Archives for posts with tag: Jordan McNair

PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM-

The University of Maryland owned the week in a way many schools would rather not. After a summer-long investigation into the death of student athlete Jordan McNair, the Board of Regents announced Tuesday that despite the fact that yes, there was dysfunction within the athletic department and football program.  Only nobody would be held responsible for the death of a 19-year old student athlete in the College Park sun.

They recommended reinstatement for coach DJ Durkin as well as Athletic Director Damon Evans.  “Nothing to see here, anyone.”   Status Quo Post-Investigation.  “Thanks for coming…we’re fine, thanks.  How are you?”  The response went over as well as one would expect…even with University President Wallace Loh announcing his retirement at to take effect at the end of the academic year.  Handling situations has never been the school’s strong suit…but even with the lowered level of expectations that the University is given, this seemed bewildering, tone-deaf and disastrous.  The resignation of James T. Brady two days after the recommendation only served to underscore that.

There was no way DJ Durkin could return to coach this team.  Not after the death of a player.  Not after the investigation into the program especially not after he had been separated from this team (due to administrative leave) for almost three months and two thirds of the regular season. He couldn’t transition back to normalcy, and it will be years and at least one new head coaching regime before this program gets back on the track they may have been on or thought they were on when Jordan McNair died.

There will no doubt be more fallout…as Athletic Director Damon Evans is on far from secure ground.  The hiring process for the next head coach will be filled with ridiculous expectations (Frank Reich is likely NOT leaving the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts to come to College Park), second-guessing and the customary misdirection that any coaching search at Maryland has been known for delivering.  If it’s anything like previous regime changes, expect a few current players to transfer once the dust settles.

Somewhere in the midst of assigning responsibility and finding the right course of action, McNair’s 115 teammates have scraped their way to a 5-3 start–meaning they’re one victory shy of reaching bowl eligibility.  I’ve long thought that there are way too many bowls–with the mediocrity of a .500 season propped up with cupcake wins getting rewarded to the point where postseason play is an entitlement instead of an achievement.  If the Terps get to six wins this month, they’ll be one of the exceptions.

 

Alma Mater Update- the Orange enter November bowl-eligible.  That’s happened just once since the end of the Paul Pasqualoni era…and that 6-2 start saw three November losses in four games.   SU starts the month with a trip to Wake Forest and the team will be wearing “all-white” to mimic snow falling in the south.  Of course, snow melts in warm-weather climates.  But that’s merely an accounting note.

 

Friday-

#23 Virginia (6-2, 4-1 ACC) vs. Pitt (4-4, 3-1), 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2)-

Don’t look now, but the Cavaliers enter November atop the ACC Coastal Division.  While getting to the top of the standings to begin college football’s “Closing Month” is one thing,  Virginia is the only original Coastal school that has yet to play in the ACC Championship Game.  The Panthers are somewhat offensively-challenged this fall, with senior runningback Qadree Ollison (795 yards and seven touchdowns rushing) the lone bright spot this fall.  He’s coming off of a 149-yard performance against Duke.  UVa quarterback Bryce Perkins is coming off a 217-yard passing, 112-yard rushing effort against North Carolina.  He’s also been dynamite at moving the chains–the Cavaliers rank second in the ACC (47.7%) on third down.  Pitt’s defense?  Second to last at getting off of the field this season.  Kippy & Buffy move the chains and much more during their tailgate by going with a 2015 Chateau Ste. Michelle Cold Creek Cabernet Sauvignon:  “the aromas are bright, with notes of cherry, plum, vanilla and baking spice. The fruit flavors are plump, with plenty of barrel accents. The tannins come off as quite dry, leading to a sweet vanilla-filled finish. The oak is at the fore.” 

Cavaliers come the fore of the Coastal Division with a 30-14 victory. 

 

Maryland (5-3, 3-2 Big Ten) vs. Michigan State (5-3, 3-2), noon (ESPN2)-

As if anyone is focused on the nuts and bolts of this matchup, we’ll do our darnedest to keep this game-related.  Both schools are in contention but are longshots in the East Division race….and while the Terps boast the second-best running game in the conference (with a league-leading 6.3 yards per carry) the Spartans bring the stingiest run defense (2.7 yards per carry and 77.4 yards per game) to College Park.  They also bring a freshman quarterback named Rocky Lombardi who threw for 318 yards in his first career start (second-year starter Brian Lewerke was out with a shoulder injury).  They’ll need to pass effectively as the Spartans manage just 3.1 yards per carry this fall…and if there’s one thing the Terps don’t do well defensively its rush the passer (12 sacks rank 13th in the Big Ten).  Win or lose, this is going to be one intriguing afternoon.

Terrapins triumph 24-20.

 

Navy (2-6, 1-3 AAC) at Cincinnati (7-1, 3-1), 3:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)-

The midseason gauntlet continues for coach Ken Niumatalolo’s team as they face the number one defense in the American Athletic Conference (I still want to add “of America”–it’s the “Dodgeball” guy in me).  The Bearcats are tops in the league against the run and are the stingiest on third down while being one of four teams in a top-heavy East Division that could advance to the conference championship.  The bright spot for the Mids this fall has been ball security:  they rank second in the AAC and are 13th nationally at +7 through eight games.  They’re also the least-penalized team in the league while Cincinnati has drawn the most flags (an average of eight for 81.2 yards per game).  They may do the little things better than the Bearcats, but Cincy does the big things much better–and that will come up huge.

Midshipmen continue to meander in a 35-21 loss.

