis Garrison.

Plant the flag

Looks like the AD's office finally figured out that painting the end zones with the Calvert and Baltimore heraldic banners would be a bigger hit with the fans than a huge Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Testudo float or a cannon shot next to their ears.
It is a great idea for a nationally televised game to put Maryland in the minds of fans nation wide. Hopefully the it will be on the highlights for touchdowns that Maryland is scoring, instead of California.

In other news safety Terrell Skinner, who in my mind has been the defensive MVP so far this young season, will miss two to three weeks with an ankle sprain. Antwine Perez, a heralded transfer from USC, will start in his place. We'll have to see if Perez's familiarity with the Pac-10 will be any help in this game. Oddly the secondary has performed fairly well this year in comparison to the more hyped linebackers and defensive line. Perez is probably better in run support than coverage which is good since the engine for Cal's offense is running back Jahvid Best. It goes without saying that the defense will have to get much better at defending the short passing game. Moise Fokou and Dave Philistin didn't seem to be able to cover the flats against Middle Tennessee.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The gameplan that wasn't

I expect mediocre game plans and ineffective schemes from Chris Cosh, but I have been surprised this season with the lack of imagination of the wunderkind offensive coordinator James Franklin. He is certainly young and dynamic, meaning he has a shaved head and he yells fairly often, but his offense has been well short of those adjectives this season. Perhaps Franklin will turn out to be a good OC but the early returns are not encouraging. Debbie Yow went on record to call him one of the best hires she has ever seen in college athletics which is another indicator of her judgement, or lack thereof, but then again Debbie had a role in his hire so it must be a brilliant move. So here we sit two games into the season with a grand total of 28 points produced by the offense. I shudder to think what this offense would look like if Da'Rel Scott had not exceeded all expectations. It is probably worth raising the issue of how much influence Ralph Friedgen still has on the offense. I find it hard to believe that he has been completely hands off the last two weeks, or that he would go into the Cal game confident that Franklin will draw up a winning formula on his own.

There seemed to be no rhythm or purpose behind the play calling against Middle Tennessee State and consequently the offense failed to muster more than a couple of sustained drives the whole game. One eleven play drive resulted in a missed field goal by Obi Egekeze that would have tied the game at 10-10. As a side note am I the only one who thinks the disastrous kicking game is even worse on a team where the offense isn't likely to get down near the red zone very often? If this team wasn't such a mess the kicking game would be cause for crisis mode. Another drive at the end of the game went nine plays with the Blue Raiders playing soft and allowing Chris Turner to complete a 29 yard pass to Lansford Watson.

After Maryland seemed to abandon the running game, and MTS started stacking the line, the pass blocking problems of the offensive line were on full display. Turner certainly played poorly but it didn't help he was running for his life half the time he dropped back to pass. Friedgen even tried to throw Bruce Campbell in the lineup at tackle to shake things up but MTS was getting pressure on the blitz and with just down linemen. Unless Franklin wants to get Turner killed he should think about keeping a back and tight end in to block.

So far this season the receivers, which were supposed to be a strength have been a disappointment. Darrius Heyward-Bey has played well, if not consistently, but none of the other receivers have been able to produce much opposite him. Part of that is the QB play but the lazy routes and blown hot reads are the fault of the receiver corps.

The upcoming game against Cal will require Franklin to get back to basics and establish some identity for this offense. Will they be a power running team with play action, which was totally absent against MTS, or will they be a finesse short passing offense without the correct offensive linemen for the job? I'd even go two tight ends some of the time to help out the struggling tackles. What I am surprised at is the idea that the staff didn't see this sputtering mess on offense in August practices. Perhaps they looked efficient against the dreadful defense in practice and it gave the coaches some false sense of security about the offense. Given the better talent at some key positions you could argue the offense has regressed since last season.

