Archives for posts with tag: Terps

I’m not a rom-com guy. And I’m not a Gwyneth Paltrow guy nowadays (don’t even get me started about Coldplay) but I’ll always be a sucker for her film Sliding Doors. It involves tiny occurrences in our lives and how things snowball from there. The film also carries the witty exchange between Paltrow and co-star John Hannah as he tries to cheer her up:

“You know what the Monty Python boys say…”

“Always look on the bright side of life?”

“No–Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition”.

That’s 2020 for many of us who have looked for the bright side only to see things turned up more upside-down than before.

While Maryland and Navy finally got back on the field this past weekend and two and three-week hiatuses, Saturday’s college football slate offered up a late scratch when Virginia’s game with Florida State was cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak in the Seminoles program that wiped out their game with Clemson the week before. The Cavaliers had already traveled to Tallahassee so at least they got some quality bus and airplane time out of the deal. Big Ten favorite Ohio State might not lose this fall on the field but the Buckeyes had to cancel their game at Illinois due to positive COVID-19 tests within the program that include Head Coach Ryan Day. They’ve already had one game wiped out (at Maryland due to the Terps COVID outbreak) and the Big Ten announced earlier this year that a team needs to play six games in order to be eligible for the Championship Game. That rule if upheld is already knocking No. 16 Wisconsin out of consideration in the West.  All the conference office eyes are now on the health of the Buckeyes and their two December opponents (Michigan State and Michigan).  Nobody expects an Indiana-Northwestern Big Ten title game.

Alma Mater Update- it wasn’t just that the Orange fell to NC State 36-29 after taking a 22-14 halftime lead.  The way SU came up short was fitting; after taking a sack on third and goal from the nine yard line, the offense spiked the ball to stop a clock nearing zero.  Unfortunately on fourth down. The Orange home season ends not with a bang but with a whimper.  On to-GULP!-No. 2 Notre Dame.

Maryland (2-2) didn’t look like it was the team that had two weeks off at first against No. 12 Indiana, driving down the field on their opening possession. But an incomplete pass to an open receiver in the endzone followed by a missed field goal set the tone for the day. The Terps would post 232 yards of offense in the first half with only three points to show for their troubles (two interceptions in the IU red zone didn’t help). And a sacked-for-safety on their first play from scrimmage in the second half got the ball rolling for the Hoosiers in a 27-11 decision.

Terrapin Triumphs: Dontay Demus caught 6 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown. Jordan Mosely led the team with 12 tackles and the defense held IU in check for most of the first half, while making a huge stop on 4th & 2 at the MD 5 to begin the second half. Colton Spangler and Anthony Pecorella combined to average 47.3 yards on six punts.

Terrapin Troubles: eight penalties for 55 yards, including an offsides in the third quarter that helped IU’s touchdown drive that put them up 17-3. The offense converted just 4-14 third downs. The missed 29-yard field goal attempt by Joseph Petrino stings, but so does Taulia Tagovailoa’s overthrow into the endzone on third down. The redshirt freshman’s three interceptions remind us that he’s a first year starter with less than a half-season under his belt. He also didn’t have Terps leading rusher Jake Funk or primary receivers Rakim Jarrett & Jeshaun Jones in the lineup either.

Next: Saturday at 2-4 Michigan.

Navy (3-5, 3-3 AAC) dealt with an even longer layoff, but took an early 7-0 lead over Memphis thanks to a touchdown on their second possession of the evening. Unfortunately that would be their only score in a 10-7 loss. On the bright side, they put together their best 60-minute defensive effort of the season. On the other side, their game with 1-8 East Carolina won’t be rescheduled.

Midshipmen Medals: the defense held the Tigers to a season-low 280 yards (they had rolled up 500+ yards in five of their previous seven games) and 2.9 yards per carry despite failing to notch a sack. Diego Fagot led the team with 8 tackles while Tama Tuitele added 7 stops. Nelson Smith rushed for 142 yards and the Mids’ lone touchdown.

Midshipmen Miscues: an interception in the red zone and a fumble that set up the Tigers’ field goal represented a swing of ten points the other way. It’s never easy to find the right starting quarterback for the option offense, and this week three different QB’s took snaps. There’s a saying “If you have two starting quarterbacks you don’t have one”; I can only imagine what the triumvirate of Dalen Morris, Tyger Goslin and Xavier Arline will yield moving forward.

Next: Saturday against 5-1 Tulsa.

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When Maryland saw its March ripped away in 2020, the Terps were on track to get their first No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament since 2015, the last time they advanced to the Final Four. The end of the season meant saying goodbye to four-year starter Kaila Charles as well as fellow seniors Blair Watson, Stephanie Jones, and Sara Vujacic. But even with those losses Head Coach Brenda Frese would have a solid nucleus coming back to College Park.

