Baltimore Sun reporters Jeff Barker and Don Markus and editor Matt Bracken weigh in on the three biggest topics of the past week in Maryland sports.
How many games can Maryland football realistically win the rest of the way?
Jeff Barker: The answer: more than you would have thought before the ACC season began.
The conference has been pretty underwhelming. You know it’s an odd year when two of the three teams left unbeaten in conference play are Duke and Maryland. This is football we’re talking about, right?
Granted, the Terps have only played one conference game. Duke has played two. The other unbeaten is Miami (3-0), which lost 41-3 to Notre Dame in a nonconference game.
Maryland’s ACC competition just isn’t as stout as it once seemed.
Georgia Tech’s triple-option is always daunting, but defensive coordinator Al Groh was dismissed – in the middle of the season, no less—after the defense surrendered huge numbers of yards and points.
Boston College lost to Army last week. North Carolina lost at Wake Forest before seeming to right the ship.
Many people thought – and I’m in that inglorious club – that Florida State might run the table in the ACC. That didn’t happen.
I’m not saying that the Terps will beat the Seminoles. But Maryland's defense is probably even better than advertised. If the offense can grow even incrementally, there are definitely some conference wins to be had.
Based on what Mark Turgeon said at Media Day this week, which position is going to be the most competitive for playing time and who is involved?
Don Markus: Having covered Turgeon for a year, his lineup tends to be fluid based partly on how players are practicing. But I think the biggest question mark going into the season is how Turgeon splits up his minutes at point guard who is in the mix there. I think that this is the position that is going to determine how the Terps wind up doing this season, even more than the frontcourt.
Initially I thought we were going to see a lot of Nick Faust at the point based on how he did at the end of last season after moving Terrell Stoglin to shooting guard. I still think Faust is going to get some time there, based on how he's playing and the team Maryland is playing. But right now, I see it being a battle between Pe'Shon Howard and Seth Allen, with Faust getting some minutes as well.
Turgeon didn't play his hand regarding who will start and praised both Howard and Allen.
Howard, now a junior, was supposed to start last season, only to spend most of it recovering from serious injuries to his foot and then to his knee. He infuriated Turgeon at times with his penchant for trying to make SportsCenter rather than help his team, and he wasn't much of a threat shooting from the outside - or at all. His offseason incident outside a local bar didn't endear him to Turgeon either.
Aside from Andrew Harrison, who along with his 6-5 twin Aaron chose Kentucky over Maryland last week, Turgeon's top recruit at the point is 6-4 senior Roddy Peters of Suitland. Phil Booth Jr., a 6-foot-3 junior point guard from Mount St. Joseph, is another target. Booth is the son of former Coppin State star Phil Booth, who was a solid 6-5, 200-pound small forward, so there might be some growing to do.
But let's not forget about Faust. If he takes care of the ball better than he did last season when he had a habit of putting it out in front of him, Faust might give Turgeon the kind of point guard he envisions. With Howard and Allen, it certainly gives Turgeon more options than he had last season when he got so frustrated with Stoglin and Faust at times that he used Jonathan Thomas, a walk-on who is no longer on the team.
I think for now it's Howard's position to lose, but the way Turgeon was raving about Allen's defense, scoring ability and athleticism -- calling him a "world-class athlete" while admitting that he hasn't coached many of them -- makes me think that Allen might be starting sooner rather than later. That Allen was also Turgeon's first recruit also might give him a leg up
Heading into the season, which member of the Terps could surprise fans the most?
Matt Bracken: If there's one thing we've learned about Mark Turgeon during his first year on the job, it's that he speaks his mind and rarely equivocates. So while scanning the transcript from Maryland's media day, one quote from Turgeon in particular caught my eye.
"Charles Mitchell I think is one of the most underrated guys in the country because he was a little overweight but he has a great feel for the game," Turgeon said. "He had the best practice [Monday] because he was at his lowest weight total."
Turgeon noted that Mitchell has dropped 15 pounds since he came to College Park. Strength and conditioning coach Kyle Tarp got a shoutout from Turgeon for his work with Mitchell and fellow plus-sized freshman Shaquille Cleare, whom nearly everyone expects to play a significant role on this Terps team.
But Mitchell, as Turgeon said, was a bit underrated coming out of Wheeler High in Marietta, Ga. Rivals.com was the biggest believer in Mitchell, giving him a four-star rating and slotting him as the No. 22 power forward nationally and the No. 92 prospect in the 2012 class. 247Sports.com also gave Mitchell four-star billing. Scout.com (three stars, No. 27 center) and ESPN.com (three stars, No. 23 center) were less enthusiastic about the Terp's potential.
If you look at film on Mitchell from high school, you see a surprisingly nimble big man who can put the ball on the floor, finish at the rim and hit the turnaround jumper. Scout.com's Evan Daniels acknowledged as much in an interview the day Mitchell committed to the Terps. "He let his body go a little bit last summer, but he’s got a chance to be a good player at Maryland," Daniels said.
Now, according to Turgeon, Mitchell's conditioning is where it needs to be. Cleare and Alex Len are Maryland's most talented bigs, and James Padgett, by all accounts, has had a great offseason and brings a veteran presence. But a motivated Mitchell should provide Maryland with athleticism on the block, and produce matchup problems against bigger, less mobile 4-men. How many minutes per game Mitchell sees is very much up for debate, but I think it will be tough to keep him off the floor.