Welcome to the Monday Terps Mailbag, a new weekly installment where you ask questions and I answer them. What, you thought there would be a more catchy introduction? Sorry. Not here. Calling this “The PrewBag” was enough creativity for one day. So simmer down and onto the queries.
Will Alex Len declare for the draft this year? (Felipe Harman, @lfharman)
Obviously there’s a ton of NBA-related buzz swirling around Maryland’s 7-foot-1 center this year, and rightfully so. Len has developed into a monster on both ends as his immense talent has manifested itself to the tune of 14.7 points, nine rebounds per game and nearly three blocks per game.
As Wizards fans can painfully attest, NBA teams value potential, and of that Len has plenty. He’s already improved leaps and bounds since his shortened freshman season in College Park, and we’re only seven games into 2012-13. Len was widely viewed as a potential lottery pick entering this season and bolstered his stock with that breakout performance against Kentucky in the season opener. NBADraft.net has Len at seventh overall. ESPN.com’s Chad Ford told readers in an online chat that Len has an “outside shot” at being the first overall pick.
But your question, Felipe, asked whether Len will declare, and on that it’s far too early to tell. Maryland is Len’s new home after he immigrated to the United States from Ukraine, and he, by all accounts, loves Coach Mark Turgeon, his teammates and the program. At least on a personal level, leaving such a comfort zone for NBA riches could be jarring, but the allure might be too much to pass up. Again, this is all speculation. Fans seem to be adopting an “enjoy it while we can” mentality with Len, and he still has much to accomplish at Maryland, regardless of how long he stays.
Couldn’t the sixth lax team [in the Big Ten] be Hopkins? [Big Ten] could add blue Jays as lacrosse-only member. (Beau Boughamer, @damonbeau)
I suppose this is an option, but the Big Ten has been averse to admitting partial members. Such a move would certainly entice Maryland’s lacrosse programs to join the Big Ten. But the Terrapins have plenty of choices at this stage, especially with the move two spring seasons away. They could, like Johns Hopkins, go independent, or could bank on the Big Ten adding a sixth program to attain NCAA automatic qualifier status.
Figuring out the lacrosse situation was a major point of discussion among Big Ten and Maryland officials, one of the first things that Athletic Director Kevin Anderson asked about during their initial meetings. Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany wants Maryland to help lead Big Ten lacrosse into the next stage, becoming a proverbial flagship program, but understands that the Terps will do what’s best for them and their program. Whether that involves going independent, sticking in the Big Ten or seeking elsewhere remains to be seen.
Do you think Terps will be ranked in next week’s AP rankings with a convincing win over George Mason Sunday? (Jason R, @jrohner5)
[EDTIOR’S NOTE: This question was posed before the latest AP poll came out. The Terps are again unranked, but received votes. Prewitt is a seer.]
Doubt it. By the time you read this, the latest Associated Press top 25 could very well be released and I could be proven a colossal fool, but I think it’ll take some time (read: ACC play) for Turgeon’s bunch to crack the AP top 25. Northwestern was rather unimpressive and while both that and the George Mason win will help Maryland’s RPI come NCAA tournament time, it’s probably not enough barring some shocking developments above them in the poll.
The win over George Mason wasn’t by any stretch “convincing,” but it was a solid, grind-it-out-type of victory against a veteran squad. But with Maryland’s relatively weak nonconference schedule heading into the 2013 calendar year, it will likely need more than that to break into the rankings.
UPDATE: Okay, I’m not a fool, at least this time. Maryland received nine votes in the AP poll, fifth among ACC teams.
3 conference wins in 2 years. Squeaking by William and Mary. How is it that Randy Edsall still has a job? (Rparker125, via e-mail)
There’s still plenty of confidence in Edsall within the athletics department. The financial hit that Maryland would take by giving Edsall a contract buyout notwithstanding, Anderson had high praise for Edsall and the program’s direction and seems committed moving forward.
Fantasizing about an injury-free 2012 season is a fruitless exercise, but Edsall still managed to get plenty from a team missing four quarterbacks. That they scored 38 points against North Carolina with a scout-team linebacker under center is nearly miraculous. The 7-6 victory over William & Mary was ugly, and November’s blowout losses were expected. But this team wasn’t that far off from bowl eligibility. Connecticut, North Carolina State and Boston College were all extremely winnable games that got away late.
Say what you will about Edsall and his coaching style, but the players are buying into his program and culture, and that’s a huge step up from his inaugural season. Of course, more losing years could derail the progress, but those with hiring and firing powers are backing Edsall, his staff, their DMV-centric recruiting mission and the players within.
How do you think UMD’s move to the Big Ten will affect recruiting for both football and basketball? IMHO, I think it will help football and hurt basketball recruiting. If I’m a football recruit in the DMV and I have a choice between UMD, UVa, WVU, or VTech, I’m choosing the school that plays in the Big House and the Horseshoe in a top tier league. Conversely, if I’m a basketball recruit, it’s pretty clear that the ACC is going to be a basketball-focused league when conference realignment is complete (i.e. FSU, Clemson gone). Thanks. (Bodhi, via email)
No, thank you, Bodhi. And your hunches seem to be a pervasive sentiment among Terps fans. Edsall seems pretty happy about the Big Ten move, even though it means venturing into uncharted recruiting waters. But he knows there’s an undeniable allure of the Big Ten and its national television network, even though traditional ACC rivalry games will be stricken from the docket and actually getting to road games will be harder for families.