And then the offseason like none other took place: two starters transferred. Six-foot-five forward Shakira Austin (voted to the All-Big Ten Second Team) departed for Mississippi while Taylor Mikesell (led the conference in 3-pointers) left for Oregon. Not many programs could survive the loss of so much talent; but Maryland starts this season ranked No. 12 in the Associated Press Preseason Poll while being picked second in the Big Ten by the coaches and third by the media.

Part of what has folks still high on Maryland is the addition of five-star prospect Angel Reese. The 6-foot-3 forward from Baltimore and St. Frances Academy was the top rated wing player by espn.com’s HoopGurlz. On a revamped roster with plenty of minutes available, Reese will be a big building block for Head Coach Brenda Frese. “Obviously I knew how talented she was, it’s all the other intangibles for me with her. Most freshman they come in and have to figure it all out as they’re learning,” Frese said. “Angel has come in and has really developed into a strong leader right out of the gate.”

One of the many things Frese has done very well in her tenure is integrate freshmen into her rotation, from Kristi Tolliver Toliver on the 2006 National Championship team to the most recent two Big Ten Freshmen of the Year (Taylor Mikesell in 2019 and Ashley Owusu in 2020). “I knew when I came here that Coach Frese would put me in a good position to be successful, not to limit me to one thing. I am 6-foot-3 but she doesn’t limit me to be just in the post,” Reese said. “Just having people around me, a winning program, players that have the same goals as me has been great.”

Ashley Owusu and Diamond Miller are two returnees who saw major minutes last winter. Owusu finished second in the conference with 5.4 assists per game while Miller averaged 19 minutes off the bench for the Big Ten champs. “The game has slowed down for both of them and you can just really see for Ashley just that poise and that calming influence,” Frese said. “The confidence that she has to make plays for herself and her teammates.” Redshirt Freshman Zoe Young and Redshirt Junior Channise Lewis are both coming off of knee injuries that robbed them of the 2019-20 season. Faith Masonius didn’t play a lot as a freshman, but looks to make the leap into the rotation this winter. “We just have a lot more different weapons-although not everybody knows quite yet-who can shoot the ball from some distance,” Frese said.

Added to the mix this season are three transfers: redshirt sophomore Mimi Collins sat out last year and averaged 5 points with 3 rebounds in her one season at Tennessee, Katie Benzan was a three-time All-Ivy League selection while at Harvard, and Chloe Bibby was on a National Championship team at Mississippi State. The senior from Australia is ready for another run in her new stop. “The amount of talent that we have on this team is ridiculous,” Bibby said. “At the end of the day we understand that, ‘I need to pass the ball to get that great shot, not just a good one.”

Maryland has dominated the Big Ten since it joined the league in 2014, finishing second once, tying for first twice, and winning the league outright three times. But this winter four other schools are in Top 25 with another also receiving votes. Northwestern returns three starters plus Preseason Player of the Year Lindsey Pulliam, Indiana brings back four starters, and Rutgers returns the conference’s leading scorer in Arella Guirantes. But the contenders still have to play their way past Maryland. And even with a revamped roster, the Terps are reloaded for a run.

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March 2020 was supposed to be memorable for Maryland. The Terps beat Michigan 83-70 at home on the final Sunday of the regular season to secure a share of the Big Ten’s regular season title. They were heading to Chicago with high hopes of bettering previous conference tournament showings (three straight one-and-dones) with a likely-top four seed in the NCAA Tournament. Banishing the ghosts of March’s past and setting new standards while giving Anthony Cowan and Jalen Smith the proper sendoff seemed imminent.

Unfortunately just like the rest of college basketball, the March rug was pulled out from under the Terps. COVID-19 wiped out the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments. Anthony Cowan graduated and Jalen Smith declared for the NBA Draft. And now instead of looking back to a memorable March, Head Coach Mark Turgeon has to find a way to put a new unit together against the backdrop of a suddenly spiking pandemic. “Well I’m comfortable that we’re doing everything we can to make it work.” Turgeon said. “We test six days a week; that doesn’t mean we can’t catch it. We know it’s going to be a part of our game this year.” But the virtual practice and social distancing landscape hasn’t made figuring out a roster which has five freshmen plus three transfers. “I don’t know who our best players are and all that stuff,” Turgeon said. “We don’t have exhibition games; it’s really hard to scrimmage even with depth as far as referees and everything and COVID tests.”

For the first time since 2015, Turgeon won’t start his season with Anthony Cowan Jr. on the floor. The Bowie, MD native departed as the school’s seventh all-time scorer with 1,881 career points while his 584 assists ranks fifth best in program history. The St. John’s HS graduate started all 130 games he played as a Terp (second most behind Steve Blake). “You really don’t replace Anthony: his toughness, his speed. The bigger moment the better he was. Bringing it every day to practice,” Turgeon said. “Playing well in almost every game-not always shooting the ball well in every game but always bringing it.”

