Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Winter of discontent

I've probably used that turn of phrase before regarding Maryland sports but I'm too lazy to look it up. Morale in Terrapin Nation is not at all time high levels. The 18 point loss to Duke in basketball reminded everyone how far the Terps are from being a top team in the ACC. The friction between Terrell Stoglin and Mark Turgeon bubbled over after the game with Stoglin taking to twitter to complain about getting benched. Three more players decided to transfer from the football team including QB Danny O'Brien. While Randy Edsall did have a huge recruiting victory when WR Stefon Diggs of Good Counsel signed with Maryland over the likes of Ohio State and Florida it seems like every time he goes out in the media he just makes things worse. The problem is you cannot have your head coach hiding under a rock but Edsall is like a politician who drops in the polls every time he gives a speech. The head coach needs to be the face of the program. The question is whether the rift between a sizable number of fans and Edsall is irreparable already. The amount of animus between Edsall and the fanbase is unlike anything I have seen. Many fans have lost all reason in their desire to see Edsall fail. When some fans would rather see the program struggle so they could get rid of a coach you know things are poisoned. Then again a vocal minority of fans wanted Gary Williams gone both before and after he won a national title.

For my part I don't think Randy Edsall is a great coach but neither do I harbor any real dislike for the man. If he was successful at Maryland I wouldn't have a problem with him. His grooming standards and rules for players are of little consequence to me. His stilted and wooden persona in the media makes it hard for any fans to really embrace him. Even if he is successful in the coming years he will likely never be embraced by the entire fan base. In that sense then the Edsall regime is already a failure and Kevin Anderson's hiring of him was a mistake due to his failure to access Edsall's suitability to the culture at Maryland. With Mike Locksley bringing in the top talent in Maryland it will almost certainly raise the fortunes of the football program. In a number of weeks Locksley has landed more talent than the Friedgen and Franklin pair did in their final three years. When the fortunes of the team do turn around it is almost certain to create an uneasy stalemate between those fans who have grown to hate Edsall and those who only desire a winning program.

I can only great the transfer of Danny O'Brien with a shrug. I wasn't convinced he was going to be the starter going into the fall regardless. His play last season was abysmal and putting aside issues regarding the system and the quality of his teammates he struggled with basic reads and decision making at the QB position. It was one of the worst seasons by a Maryland quarterback since Joel Statham in 2004. Chris Turner's 2009 season with an equally putrid 2-10 team was better. With a good offensive line, decent running backs and one of the better wideouts in Maryland history O'Brien looked good as a red-shirt freshman. Without all those elements he was one of the worst quarterbacks in the ACC. That isn't an elite player. Perhaps he will transfer to a program that is loaded with talent and he'll flourish distributing the ball to the kind of elite players that Maryland does not possess at the moment. I tend to doubt that will happen. O'Brien worked hard and was a good representative for the University. He'll graduate in the spring and move on somewhere else. It would have been good for Maryland had he stayed but it isn't as if the program has lost an elite player either.

It wasn't surprising that Maryland lost by 18 at Cameron. Once again Mark Turgeon tried his outside-in defense and it resulted in the Plumlee brothers dominating Maryland's big men. Alex Len got into early foul trouble and that pretty much obliterated any slim chance Turgeon's strategy would work. Ashton Pankey, who hasn't played a good game in weeks, and James Padgett had little chance to stop the assault in the paint that Coach K unleashed. The only real bright spots in the game were the play of Mychal Parker and Nick Faust. Both showed they can by dynamic players on the wing and it may be a blessing in disguise that Pe'Shon Howard's injury will ensure that these two will get extended playing time as the season draws to a close. Howard wasn't playing well before his injury and I doubt it will make a significant difference in the fortunes of the team. I saw this as a 6-10 squad before he was injured and I don't see that changing.

What could make a difference is if Stoglin decides to check out like Jordan Williams did last year down the stretch. I think Turgeon has totally mishandled this situation with Stoglin. His criticism of Stoglin in the media has been surprising and shockingly inept for a coach of his tenure. It is important to note that Turgeon has never been a coach at a program with the profile and location of Maryland. With all due respect to Texas A&M it probably did little to prepare him for that it would be like at a school with the expectations of Maryland. Turgeon's seeming inability to deal with Stoglin outside of the media eye has given me my first doubts about his ability to return Maryland to its former glory. If he cannot deal with the ego of a player like Stoglin then how will he be able to recruit and coach elite high school players who are almost all divas in some way? I think the way that Gary Williams handled the cancerous junior season of John Gilchrist would be educational to Mark Turgeon at the moment. Hammering away at Stoglin after every loss, notice when Stoglin bails out the team with his scoring there isn't much comment from the coach about his lack of assists, serves no purpose and seems to betray a lack of ability to coach a potentially difficult player. Stoglin bailed out his coach who was flummoxed by Brad Brownell's 1-3-1 zone gimmick in their 64-62 squeaker against Clemson. Without Stoglin this team may have two ACC wins and no one would be talking optimistically about next season. More to the point if Turgeon mishandles Stoglin and the sophomore decides to transfer you can push back Maryland's return to the NCAA tournament until at least 2013-14. With Sean Mosley departing and only a lightly recruited guard in Seth Allen arriving next fall the backcourt would be one of the weakest in the ACC without Stoglin.

The Terps get Boston College at home later in the week and then travel to UVA before hosting Miami next week. It will be a pivotal stretch for the team and a potential turning point for the coach and his relationship with the squad's only star player.

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