Regionalism and conferences matter less for basketball. Sure, there’s an appeal of playing at Cameron Indoor and the Dean Dome, and adding Syracuse to the ACC only bolstered the conference’s basketball resume, but it matters little if recruits choose Maryland solely to play for Turgeon, have a shot at national success with an eye toward a professional future. If the Terps are succeeding, he can recruit regardless of conference, because players will flock to College Park to win at Maryland, not play once a year at Duke or Indiana.
Does Len have a nickname? Can it be The Plumber? (J, @J_D_P)
Yes. Yes it can. On that note, open call for all Alex Len-related monikers. Forth, nicknames! Don’t fail me (or @J_D_P) now, readers.
Alex, what do you think the QB depth chart is going into the spring and the fall (considering injury recovery times, experience, etc.) since Brown, Hills, and Rowe all have shown that they can handle the position. (Sancho, via Washingtonpost.com)
Well, the spring and fall depth charts will likely be vastly different from each other. This spring will likely feature New Mexico transfer Ricardo Young, C.J. Brown (if his rehabilitation has progressed enough to warrant full-speed workouts) and possibly Shawn Petty, just to have a third arm in there. Perry Hills, Caleb Rowe and Devin Burns won’t be recovered from their surgeries by the time spring practices roll around, and as offensive coordinator Mike Locksley has said, anyone with quarterbacking experience will likely be in the mix come March.
As you noted, Sancho, the Terps will return four college-experienced quarterbacks next fall, though Rowe played just one game and some change. It’ll be an interesting position for the Terps, having so much depth, yet none who has distinguished himself immensely. Brown figures to be the penciled-in starter given his experience, while Young, Hills, Rowe and Burns could all challenge for the backup role.
The more likely scenario is that Hills or Rowe (quite possibly both) wind up taking a redshirt year next season so long as Brown stays healthy. And don’t forget about Gilman quarterback Shane Cockerille, a read-option-style Elite 11 recruit. Suddenly a team that was decimated to the fifth string will have six quarterbacks next season, if you throw Burns into the mix as well.
Does Turgeon have a plan to cut down on turnovers? (Jeff, @jnh24)
He, like most of us, is searching for the genesis of this turnover problem, which hasn’t proved detrimental yet but might become a thorn during ACC play. At least from press row, it seems to just be a simple lack of focus. A few of Dez Wells’s turnovers against George Mason were just a product of Wells trying to execute too quickly, taking his eye off the pass before actually catching it securely.
Asked about the turnover issue, Nick Faust was similarly at a loss, but posited that it’s just young players trying to do too much at this early stage. After the George Mason game, Turgeon said that whenever he called a timeout, he asked his players to settle into the secondary break if neither a layup nor a three-pointer were available off the initial fast break, commenting that they only did that once and need to be “more coachable.” Indeed, many of their turnovers came off forcing feeds that weren’t there rather than back out and run secondary sets. Fixing that and settling down could help immensely.
Everybody says being so close to landing the Twins was good for Maryland. I don’t get how being second helps, can you explain that? (Harry, @HarryHareBear)
Gladly. Simply being in the running and getting national exposure like that helps build a brand, especially for a relatively new coach like Turgeon. That the Harrison Twins were deciding between Maryland and Kentucky, the go-to factory for NBA-minded hoops recruits under John Calipari, alone says plenty about the recruiting capabilities of Turgeon and his staff.
It was a much-hyped decision broadcast on ESPNU, and every article written about Andrew and Aaron Harrison’s decision came with comparisons of Turgeon and Calipari’s programs, and there was plenty written about the Harrisons’ connection to and trust in both Turgeon and assistant Bino Ranson. Had Maryland been axed from the list early, it wouldn’t have mattered. But the Terps stood toe-to-toe with a recruiting giant and went down swinging.
Sure, recruits often choose schools based on comfort level felt from within the program, but brand recognition helps on the ground level. It’d be very difficult to quantify this, but perhaps more recruits begin looking at Maryland, seeing its the type of school that almost landed two of the nation’s top five players from the Class of 2013.
Do you think the players are getting used to how blunt Coach Turgeon is in the media? (Jim Finlayson, @FinlaysonJim)
So here’s the thing about Turgeon: He’s as blunt in public sessions with reporters as he is during private, one-on-one sessions. If he tells reporters that, for instance, Wells is turning the ball over too much, it’s because he’s already sat down with Wells and said those exact same words.
Wells has spoken at length about his appreciation for his coach’s honesty, especially during practices when Turgeon rarely dishes out fawning praise or crushing negativity. For all his sideline intensity, Turgeon keeps things pretty even-keel, always tempering his happiness by pointing out areas of improvement. The players knew what they were getting, and they love that about him because it keeps them motivated and driven.