While some programs plug in a top-flight recruit, the Terps plan to spread the responsibility around. “It won’t be one guy that does it. Eric Ayala is going to be Eric Ayala,” Turgeon said. “Eric can really score the ball, Eric’s a really good passer, Eric’s got great size.” Ayala started 20 games as a sophomore and his 77 assists were the second-most on the team behind Cowan. The 6-foot-5 guard also made the third-most three-pointers on the team last winter; he’ll provide a decent start at the point guard position for his coach. “Then we’ve got (Marcus) Dockery and Aquan Smart who are probably closer to Anthony because they’re fast and competitive,” Turgeon said. Dockery hails from Washington, D.C. and attended Brewster Academy while Smart is from Evanston, Illinois and brings a skill-set that demands minutes. “Quan is really a fast, elite level athlete. He’ll hopefully do a few of the things Anthony did; I think he can be an elite defender for us,” Turgeon said. “He’s fast- he can cover ground quickly; there’s guys that are fast and guys who aren’t fast in short space. He’s fast in both spaces.”

A familiar face mans the other starting guard position in the form of last year’s Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year Aaron Wiggins. “I think he’s ready for it; he played starter minutes last year. Maybe didn’t have starter mentality when it came to scoring,” Turgeon said. “Kind of known as as shooter coming out of high school, his ballhandling, his passing and his decision making have come so far. His foot speed’s gotten better so defensively he’s become a lot better player.”

The other major loss from last year’s team will be a little tougher to mask. Jalen Smith averaged a double-double en route to being named First Team All-Big Ten and Third Team All-American last March. Enter Chol Marial, a 7-foot-2 sophomore from South Sudan who was limited to just 68 minutes last winter after recovering from surgeries to both of his legs (sometimes shin splints just happen to be hairline fractures). “He’s starting to look like the Chol that I remember coming out of high school a few years ago,” Turgeon said. “There’s a lot of things that we didn’t know he could do because he just wasn’t able to do it, and I think he’s been able to do a little more-he’s moving better.”

The frontcourt gets a boost in the form of two transfers: Galin Smith started 20 games over three seasons at Alabama while Jairus Hamilton made 18 starts in two years at Boston College. “Galin has a great feel: especially where to go offensively. His maturity will help us,” Turgeon said. “Jairus Hamilton averaged double figures in the ACC last year; he’s a good player.” Sophomore Dontay Scott made 21 starts last year and averaged 22 minutes per game last winter.

Rounding out the starting five is perhaps the most important player in the rotation and program. Senior Darryl Morsell found a way into Turgeon’s rotation from the start of his freshman year when he started 21 games; he’s averaged eight points per game in each of his three seasons with the Terps and posted career highs in rebounds, assists, and steals last winter. “He came in as a defender and a tough guy, and now he’s a great defender/great team player/great rebounder. He’s also really good with the basketball now, not turning the ball over,” Turgeon said. “You have to respect his jump shot, he’s continued to work and he’s really added a great mid-range game.” The returning senior with the most experience also will provide the necessary guidance to a roster sprinkled with with eight newcomers. “Darryl Morsell’s probably grown as a leader more than any player I’ve ever had. It’s just a natural thing for him. He’s really good at making practice real competitive and kind of being a jerk about it. And he knows down deep that all the players know that he really truly cares about them.”

The season tips off November 25 when Old Dominion comes to College Park; the non-conference season’s highlight is a trip to Clemson for the Big Ten-ACC Challenge December 9. The Big Ten looks to be just as tough to negotiate through this winter with three teams in the Associated Press Preseason Top Ten and seven overall in the Top 25, including Rutgers. Yes, the Scarlet Knights actually have expectations this season instead of just being a tough road game (let the record show that the RAC is a tough place to play).

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November is supposed to be “closing month” in college football, but with the scrambled schedule we’ve seen this autumn more than a few teams are in their “show me month” cycle. But it’s never too early to panic, freak out, or get excited; and with Navy and Virginia’s games being postponed due to COVID-19 concerns we get a little of everything with Virginia Tech and Maryland-while a Big Ten blueblood appears to be at a crossroads.

Michigan brought Jim Harbaugh back to Ann Arbor so the Wolverines could compete for Big Ten and National Championships, and in five-plus years he’s won 48 games but is 0-5 against Ohio State, 3-3 against Michigan State, and 9-14 against ranked foes. This autumn’s anguish has added an early-season stumble to the in-state Spartans (with a first-year coach) as well as their first loss in 33 years to…Indiana? Saturday’s defeat at the 13th ranked Hoosiers means the Wolverines haven’t beaten a top 15 team on the road since 2006. That’s the Lloyd Carr era, three coaching hires ago. Harbaugh knew nothing but success at Stanford in the Pac-10 and with San Francisco in the NFL; today the fourth-highest paid Head Coach in college football has a 1-2 team that’s tied with Rutgers and Michigan State for fourth place in the Big Ten East. Thank goodness the Scarlet Knights are still on the schedule…right?

