There has been a quite a bit of news over the last few months in both the Maryland Football and Basketball Programs. Let us look at those Headlines with my commentary.
-It was a given from day one the way Maryland Head Men’s Basketball Coach Mark Turgeon talked that Darryl Morsell had played his last game as a Terrapin. His transferring to Marquette came down to wanting to have an opportunity to work on his offensive game and get more opportunities to score. He will still be a long shot in next year’s NBA Draft and is likely an overseas player, but he feels he is giving himself the best chance. In addition, Morsell gave all he had for four years to Maryland. He went to the NCAA Tournament multiple times (who knows what could have happened in 2020) and even won a share of a Big Ten Regular Season Title. He probably felt he went about as far as he could go anyway with MD. Now if he and Aaron Wiggins had returned along with the current crop of transfer’s I would strongly disagree, but I think the program’s potential success at this point was secondary to his individual needs…
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
…As it turns out Wiggins is not coming back either so that does lessen the chances of a deep NCAA Tournament run for the Terps even though they will have a solid team this year. Wiggins likely will not be drafted either, but I would not be totally surprised if he were chosen late in the second round. I think you could make a strong argument for Wiggins coming back to College Park to be the centerpiece of the offense and put together a full season of productivity. If he were to have done that (assuming a strong year) I think he would have greatly helped his cause for next year’s draft. He will almost definitely end up in the G League and work to get on an NBA Roster that way. In the meantime, he can make money in the G League while working on his game despite the opportunities to make money now with the NIL in college.
…Then there is Eric Ayala who with all due respect never had a shot in getting drafted in the NBA this year. Who could blame him though, hey why not take an initial shot to see where he stood? He did and as we all expected is back for his Senior Season with the Terps.
-Maryland Head Coach Mark Turgeon has done an excellent job bringing in transfers to the basketball program. Even with the losses of Morsell and Wiggins I expect this team to be Top 5-6 team in the Big Ten along with Michigan, Ohio State, Illinois, Michigan State and Purdue. Let us talk about the transfers and expected starting lineup.
-Added to the Maryland roster was PG Fatts Russell of Rhode Island, Center Qudus Wahab of Georgetown, G Ian Martinez of Utah and F Pavlo Dziuba of Arizona State. Three of the four minus Dziuba will either start or see significant minutes for the Terps this upcoming season. Dziuba was the youngest freshman in the country in Division I Men’s Basketball so he will need some more time for development but that does not mean he might not see some floor time.
-The starting lineup as of now I would expect is:
-Fatts Russell-Point Guard
-Erica Ayala-Shooting Guard
-James Graham-Small Forward
-Donta Scott-Power Forward
Top Reserves: G Hakim Hart, G Ian Martinez, and F Julian Reese.
-New players were not the only additions to the Maryland Men’s Basketball Program. Mark Turgeon added two new assistant coaches with Bino Ranson taking a job with DePaul and DeAndre Haynes leaving to go to Marquette. Let me address those two moves first…
…Haynes is a Midwest guy and had not done much in recruiting, so it is not surprising he took a job at Marquette in more traditional Big Ten territory. He did help Ayala and Wiggins come together and play some of the best ball we have seen them play at MD especially down the stretch to finish the end of the season strong. His first season in 2019-20, the Terps won a share of the Big Ten Conference Regular Season with Anthony Cowan leading the way in a strong finish to his career. I was really hoping Haynes’ time with John Beilein may have allowed Mark Turgeon to tap into the offense they ran and at least use some of it at MD. That said the Terps lack in enough quality 3-point shooters to fully utilize it anyway. With Haynes though you lose development and offensive strategy…
…The loss of Bino Ranson hurt with recruiting locally given his Baltimore ties having come from St. Frances. This program needs a local guy like that to recruit Baltimore and the DMV. I really think DePaul in desperate need of revitalization did their homework and said look if we want to get better, we must find assistant coaches in recruiting hot beds and go spend the money and bring them in. Even though Chicago at least has been a hotbed of high school basketball players, DePaul obviously has not been able to recruit that area well enough. So, they also need to look elsewhere and what better area then the Mid-Atlantic Region, specifically DC and Baltimore Metros. You would like to think the Terps would spend the money to retain a Ranson but…
…Turgeon brought in Danny Manning his former teammate at Kansas who won a National Title and was National Player of the Year there and was the #1 Overall Pick in the NBA Draft by the LA Clippers. He had a solid pro career including being an All-Star. He also has been a Head Coach at Tulsa and Wake Forest along with an assistant coaching stint with his alma mater Kansas. At minimum Manning brings a big name with NBA ties. That should bring a fair amount of cache to MD no matter what recruit. I am not 100% sure but I am not sure of how many strong recruiting ties he has in the Mid-Atlantic or Northeast although coaching at Wake Forest had to bring some, just not sure to the extent. I would think at minimum Manning will be a solid developmental coach in the front court that will also be able to assist Turgeon on game day possibly with Xs and Os or situational type decisions. To have a former star player but also Head Coach and Assistant at two Power 5 schools by your side provides for a nice sounding board and more on gameday…
…Let us not forget Bruce Shingler who was also added from South Carolina. Shingler is a Prince George’s County native, was an assistant at Towson and Morgan and on the AAU Circuit locally. The loss of Ranson I would say was very well filled here. In fact, you could argue he has a better resume. You would be hard pressed to say this was not a solid hire by Turgeon…
…Speaking of recruiting though the drought at DeMatha continues as 4-Star player Tyrell Ward who was thought to be going to Virginia Tech with Mike Jones joining the staff there, decided to go to Xavier. When will a Stag head to College Park? Will Shingler break through? One can only hope.
