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.
Who will be Maryland’s quarterback next season -- or at least who will be in the mix?
Jeff Barker: Coaches won’t discuss this yet -- they’ve been asked. They typically don’t like looking that far ahead. They’ve got their hands full finding enough healthy bodies at the position to make it through the rest of this season.
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But reporters have no such limitations. We’ll talk about pretty much anything.
So here are my early rankings. The quarterback competition will be affected by how quickly -- and how well -- some of these guys can come back from injuries. That’s something you can’t always predict.
C.J. Brown. Since he was the presumptive starter in training camp before tearing an ACL, the assumption here is that he would be again. He’s experienced and mobile, and he would like to end his Maryland career on a positive note -- by proving he can be an accurate passer, not just a running threat. He is scheduled to graduate this year but has indicated he would like to return.
Ricardo Young. Most Maryland fans haven’t seen him, but I wouldn’t underestimate his chances of becoming a significant player. Young originally committed to Virginia Tech in 2010, where he redshirted as a freshman before transferring to New Mexico the following year. His coach there was current Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley. He practiced this season but was not eligible to play under transfer rules.
Caleb Rowe. The freshman only played one complete game before tearing his ACL, but his potential is obvious if you watch him throw. Teammates call him a “gunslinger.”
Perry Hills. He’s tough and tested -- at least relative to most of his quarterback competition -- and the freshman undoubtedly wants the chance to return from his own ACL tear.
Shane Cockerille. Is the current Gilman player Maryland’s quarterback of the future? Like many schools, Maryland likes to redshirt its first-year quarterbacks. The team didn’t have that luxury this season with all the injuries. "[The Maryland coaches] just like me as a tough kid that’s mobile, can run the ball and throw,” Cockerille said.
Devin Burns: The former receiver volunteered to play quarterback after Brown was injured in training camp. Does he remain at the position? We will see.
What impact should Dez Wells regaining his eligibility have on the rest of Maryland's starting lineup and rotation?
Don Markus: I expect Wells to be in the starting lineup Friday night against Kentucky at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY. If the game is close -- which seems now like more of a possibility if Wells can stay out of foul trouble -- I also expect him with the ball in his hands down the stretch. From what I have seen, read and heard about the 6-5 guard from Raleigh, N.C., he has the potential to be a first-team All-ACC player this season after being one of the top freshmen in the Atlantic 10 a year ago at Xavier.
With Wells in the lineup, presumably at shooting guard but also at small forward, that might give Mark Turgeon a little more confidence to play freshman Seth Allen at the point. I know that Turgeon was a little unsettled about the point guard situation because Pe'Shon Howard didn't give him enough offensively, something Allen showed in his 16-point, five-assist, no-turnover debut against Indiana (Pa.), a Division II team, a week ago. I can see him playing Allen and Wells together a lot, with Nick Faust moving up to small forward.
Given the hoopla surrounding the game in Brooklyn -- heck, Turgeon referenced the fact that the Terps might get a little starry-eyed just seeing Dick Vitale sitting courtside -- the second-year Maryland coach might go with his most experienced lineup at least for the start. That means Howard, Wells, Faust on the perimeter, with sophomore Alex Len at center and senior James Padgett, who grew up in Brooklyn, at power forward. But since Turgeon mentioned the fact that Maryland's advantage on Kentucky might be experience and depth, look for the Terps to go at least to nine players, maybe 10.
Figure on Allen getting a pretty good run in the backcourt, with freshman Charles Mitchell (15 rebounds in the exhibition game) probably getting the first call off the bench up front. I know that fellow freshmen Shaquille Cleare and Jake Layman played a little nervously in the exhibition game, but Turgeon said at the news conference to announce Wells regained his eligibility that he expected both of the two top recruits to show better in Brooklyn than they did in College Park. I also think transfer Logan Aronhalt, a fifth-year grad student who played at Albany, will get some minutes, especially if he comes out and hits a couple of 3s.
A lot of Turgeon's confidence in using some of his younger guys -- and some of his older guys -- stems from the fact that Wells is considered the glue, without ever having played a game for the Terps. He is their best offensive player, maybe their best defensive player and a leader. But he is only a sophomore who as a freshman wasn't expected to do for Xavier what he is expected to do for Maryland, which means there might be some growing into the role.
What does the national media think of this Maryland basketball team?
Matt Bracken: The consensus among most college basketball writers before Dez Wells was cleared by the NCAA was that the Terps would be an improved team with an outside shot at making the tournament. Now the Big Dance is the expectation, and the Terps’ march to March Madness begins tonight.
Gary Parrish wonders if Kentucky “might be an upset candidate,” but the CBSSports.com writer ultimately goes with the Wildcats.
To be clear, I'm still picking UK. But if there's a good time to catch John Calipari's talented-but-fresh-faced roster, early November is probably it. And Wells is just the type of player who could make a difference if UK looks more like a group of newcomers than a team of lottery picks.
ESPN.com’s Eamonn Brennan notes that tonight presents a big opportunity for Maryland for RPI purposes.
Yes, the Cats are super talented. Shocker, I know. They are also -- much more so than last year, and more so than usual under Calipari, which is saying something -- incredibly young. They haven’t had time to jell together; they won’t be the same team tonight as in March, that’s for sure. That’s also good news for Maryland, which got hyper-athletic Xavier transfer Dez Wells eligible just this week, a huge boost to a young but promising team highlighted by sophomore guard Nick Faust, center Alex Len and freshman forward Shaquille Cleare.
Finally, in a mailbag for USA Today, Eric Prisbell assesses the Terps’ status in the ACC and beyond this season.
Now that Wells is cleared to play, Maryland has a great shot to finish as high as fourth in the ACC. And at this point, I would expect that Maryland fields an NCAA tournament team. That's how big of a difference Wells makes.