Alma Mater Update- the Orange came up short at home to Boston College 16-13 and are now 1-7. The inability to run (2.5 yards per carry) was complimented by the defense’s inability to get off of the field (BC was 10-19 on third down). Freshman quarterback JaCobian Morgan threw for 188 yards and a touchdown (which came in garbage time), while one wonders what is next in a Dino Babers era that started 19-19 but is 5-14 since. Winter arrived two months ago in Central New York.

Virginia Tech (4-3) appeared to have completed one crazy comeback against Liberty when they returned a blocked 59-yard field goal attempt with eight seconds left in regulation, only to learn they had called time out right before the kick. The Flames took advantage with an 8-yard pass on 4th down that set up a 51-yard attempt that sailed through the uprights as time expired and the Hokies lost 38-35.

Hokie Highlights: After Khalil Herbert exited early with a hamstring injury, Hendon Hooker put the offense on his back by throwing for 217 yards and 3 touchdowns while running for 156 yards and 3 scores. Tre Turner caught 6 passes for 90 yards and a score as Hooker’s number one option. Chamarri Conner tallied 10 tackles while the defense recovered two fumbles that would lead to a touchdown and a field goal. Oscar Bradburn averaged 51 yards per punt while Brian Johnson connected on 2 of 3 field goals.

Hokie Humblings: the much-maligned defense allowed a first-drive touchdown to the Flames and would put the team in a first half double-digit crater. And then they couldn’t get a stop when it mattered, allowing 17 fourth quarter points. A fumbled punt set up the Flames’ first TD in the final period. The time out that wiped out victory and wound up setting up defeat will haunt this team for some time.

Next: Saturday at noon against No. 11 Miami.

Maryland (2-1) scored on their first possession at Penn State before holding the Nittany Lions on a 4th and goal from the 7 on their first drive; the Terps went on to beat Penn State 35-19 and posted their third-ever victory in the series. They scored 28 points in the first half; Maryland had managed 20 points over the last four games combined against their nemesis to the north. What began as a season of “here we go again” at Northwestern has turned into a fall of rising. Let’s keep the happy vibe and not look ahead to see who they face this week, okay?

Terrapin Triumphs: Taulia Tagovailoa threw three touchdown passes and had over 200 yards in the first half while this week’s top target was Rakim Jarrett (5 catches for 144 yards and 2 TD). The offense converted 9 of 16 third downs while posting scoring plays of 34, 38, 42 and 62 yards. The defense notched 7 sacks while Chance Campbell tallied 6 tackles and recovered 2 fumbles, returning one for a touchdown. Nick Cross recorded 8 stops plus an interception.

Terrapin Troubles: three out of six offensive possessions in the second half were three and outs. Eight penalties after ten the week before. The game was well in hand, but the defense did allow a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns after dominating the first three periods.

Next: Saturday vs. No. 3 Ohio State at 3:30 p.m.

Everybody loves a good comeback story, especially in college football where those at Maryland still recall rallying from 31 points down to beat defending national champion Miami 42-40 in 1984. This year on the national and local level we’ve seen more than our share, where double-digit leads and deficits are meant to be erased in the blink of an eye-or scoring plays of 82 and 90 yards like the ones Virginia Tech allowed at Louisville.

Every game features momentum swings; it’s a natural part of the sport which features adjustments and counter-punches over a 60-minute streatch. But with more offensive oomph in the game this year, the pendulum swings are more pronounced: No. 1 Clemson trailed Boston College 28-10 at one point before rallying past the Eagles 34-28. No. 6 Oklahoma State wasn’t as lucky, seeing a 31-20 lead over Texas transform into a 41-34 overtime loss (before you start saying “TEXAS IS BACK!” please know the Cowboys were the Big 12’s last legitimate playoff hopeful). The massive momentum movements make for a much more entertaining Saturday afternoon and evening, even though it makes life more difficult for those writing against deadline.

Alma Mater Update- there will be no such rollercoasters in Central New York this fall, as the Orange lost another game that they never really were in from the start. The 38-14 loss to Wake Forest means that SU will finish under .500 for the sixth time in seven years. At least freshman JaCobian Morgan (7-7 for 57 yards and a TD) looked promising. The remaining four teams on the schedule are a combined 16-10, with a trip to Notre Dame wrapping things up in a neat little bow.

Maryland (1-1) kicked off the weekend with a 45-44 overtime win over Minnesota that felt like three distinct games; the first saw the Terps jump out to a 21-7 lead in the first quarter while the second saw the Golden Gophers reel off 31 straight points before the Terrapins finished with a 24-6 kick that included a missed extra point in OT for the visitors. After playing on Friday night, they’ll need the extra day off to recover.

