Monday Terps Mailbag: Depth chart shake-ups, football injuries and basketball recruiting

August 26, 2013

Welcome back to the Monday Terps Mailbag, where every Monday we answer Terps questions in mailbag form. Five days remain until the football team opens against Florida International at home. Let’s get to your queries:

I’m not too big on projections, but expectations for the tandem are certainly high. It will be difficult for opposing defenses to double-team either Stefon Diggs or Deon Long, lest they risk a weaker defensive back getting burned by the other. A healthy, stable quarterback situation will do wonders for Diggs, who beginning in August last season caught passes from six different first-string quarterbacks during practice. And yet he still managed to haul in 54 passes for 848 yards and six touchdowns. There’s no reason those numbers can’t improve and justify the offseason hype Diggs has received. Long, who has been hampered by a back injury in recent weeks, is an insanely gifted athlete with no limit to his potential, similar to Diggs. No word yet on his status for the season-opener (see the questions below), but that shouldn’t stop Long from succeeding this season opposite Diggs and Nigel King. Offensive coordinator Mike Locksley’s system tends to rely on short crossing patterns and read options, but with this arsenal of wideouts, it’s hard to imagine the Terps not taking downfield shots at least several times a game, simply to take advantage of Diggs and Long’s speed.

To recap: Ryan Doyle, formerly the backup left tackle, is now the starting right tackle. Michael Dunn, formerly the backup right tackle, is now the starting right guard. Andrew Zeller, whose job Dunn took, is now the third available guard. And Nick Klemm, whose job Doyle took, is now the third available tackle. Klemm had a rough camp, especially in the past several weeks as Doyle moved into the starting role. Zeller’s situation came as more of a surprise. Before Sunday, Dunn was still a walk-on. But that doesn’t really matter here; Edsall has maintained all along that he will play the best five offensive linemen. Hence all the changes. I don’t think the former backups are objectively shining, but have simply looked good relative to their predecessors, solid enough to justify a necessary shakeup.

With Perry Hills officially relegated to a fourth-string role, the competition is down to Ricardo Young and Caleb Rowe for the backup quarterback spot, which might be revealed later Monday when the depth chart is released. The way I see it, Rowe has the livelier arm, and might be better in a spot situation like he stepped into against North Carolina State last season, with little time left and Maryland needing a long drive. But Young, who worked with the first team throughout spring practice, is probably the better and more stable all-around quarterback, the safest backup bet for Maryland moving forward. It’s certainly possible the backup will vary depending on the opponent, as you suggested, but I’d expect Coach Randy Edsall to pick one, stick with it and hope C.J. Brown stays healthy.

Doubtful, but if the linebackers dominate opposing offensive lines the way it did during the open scrimmage, then it may become more within reason. Even so, it will be difficult for Maryland to keep the Under Armour all-American Ngakoue off the field, even if it’s just on special teams. When the updated depth chart emerges, it’s possible Ngakoue will be bumped past Clarence Murphy at the “Will” and into third string behind Yannick Cudjoe-Virgil and Marcus Whitfield, two players he’s not unseating anytime soon.

From poking around, I get the sense the Maryland basketball team is finalizing its game plan in the wake of Trayvon Reed’s commitment last week. Coach Mark Turgeon and his staff have assembled a tremendous class of 2014, one of the best in recent memory for the Terps, with four players currently ranked in the top 100 nationally by most recruiting services. Dion Wiley, Romelo Trimble, Jared Nickens and Reed are all four-stars, according to ESPN.com, and combine to make Maryland’s class the No. 3-ranked group. Granted, this can only decline. Thirteen in ESPN’s top 100 are uncommitted as of Monday, and the Terps aren’t moving ahead of North Carolina (three five-stars) and Ohio State (two five-stars). As for a fifth option, explored to hedge against future attrition (NBA or otherwise), Maryland has primarily expressed interest in Riverdale Baptist center Chinanu Onuaku, local power forward Martin Geben and North Carolina tweener forward Gary Clark. If no one leaves, the Terps will be maxed out on scholarships without a fifth signee; still, it never hurts to keep putting out feelers, which I’d fully expect Maryland to keep doing, even as it gets a head start on the class of 2015.

No word yet on backup defensive tackle Zeke Riser and third-string running back Jacquille Veii, both of whom are dealing with ankle injuries that had them donning walking boots and crutches during the open scrimmage two Saturdays ago. Same goes for Long, who hasn’t practiced in at least two weeks with a back ailment. Coach Randy Edsall releases the injury report Thursday. We will know more then. (Unless, of course, reports leak from College Park this week of students seeing these players walking around campus, either healthy or not. That always happens.)

“JA,” for the layman, is Jesse Aniebonam, the Good Counsel defensive end who committed to Maryland during Friday’s nationally televised game against Gilman. The “other stars” are presumably cornerback Jalen Tabor, the District’s top-ranked player who suits up for Friendship Academy and boasts offers from Florida and Alabama, among others, and Maryland’s No. 1 recruit Damian Prince, who has similar offers from top-flight programs. Recruiting analysts seem to like Maryland’s chances for both Tabor and Prince, and fans are certainly trumpeting the hometown movement trope. It’s something Diggs talked about when he chose College Park over more prestigious locations, and the coaching staff hopes it becomes trendy again. Whether Tabor, Prince and DeMatha lineman Brock Ruble are enticed by teaming up together remains to be seen. Recent years indicate the Terps have done a significantly better job locking down local recruits, though the “V” in DMV has been non-existent. It’s really just the “DM,” though that’s been enough to send the message that Maryland is a major player here once again. That last sentence was a Twitter joke. I’ll show myself out.

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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