 

Virginia Tech (4-3, 3-1 ACC) vs #24 Boston College (6-2, 3-1), 3:45 p.m. (ACC Network)-

Could the Hokies actually miss a bowl this fall?  The “easy” Coastal Division games against Duke and North Carolina are in their rearview mirror and a suddenly slippery schedule awaits with their remaining foes a combined 12-5 in conference play.  Defensive coordinator Bud Foster has made the most out of an inexperienced unit, but in each defeat they’ve been exposed:  495 yards passing allowed against Old Dominion, three touchdowns of 30+ yards in the Notre Dame game, and 465 yards on the ground given up to Georgia Tech.  This week they face a healthy AJ Dillon (134 yards per game at 5.8 per carry) who’s looking to atone for last year’s 10-carries-for-35-yards performance in Chesnut Hill.  Keeping quarterback Ryan Willis upright will be a key:  BC leads the ACC with 28 sacks over eight games.  Getting him possessions will be just as important:  they had the ball 10 times in the loss to the Yellowjackets after averaging 13.7 drives over their first six games this fall.

Hokies hold on, 20-19. 

 

Howard falls to Florida A&M, Richmond beats Villanova, James Madison beats New Hampshire, Towson tops Maine.

Last Week: 6-3.

Overall: 49-25.

Portions previously appearing on WTOP.COM-

No matter when Maryland kicks off its 2018 season, it’s going to be too soon.  Redshirt Freshman Jordan McNair died of heatstroke in June after collapsing during an offseason conditioning drill in May, and the program and school has been dealing with what happened and just as important what allowed that to happen.  This was supposed to be a pivotal year for coach DJ Durkin as he now has three recruiting classes on campus.  Instead, a team as well as a campus and a fan base grieve for a 19-year old and all eyes will be on how the school resolves what was reportedly a toxic program where bullying and abuse from the strength and conditioning staff was commonplace.  There will likely be wins this fall and if we’ve learned anything about the Big Ten East, more than a few losses.  But everything is small potatoes compared to the loss of a young man, and there will be more eyes on the big picture of what happens with the direction of the program moving forward.

That said, Maryland enters its fifth year in the Big Ten with all of the new-conference shine off of the program.  Long gone is the 4-4 league campaign of 2014 where the Terrapins posted their first-ever victories at Penn State and against Michigan.  Facing the Terps this fall is an East Division with four foes in the top 14 spots of the preseason rankings.  Once again the trenches will be tested-last year Maryland offense allowed the second most sacks in the league while the defense ranked 12th in stopping the run.  More than any other conference in the country, contenders are built up front on both sides of the ball.

Once again the major question mark for the Terps on offense will be who plays quarterback and can he stay healthy.  Last year the team lost their #1 and #2 QB’s in the first two weeks, and after more injuries wound up starting walk-on Ryan Brand in a game at Michigan State they needed to win to maintain bowl eligibility.  Whether Tyrell Pigrome or Kasim Hill gets the nod, the key is not only staying healthy but remaining effective.  Since 2003, Maryland has started the same quarterback in all 12 regular season games just twice:  Sam Hollenbach in 2006 and CJ Brown in 2014.  Both were special seasons.  While a making the right choice at quarterback and keeping him in the lineup won’t guarantee a successful season this fall, not being able to do so would likely lead to a result like last year’s 4-8.

While the receiving corps loses the record-breaking DJ Moore, the running game should be in good shape with senior Ty Johnson and junior Lorenzo Harrison back.  Johnson averaged over six yards a carry last fall and Harrison has produced consecutive 600-yard seasons as the team’s “plan B”-and averaged over seven yards per carry as a freshman.  They’ll welcome stability and mobility at the quarterback position:  the offense averaged 315 yards on the ground the first two weeks with Pigrome and Hill at the controls, and managed just 131 per game after both went down with knee injuries.

The defense will be bolstered by the return of senior Jesse Aniebonam; the lineman’s loss for the season last year against Texas severely undercut the pass rush (five of the team’s 16 sacks came in that game).  Also back to contribute will be junior middle linebacker Isaiah Davis (70 tackles in 2017) while junior nickelback Antoine Brooks and senior strong safety Darnell Savage (the duo combined for five of the Terps’ 10 interceptions last fall) anchor the secondary.  Last year’s defense allowed the most points in the Big Ten, the second most yards in the conference and ranked third-worst in stopping the run and the pass.

The schedule doesn’t do the Terps any favors this year as they open up against #23 Texas at FedEx Field September 1st.  Last year Maryland upset the 23rd ranked Longhorns in Austin, and one can imagine Tom Herman’s team won’t overlook Maryland this season.  The “semi-neutral” venue in Landover will allow for plenty of burnt orange in the stands.

The Big Ten cross-over games give the Terps tilts with Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois-only the Hawkeyes are expected to have a winning record this year.  There will be home games against Ohio State and Michigan State plus trips to Michigan and Penn State.  A second bowl appearance in three years is a tall task given the current climate in college park plus the daunting slate.

Penthouse Prediction- somehow the Terps upend an overconfident Texas and enter Big Ten play unbeaten.  While coming up short against Ohio State and Penn State, they’re still able to defeat the conference’s middle and lower class.  An 8-4 campaign leads to a bowl berth.

Outhouse Prediction- a tough loss to Texas precedes a dismal defeat at Bowling Green. October begins with Jim Harbaugh running up the score in Ann Arbor and concludes with a humiliating upset at home to Illinois.  Hundreds of people show up for kickoff as the Terps get torched 75-0 by Ohio State in the home finale.  A 2-10 finish signals another regime change in College Park.