Terrapin Triumphs: Taulia Tagovailoa threw for 394 yards and three touchdowns while running for two more scores; he was the first Terp to throw for over 300 yards since Caleb Rowe in 2013 against–wait for it–Virginia. Jake Funk rushed for 221 yards, running for one TD while catching a touchdown pass to complete his recovery from a torn ACL and answer those who thought he was a “good special teams player but not a feature back” (that would be me). Chance Campbell spearheaded the defense with 13 tackles and a sack; the D earned an A in the second half by getting off of the field on 5 of 6 third downs.

Terrapin Troubles: last week Head Coach Mike Locksley said theyo would clean up the team’s run defense, and that part of the game needs another deep cleanse after allowing 262 yards on the ground. Ten penalties, a with a more than a few of them coming at the most inopportune times. Two turnovers; the first set up a Minnesota touchdown and the second occurred on first and goal from the Golden Gophers’ one.

Next: Saturday at 0-2 Penn State; 3:30 p.m. kickoff.

Virginia Tech (4-2) bounced back from its lowest scoring output of the season by reaching the end zone on three of its first four possessions, outscoring Louisville 42-35 in a game where the VT offense scored every time they had the ball in the second half with the exception of a game-ending kneel-down. They’re still a few weeks removed from the ACC gauntlet that includes Miami and Clemson, so the defense can be fixed up. Right?

Hokie Highlights: Hendon Hooker completes 10-10 passes for 183 yards while rushing for three touchdowns, and just as important the junior didn’t turn the ball over. Khalil Herbert rushes for 147 yards and a touchdown (his 803 on the season are second-most in the ACC). Justus Reed tallies two sacks (his 4.5 leads the team this fall) while Brian Johnson connects on field goals of 30 and 41 yards.

Hokie Humblings: the defense allowed 548 yards and surrendered touchdowns on five of the Cardinals’ final seven possessions of the game (other two ended with interceptions, with one coming at the VT two-yard line). The offense despite all of its success converted just 1-7 third downs. Oscar Bradburn averaged under 40 yards per punt with one touchback.

Next: Saturday at noon against 6-0 Liberty.

Navy (3-4, 3-2 AAC) reached the end zone the first two times they had the ball and scored on their last three possessions in their game at No. 22 SMU, but generated just 95 yards on 35 carries in between the strong start and furious finish in a 51-37 loss to the Mustangs. Two weeks ago there were possibilities of playing in the AAC Championship Game; today the question is can this team finish over .500.

Midshipmen Medals: backup quarterback Tyger Goslun threw two fourth quarter touchdown passes to make the score respectable, while Chance Warren ran for two scores. Mitchell West tallied 10 tackles and Bijan Nichols connected on a 46-yard field goal (the only scoring during the team’s mid-game drought).

Midshipmen Miscues: another rough night for a defense that allowed 6.9 yards per carry and 10.7 yards per pass (as in pass attempt, not pass completion) while Mustangs went 7-11 on third down.

Next: Saturday at noon against 3-1 Tulsa.

Virginia (2-4) wrapped up the weekend much like Maryland had started it; the Cavaliers 44-41 win over No. 15 North Carolina saw UVa fall behind 20-13 in the first half before going on a 28-0 run only to hold off a 21-3 UNC finishing kick. There are those who tell you that Virginia’s “true rival” is the Tar Heels, and most of them either live in Charlottesville or have a degree from the school. But anytime you snap an in-season losing streak at four games by beating a longtime conference foe for the fourth straight year, it’s a sunny day on the grounds.

Cavalier Congrats: talk about offensive balance-they passed for 208 yards and ran for 210. Brennan Armstrong only threw 22 passes, but three of them were touchdown strikes. He also had a 23-yard scoring run that put UVa on the board. Billy Kemp IV’s apparent mandate on being the leading receiver saw four more catches to pace the team. Charles Snowden notched 10 tackles, four of which were sacks. One of those sacks generated a fumble that set up a UVa touchdown; a special teams fumble recovery on a punt return set up another TD.

Cavalier Concerns: despite putting a season-high 44 points on the board, the offense converted just 3-12 third downs. The defense didn’t fare much better, getting off of the field on four of ten opportunities while allowing 536 yards (443 through the air). A missed extra point could have proven costly but thankfully it did not.

Next: Saturday against 2-5 Louisville at 8 p.m.

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Maryland football has experienced plenty of highs and lows over the last 15 years that include competing for the ACC Atlantic Division Thanksgiving weekend as well as multiple 2-10 seasons. They’ve had multiple head and interim coaches in that span as well, and each has had to deal with one constant-the lack of a consistent starting quarterback. Since 2003, only twice has Maryland started the same player at QB in each of their regular season games: 2006 with Sam Hollenbach and 2014 with C.J. Brown.