The offense has not even faced a stern test yet this year but an aggressive and ball hawking California defense will be coming to town this weekend. This team seemed to rise to the level of its opponent last season and let's hope they recapture some of that magic, and quick.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Blue Raiders Pillage

This may go down as Friedgen's Dunkirk. What an awful game. It was a virtual clinic in bad football. Worthless playcalling on offense and defense, unprepared players, no halftime adjustments, horrible play at virtually every position all resulting in an ugly loss to a middle of the road Sun Belt team. I'd say there was not a single facet of the team that did well outside of perhaps the running backs. I'll give some more analysis of the game later but let us ponder where this team is heading this season.

Do you see even six victories on this schedule? Cal just demolished Washington State 66-3 on the road and you'd think they are primed to do the same to this lackluster bunch of Terrapins. The rest of the home schedule includes only two likely wins: Eastern Michigan and N.C. State, not that I think Maryland is much better than the Wolfpack but it is at home. That means Maryland will have to somehow pick up three wins to get to a bowl game at 6-6. Perhaps they could steal a win at Virginia or Boston College and maybe they could beat UNC or FSU at home but I think the odds of pulling off three of those four are slim to none. It would require a second half surge like in 2006 with a more difficult schedule.

Clearly Chris Turner was not prepared in his first start of the season. We'll see how he plays against Cal before I'm willing to jump ship on him. I still think he is the best, and perhaps only, option at quarterback. Josh Portis is little more than a shifty running back at this point. Chris Cosh and James Franklin both called ineffective games against Middle Tennessee and have yet to prove they can match wits with even mediocre coordinators. California will be a big test for both of them.

It seems from Friedgen's post game comments that he is thinking of making changes, perhaps at QB, but it is going to require much more than some desperate substitutions to get this team back on track. The coaching staff either doesn't have much credibility with the players or is failing to use the modest talent on the roster wisely. Either way the staff needs to get their act together fast or this could be the swan song for the Fridge.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Steffy out, Turner back in

That didn't take long. Jordan Steffy will miss at least three weeks with a ligament injury to his thumb and will be replaced by Chris Turner. According to the coaching staff Steffy hit his hand on the helmet of a Delaware player in the third quarter, giving way to Turner. That means that Turner will play against Middle Tennessee, California and Eastern Michigan. Patrick Stevens of the Washington Times reported that the ligament tore away from the bone on Steffy's right thumb. I have only limited medical knowledge but I do know someone who has had a similar injury and I think it is going to be more than the three weeks if it requires surgery. He'd be lucky to return by the bye week which would mean his next game action could be against Wake Forest on October 18.

I knew that Turner would see the field again but I would not have guessed it would be after the first game. Friedgen's pride wouldn't allow him to admit that starting Steffy was the wrong call but the injury has forced his hand. For his part Fridge engaged in a spirited and slightly bizarre defense of Steffy to reporters the other day. Some of the things he said gave me even more reason for concern than his explanation for benching Turner in place of Steffy. It is clear from his comments he has a deep personal loyalty to Steffy. It is nice to hear him talk so glowingly of what fine character Steffy possesses and how hard he works to prepare. Unfortunately college football isn't about starting a player because they are the hardest worker or nicest kid. They have to also be able to produce. In light of his die hard defense of Steffy's inability to preform in games I would only ask Fridgen this: Is it far to all the other kids on the team who work their butts off, play just as hard, deal with injuries and are also fine young men to jeopardize their team goals in an attempt to reward one individual who unfortunately can't perform up to par?

The answer is obvious. I think part of Friedgen's problem, like most offensive coordinator/head coaches, is that he is too involved in the quarterback minutia. Steffy has gotten a fair chance this year and last. It is time to consider the needs of the rest of the squad and move on at quarterback.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Against the Hens, Terps lay an egg

There was supposed to be a invigorating shot of youth and dynamism to a stodgy and predictable offense with the return of James Franklin who was going to bring his "West Coast" style offense to Maryland. I noticed little difference between what I saw against Delaware and what we saw at the beginning of last season with Jordan Steffy under center. It is the same painfully conservative offense that is based on check down passing and a stock collection of running plays.

