Baltimore Sun reporters Jeff Barker and Don Markus and editor Matt Bracken weigh in on the three biggest topics of the past week in Marylandsports.
What is going on with all the injuries on Maryland’s defense and can the Terps weather the storm?
Jeff Barker: If there is one Maryland unit I figured to be improved, it was the defense. The unit should still be better than last season – players seem to be taking to new coordinator Brian Stewart’s 3-4 – but the Terps have taken a big preseason hit.
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Defensive lineman Andre Monroe is out for the season. Also expected to miss varying amounts of time: Defensive end Keith Bowers, linebacker Kenny Tate, safety Matt Robinson, cornerback A.J. Hendy and cornerback Isaac Goins.
Coach Randy Edsall said today that Tate will be out three-to-four weeks with a cartilage issue in his knee – but not the same knee that sidelined him most of last season.
It sure is puzzling. Some fans have wondered if the new Byrd Stadium FieldTurf might be to blame, but I’m not buying that. The injuries have occurred on different fields. Then you’ve got Goins, who is out with mono.
What’s that old saying? “If I didn’t have bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.”
The defense still has experience on the line (Joe Vellano, A.J. Francis) and some talented linebackers. Alex Twine, Tate’s backup, is a real hitter.
If you’re a Maryland fan, you hope the team can hold up early and then start to get some of the injured players back.
The nonconference schedule is not too punishing. Oh, except for West Virginia on the road Sept. 22.
Is Mark Turgeon underrating his young team with its non-conference schedule?
Don Markus: I’m sure Turgeon didn’t want to overwhelm a team that will be trying to incorporate five or six freshmen into the regular rotation, along with trying to figure out how to compensate for the loss (at least offensively) of Terrell Stoglin, the ACC’s leading scorer a year ago.
Having said that, I thought Turgeon could have given the Terps – not to mention the team’s fans – at least one more marquee December matchup. It would also help the second-year coach better gauge the progress his young players make beween opening night against Kentucky on Nov. 9 and the ACC opener against Virginia Tech on Jan. 5.
Turgeon deserves credit for taking the offer to play the defending national champions right off the bat, even on a neutral setting at Brooklyn’s new Barclays Center against a team that has undergone even more of a roster overhaul.
The one thing about playing Kentucky is that if Maryland can somehow pull off an upset, it will give the Terps a major chip to cash in come March if they are in contention for an NCAA tournament bid. It reminds me of the 1993-94 opener against Georgetown at the old Capital Centre.
That team was made up mostly of freshmen and sophomores, like this one. That team also played Massachusetts in Springfield, Mass., and Oklahoma in Oklahoma City early on -- losing to both -- but still wound up making the Sweet 16 after being a bubble team in early March.
I would have liked to see some of the freshmen, particularly Shaquille Cleare and Jake Layman, take on a little more competition in December before moving into the ACC. I would like to see how sophomores Alex Len and Nick Faust have grown since last year.
A year ago the Terps started 10-3 playing against even better competition than they’ll face this season and I asked Turgeon if the record was reflective of the team’s talent level. It was one of the few times all season that the brutally honest Turgeon declined to answer.
I haven’t checked out all of Maryland’s non-conference opponents for the upcoming season to see if a Morehead State is the kind of NCAA Cinderella team it was a couple of years ago, but I would have rather seen the Terps take on Morgan State.
The one thing noticeably lacking is any local teams aside from UMES and George Mason. If the Terps are going to recruit Baltimore, as Turgeon has done with Sam Cassell Jr., why not play at First Mariner Arena against a national opponent or even Loyola?