Whether it’s been injury or ineffectiveness, the Terps have fired up the quarterback carousel more often than not. In his first year at the helm, Head Coach Mike Locksley started both Josh Jackson and Tyrrell Pigrome because of both. The year he was interim coach after Randy Edsall’s firing, the Terps started three QB’s. His first season at Offensive Coordinator (2012) Maryland lost three quarterbacks to injury and the team had to use scout team linebacker Shawn Petty with a tight end as his backup to end the season. “I’ve been through quite a few of these from my last place of business to being here. We’ve not had a consistent starter in the time I’ve been here,” Locksley said. “As I’ve always stated, the quarterback who starts for us is the one who gives us the best chance to win games.”

The two contenders for this year’s starting job are redshirt freshman Lance LeGendre and sophomore transfer Taulia Tagovailoa. “We feel very excited about the talent we have in the quarterback room with both Lance and ‘Lia’,” Locksley said. “Those two have done a good job of the mental part of learning what we do.” The duo bring quite a bit of potential but not a ton of experience as their combined career numbers are 15 passes thrown over eight games played. So even with the limits of practicing in the COVID-19 pandemic, both need to progress this fall if the passing game is going to be better than it was in 2019 (12th in yardage and efficiency in the Big Ten). “I can just tell both guys have taken done a tremendous job of taking the coaching and taking the system,” Locksley said. “Lance Legendre from last year to this exponentially looks so much more comfortable in the pocket-winning in the pocket. Obviously Taulia is as advertised as a player; his ability to throw the football and get the ball out quick. Both guys offer athleticism at the position.”

While each passes the eye test, Locksley plans to use a modern manner in determining who emerges as the first string quarterback. “There are some things we do in practice, that we can put empirical data to show us who does the best job of moving the ball down the field, who does the best job of scoring points,” Locksley said. “We’ll be putting the quarterbacks in these competitive game-simulated situations and see how they respond and how they perform.”

Locksley’s role as a quarterback whisperer has changed throughout his career, from position coach to coordinator and now Head Coach. “I’m a people person. I’m one of those guys who loves being in the meeting room and the camaraderie that comes with it,” Locksley said. “But I also know you can’t have a bunch of guys talking to the quarterback. We’re running our system, the system I’ve run over the course of the years I’ve been a coordinator.” So that means less may be more for his direct input in the QB room, focusing on quality instead of quantity. “I’m going to always have my hands on the offense, I’m always going to be one of those guys that will be the ‘extra eye’,” Locksley said. “I see myself as being more of a tutor, in terms of assisting (offensive coordinator) Scottie (Reynolds). I kind of know it well enough to be able to skip a couple of the processes to say ‘this is why the ball goes here’.” Knowing what should be happening is one thing. Seeing it happen on the field is another. Being able to sustain it happening is the key to whoever gets the nod at quarterback, and the key to a successful season is keeping that man successful and upright.

Coming up tomorrow- Offensive Line: depth doesn’t always come on time.

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The season like none other before it in the modern era takes another turn Saturday with the beginning of the Big Ten football schedule-in theory. Contending with the COVID-19 pandemic has added the automatic phrase “at this time” and “as far as we know” to just about every story, as we’ve seen with multiple schedule swaps and shifts in every sport.

In a world where one cannot be 100% prepared for every possibility, Maryland Head Coach Mike Locksley has been doing the best he can preparing his program in these circumstances. “As we’ve seen across the landscape of college football, it’s something that is not going away. And so what we’ve all got to do is our part.” Locksley said. “Our players have all embraced it and understand that it’s what we have to do and how we have to live if we want to have a successful 2020 season.”

Instead of focusing on “what isn’t”, they’re focusing on “what is”. And that means a season when there wasn’t one as recently as September 15. “We’re embracing the uniqueness of playing through COVID. As I’ve said from day one the teams that have the ability to adjust and ride the wave and understand that it’s very unique–2020 is dealing with and playing through COVID-will be the teams that have the best chance to be successful.” Locksley said. “We’ve prepared our team from a mental standpoint to do just that.”

This is Locksley’s second year at the helm, and after referring to 2019 as “Year Zero” feels that with no Spring Practice in 2020 jokingly said, “I would count this year as zero point five”. He’s going to have a new starting quarterback as well as a new tailback , while also putting together a reshuffled offensive line and a defense that’s minus last year’s biggest playmakers. And in a year where we’ve seen Virginia Tech play games minus 20+ players multiple times this fall, the coach knows that he needs to build program depth. “You’re going to need your roster from one to 110 to all be prepared to go out and play. Because you never who what’s in store for you tomorrow when you wake up and who’s available and who’s not.”

So there’s been quite a bit of developing and teaching in the pre-full contact portion of preparing for 2020. “We’ve spent a lot of time fundamentally developing our team by position,” Locksley said. “And now that we have the target (of a season opener) we’ve gotten back into the schematic piece all three phases (offense, defense special team), and then also now trying to evaluate our roster and put the pieces together to figure out who gives us the best chance to be successful.” And this fall it won’t just be the fans who might need a program to tell the players apart from one another. “We’ve got 56 new faces of people in our program out of 110 who have never been in a Terp uniform. So trying to make sure we have the balance of developing size and strength as well as conditioning while at the same time ramping up to October 24.”