I would like to make it clear that although Steffy was awful in this game, and he really was awful, it is more the fault of the coaching staff who decided to put him out there. He can't move in the pocket and has almost no ability to scramble. He can't run away from ACC caliber defensive linemen. When you have an offensive line that struggles at pass blocking like this group does it is a very bad combination. In game situations he "manages" the offense via dump off passes or forces throws that he shouldn't in field position (inside Maryland territory or the red zone) that is the worst for those kinds of mistakes. It was a brutal flop if the coaches hoped that Steffy would prove them correct against Delaware.

I'm not sure what is going on with Friedgen. He seems to have become both timid and paranoid all at the same time. He trotted out the idea that Delaware is a good team (which they may be in AA but how many games would they win in the ACC?) and then announced that Steffy had injured his thumb as a possible excuse for his terrible play. If Steffy would have trouble holding the football as the coach explained then why not sit him against Middle Tennessee? What is the point of the suspense? Even with two healthy thumbs Steffy is an inferior QB to Chris Turner.

The bright spot was the running game and Da'Rel Scott. Scott is a star in the making and his 197 yards in his first career start ranked 16th all time for yards in one game and were the highest total for a back since Bruce Perry and Josh Allen in 2003. Friedgen committed to running with one back and it payed off for the Terps with Scott gashing the Delaware defense on a number of long runs. There were a few times I felt like Scott should have been able to shift into overdrive and pull away for a touchdown but he didn't have that extra gear. Fridge suggested that his legs were still a little weary from camp. He looks similar to Bruce Perry in 2001 when he was also a sophomore and exploded on the scene for Maryland. It would be nice to see Scott get the ball on some wheel routes or in the flat where he can use his explosiveness and not take a 26 carry pounding like he did on Saturday.

Freshman Davin Meggett was also impressive with 54 yards on 7 carries for a 7.4 yard per carry average and a touchdown. He isn't as quick or explosive as Scott but he has nice vision and patience. It isn't clear how Morgan Green will fit into the rotation once he is fully healthy but it appears the Terps are fairly solid at the tailback position.

Given the dreadful QB play I'm not sure you can evaluate the receivers. Darrius Heyward-Bey looked dangerous on a number of runs and receptions but is held back by an offense that doesn't go down the field and the lack of a real threat at the other wide out spot. He still had 90 total yards and getting him the ball on an end around is a viable alternative if the QBs can't get it done.

As I mentioned earlier the offensive line has a long way to go with its pass blocking. Both tackles had holding penalties and Delaware was able to get some pressure on the Maryland passers. The run blocking on the other hand was very good.

The defensive line was adequate but that was about all. They mustered only a little pressure on the quarterback and did get washed out with some running plays. The Hens' line was fairly big for I-AA standards but it isn't going to be easier against most of the ACC units. Jeremy Navarre had six tackles but wasn't the disruptive force that you'd have hoped for with some of the preseason hype.

Linebacker Alex Wujciak lead the team with 8 tackles and did a good job of pursuing the ball for a first time starter. He should get better with more experience, keep in mind this was his first real game action and he missed all of last season with a knee injury. Dave Philistin had a mixed game with six tackles but several gaffes that could have been costly. He missed a sack on a big play by Delaware and should have had a tackle on a short yardage play on a 3rd down. His tackling was shaky. Philistin and Moise Fokou are going to be pushed by Chase Bullock and Adrian Moten.

Terrell Skinner at safety is an experiment that immediately payed dividends. He was all over the field with six tackles and an interception. Skinner had one blown coverage on a long gain by Delaware but showed some great instincts and aggressiveness that Maryland hasn't had at safety in years. Kevin Barnes also had a nice interception and overall the corners played well though they were not tested by Delaware's receivers.