-That all said for what the Terps lost in Ranson, and Haynes I think they ended up overall getting better Assistant Coaches to fill their roles for both recruiting and development.
-Taking a look around the Big Ten in some transfer news—C Kofi Cockburn decided to come back to Illinois after putting his name in the transfer portal, that’s big news and obviously positive news for the Illini. Also, F EJ Liddell decided to come back to Ohio State which bolsters their roster with the loss of Duane Washington. Coastal Carolina G DeVante Jones is honoring his commitment to transfer to Michigan and not attempt to go to the NBA. A few players the Terps will not have to worry about though: With Minnesota having fired Richard Pitino most of the players have bolted for other programs. The Golden Gophers best player Marcus Carr announced over the weekend he is headed to Texas. CJ Frederick left Iowa to go to Kentucky. Rocket Watts left Michigan State to go to Mississippi State. Seth Lundy is leaving Penn State but has not yet decided on a school. Myles Johnson left Rutgers to play a 5th year with UCLA and Jacob Young also left Rutgers to go to Oregon.
-The addition of Dan Enos at Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach should enhance the development of Tua Tagovailoa. Given the fact that Scotty Montgomery did not have the QB Coaching experience and that he had to learn Mike Locksley’s offensive playbook put him in a tough spot. With Enos having worked with Locksley at Alabama the two are in sync from play calling and schematic standpoint and Enos has coached QBs for years.
-Two Friday night games for the Terps for the first time since 1954 are among the dates on this season’s schedule. Those games are at Illinois and at home against Iowa. It is possible for the Terps to start the season at 4-0 or 3-1. They should be in most of the games this season which is a sign of progress. The Illinois matchup should be a nice tune up in the trenches for the game against Iowa especially for the defensive line that gets major recruiting help coming in. The first game against West Virginia is crucial. It would be a solid non-conference win to get the program off to a good start of the season and make 4-0 a lot more attainable. Outside of Ohio State the Terps really ought to have a chance in every game. Penn State will have a major chip on the shoulder and want to unload on Maryland for some revenge in College Park but who says the Terps have to keep losing to PSU? Michigan, Michigan State and Rutgers are all winnable games.
While one game does not make a program, the more success against Greg Schiano and Rutgers the better in the regional recruiting wars. The Terps have a chance to start strong and finish strong heading into 2022 which should be the year that the Terps put up the wins. It could come a season early but let us be cautious.
-The addition of JuCo Center Aric Harris is huge given the fact it allows Spencer Anderson for the time being to return to RT where he was solid last season. Given the fact the Offensive Line is the weakest of all positions, Harris’ ability to fortify the position will be very key in the success of the offense. The good news is the Terps have versatile TEs that can be used in run and pass situations so their presence on the field does not tip what the Terps may be doing. The Terps will need to scheme creatively to help in protections as well.
-The loss of verbal commitment three-star WR Kobe Prentice shows that Maryland can identify talent. The fact that Alabama offered him the day after the Terps did tells you something. How many 3 Star guys are on their roster? It is assumed he will go to Alabama but that has not happened yet.
-Mike Locksley’s comments on the Big Ten needing to realign to better give the Conference a shot at getting more than one team into what is expected to be an expanded College Football Playoff field to 12 teams is easier said than done. He mentions Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State knocking each other off. The last I checked not many teams have knocked Ohio State off in a while. Even if you move them over to the West which likely rival Michigan would need to follow (although you do not have to do that since ultimately, they will still play each other at the end of the year) what then? Ok if Iowa comes over to the East for instance while they are not Ohio State it still makes the East Division a tough one. To think teams still will not be beating up each other in the East still is a joke. But then in the West Ohio State knocks out Wisconsin’s and Northwestern (in some years like 2020) chances more than likely and then they all beat up on the rest of the West. You never truly know what programs will do what at times and they can go in cycles. Locksley mentions how good the Big Ten is top to bottom. While I think generally the Conference has gotten better, but you cannot have both. It is either top heavy with two teams getting to the playoffs or it is highly competitive with teams beating up on one another and maybe only one team getting in. What needs to happen is teams need to catch up to Ohio State and to a lesser degree Wisconsin. Michigan State and Penn State in flashes have been able to do it but not consistently.
Mike Popovec is a Weekend and Fill-In host at 105-7 The Fan. In addition Mike hosts the Pre and Post, Halftime and Scoreboard Updates for the Football Games on the Maryland Terrapins Sports Radio Network. He also hosts the Pre and Post Game Show on weekends for some of the Maryland Basketball Games. Popovec also hosts a local News, Talk and Sports Morning Program at the beach on 92-7 WGMD. He also produces and hosts High School Football Games and Shows throughout the season out of Easton covering the Eastern Shore’s Bayside Conference. He sideline reports for CW54 for the Maryland State High School Football Playoffs with Bruce Cunningham, Doug Duvall and Wally Williams.