The season kicks off at Northwestern, and while the Wildcats went 3-9 last year Pat Fitzgerald’s program is only two years removed from winning the Big Ten West. According to the Action network, the Terps are projected to be underdogs in their opener as well as every game this fall-even at home against Rutgers December 12. This might not turn out to be an ideal season, but at least there’s a season to be played. Currently. At this time. In theory.

Coming up tomorrow: Will the Quarterback Carousel finally come to rest?

PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM-

There are some things the COVID-19 pandemic can’t affect.  One of them is the fact that my car needs to be inspected and registered each August.  The last three years I’ve made the annual trek to the dealership for the State Inspection, and while I wait I try to avoid the mindless mid-day TV by working on my college football previews.  In fact, I’m sitting down right now drinking a complimentary coffee punching the keys on the laptop with the Beatles “It’s All Too Much” playing on my earbuds.   It’s an unheralded gem, trust me.

But this year there’s no wondering what sort of leap Maryland will make under second-year coach Mike Locksley, or trying to figure out if the Terps will have a quarterback start every game of the season for the third time since 2003.  There’s also no scouring the rosters and websites for information on James Madison as the Dukes prepare to mount another run at the FCS mountaintop, which is a shame: JMU has made the playoffs six straight years under three different head coaches.  Same case with the rest of the local CAA schools (apologies to Towson, Richmond, and William & Mary).  Georgetown and Howard?  No deep-dives into the Patriot League and MEAC.

There isn’t even the “Week Zero” I like to make fun of as only college football can trumpet its tradition and then modify it in a ridiculous manner.  Navy was supposed to play overseas last weekend; instead their game with Notre Dame went from Ireland to Annapolis to canceled.  Speaking of the Fighting Irish- they’re actually joining a conference this year.  Evidently the “tradition” they had been married to as an independent will take a back seat this fall so they can use the ACC to fill out their schedule, before resuming their previous hypocrisy of using the league solely for their non-football sports.  And talking about “tradition”, while this season’s Rose Bowl will be used as a Playoff Semifinal the two leagues who traditionally vie for Pasadena will be sitting this fall out.

The Big Ten announced August 11th that they would be postponing all fall sports less than a week after releasing the conference schedule; I was this close to breaking down the Labor Day weekend Terrapins-Iowa showdown.  But wait- last Friday there were reports of the conference discussing they’d start up football Thanksgiving weekend- so they might play this fall after all. The Pac 12 followed the Big Ten’s lead earlier this month; I wonder what they’ll do if their longtime Rose Bowl brethren officially come back?  Meanwhile the SEC, Big 12 and ACC plow forward (and don’t forget the AAC, Sun Belt, Conference USA and some Independents) in the face of the scrutiny one can only imagine one gets when one holds a collision sport season during a pandemic.

All told, nine of the schools in the Associated Press Preseason Top 25 will not be playing games this fall.  Can you truly determine a champion when 40% of your Power Five schools aren’t participating?  And what about the schools who play spring seasons-or the winter ones?  But just like my car needs the new sticker, we will press on with the 2020 season. Eleven games will kick off between this Thursday and Labor Day night.  It’s all too much…

 

Memorial Day weekend isn’t just when men and women have traditionally held their respective Final Fours, it’s a time when players, coaches, media and fans celebrate the growth of the game.  But this year there’s no Final Four, while the growth of lacrosse and the stability of college athletics in general faces difficult decisions.  Imagine the Maryland men’s and women’s programs as strong oak trees in a forest of saplings attempting to gain root and thrive in a suddenly unfriendly forest.  “Obviously Maryland lacrosse is a program that’s around for a long time; it’s a very important sport in our state,” Terps men’s head coach John Tillman said. “But we have newer programs- programs at smaller schools. We all want to see those programs succeed and endure. We want to make sure those young people have as many opportunities as possible.”

 

The 21st century has been kind to college lacrosse.  The Division I field grew from 55 to 69 men’s programs from 2000 through 2016 while women’s programs grew from 71 to 110 in the same time.  And 26 schools added programs this year across all three NCAA divisions (Akron women the only new D-I school) plus NAIA.  Ten added men’s programs, 12 added women’s teams, and four schools added men’s and women’s programs.  But this week there became one fewer Division I men’s program with Furman University dropping the sport (the Paladins had been playing in D-I since 2014). “No one wants to see sports cut,” Maryland women’s head coach Cathy Reese said.  “No one wants to see these athletes lose their opportunities that they have to compete collegiately, or coaches and programs lose jobs or whatever it may be.”

   

While each sport deserves its moment in the sun and every athlete merits attention, the primary revenue engines for college athletic departments are football and men’s basketball.  The loss of this year’s NCAA Tournament costs schools roughly 375 million dollars, and the potential loss of the 2020 college football season is estimated by ESPN as up to four billion dollars. “If we don’t have college football in the fall, and we’re going off not having the NCAA Tournament and all of these conference tournaments in basketball, more hits than we probably even realize nationwide,” Reese said.  The revenue drain and potential hit have already taken some toll, with several schools discontinuing programs from Cincinnati men’s soccer to Bowling Green baseball, from both East Carolina men’s and women’s tennis and swimming teams.  “Then you realize that universities are going to have to make some hard decisions in so many ways,” Tillman said. “So we’re certainly hoping for some good things down the road realizing that there’s probably going to be some tough decisions for some colleges to make.”

 

Maryland currently fields 22 sports and has over 700 student athletes participating in those programs.  But the school is no stranger to tightening the belt, having dropped five teams in the department’s most recent reorganization.  And despite the current revenue stream (although it should be referred to as a river given the amount of dollars concerned) from the Big Ten Conference, it’s not out of the realm of possibility to think that the university might not be spared another reorganization on the horizon.  “I think there will probably a lot of discussion unfortunately,” Reese said. “But it’s something obviously no one wants to see.  We’re hanging on to the hope that we’ll going to figure this out and get through it. Push forward, it’ll definitely be different times.”

 

The NCAA Division I Council has voted to lift a moratorium on voluntary workouts by football and basketball players effective June 1.  A decision on other sports has not been reached.  Meanwhile, a number of schools have announced plans to reopen their campuses for the fall semester.  Ohio State University has even discussed opening its 100,000+ seat stadium to 20,000 or so fans scattered about via social distancing.  “There’s schools talking about different versions of what the fall’s going to look like and if we’ll be back and if we are back how are we going to do this,” Reese said.  “How’s fall sports going to translate in?  We’ve got to wait to see where it goes.”

 

Because even though both men’s and women’s lacrosse plays its seasons in the spring semester, there is a fall practice program akin to spring football.  So while the coaches wonder what the fall semester may bring on campus, they also look at the state of the game.  “We’re hoping that the fallout isn’t bad and people can hang in there, but you are worried about that because we want our game to expand and not get smaller,” Tillman said.  And the longer the big revenue engines stay silent (or at least operating at under 100%), the longer athletic departments tread lightly.  “That’s definitely a concern for most sports at this point,” Reese said. “There’s such big hits for these universities and more specifically athletic departments.  A lot of our funding does rely heavily on sports like basketball and football, and now we don’t know what’s ahead for either.”

Previously appearing on WTOP-

The shutdown of spring sports not only ended the Maryland Women’s Lacrosse Team’s pursuit of a twelfth straight Final Four, but it may also affect the Terps in their pursuit of 2022 and 2023 championships.  The 2020 recruiting class is already signed and on their way to College Park this summer, and according to insidelacrosse.com’s recruiting database eight “commitments” are headed to the school for next year (players can start signing National Letters of intent by mid-November).  But the groundwork for the following classes is still being established and faces multiple obstacles.

Successful recruiting is a combination of evaluating players correctly and then developing relationships with those players.  This year Maryland Coach Cathy Reese and her staff have to do both while being limited by the Coronavirus pandemic: there are no high school lacrosse games to evaluate and scout while in-person contact with recruits is also not an option at this time.  “This is going to be an interesting summer as we prepare to watch the recruiting class,” Reese said. “Without the spring season there’s no lacrosse to watch.  No high school season.  There’s no progress to be made.  No chance for coaches to work with players.”

While the spring high school season is a natural showcase, the summer is where the best lacrosse players gather for camps and tournaments-until this year.  “For us in lacrosse there’s a lot of summer play, a lot of summer tournaments where as college coaches we get to get out and watch players from all over the country play,” Reese said. “At this point so far all of our camps at Maryland have been canceled for the summer so we’re not hosting anything.”

Reese still hopes there will be evaluation opportunities as the spring turns into summer.  “There’s so much that’s not known yet.  We don’t know yet what’s going to happen with these tournaments,” Reese said. “Everyone’s trying to scramble and find alternate dates.”  Still, the mother of four recognizes that as the nation deals with a pandemic there are bigger concerns than recruiting logistics. “We’re all kind of just in this holding pattern,” Reese said. “Just waiting and seeing what happens and what the guidelines that come down from the President, the local state governments and the CDC.”

So while we wait and wonder when or if sports will return and our stadiums and arenas will open again, the calendar still moves on.  And as the calendar moves, so does optimism-even if things don’t return to what they were immediately.  “We’re allowed to talk to kids who become juniors on September first,” Reese said. “Hopefully at some point in the summer we’ll all be able to get out and watch lacrosse and just kind of keep checking on kids who–yeah we’ve got our eye on some-but you know there’s a lot of people out there and a lot of lacrosse players who we would have had a chance to see this spring and summer.”