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.
Does Stefon Diggs have a legitimate chance to win either the Maxwell Award or the Paul Hornung Award?
Don Markus: On first glance, you would think that the Maryland receiver and kick returner would be a long shot for any national award, given the fact that the Terps are considered by most to be – at best – a middle-of-the-pack team in the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Atlantic Division.
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But the fact that the electrifying sophomore was put on the preseason list for both awards is a testament to how good a freshman season he had in College Park. Just a few weeks ago, he wasn’t even listed in a blog about breakout players on the outstanding new website, SportsOnEarth.com.
The Maxwell Award has been around almost as long as the Heisman Trophy, and though it doesn’t get the same kind of national attention, it’s pretty prestigious. Like the Heisman, it’s given annually to the top player in college football.
The Hornung Award is in its fourth season, started by the Louisville (Ky.) Sports Commission to honor one of the city’s athletic icons. It is given to the most versatile player in college football. Last season’s winner was former Dunbar and West Virginia star Tavon Austin – a player to whom Diggs is often compared.
Obviously, Diggs has a better chance to win the Hornung Award than the Maxwell (or the Heisman, for that matter) based on the kind of season many expect he and the Terps to have in 2013. His numbers last season – 54 catches for 848 yards and six touchdowns, 26 kickoff returns for 713 yards and two touchdowns – were among the best of any freshman in the country not named Johnny Manziel.
But Diggs is going to have to get the ball even more as a sophomore to come close to the season Austin had for the Mountaineers last year as a senior, when he finished with 114 catches for 1,289 yards and 12 touchdowns as well as nearly 1,000 return yards and two touchdowns.
For that to happen, there’s going to have to be a significant upgrade at the quarterback position. While a healthy C.J. Brown will benefit from having players like Diggs and Deon Long to throw the ball to this season, I don’t think anyone believes that Brown – or any of the other quarterbacks on the roster – is as talented as former Mountaineers star Geno Smith.
There’s also a question of whether Randy Edsall is going to use Diggs to return as many punts and kickoffs as he did last season, given that he has other options this season, most prominently true freshman cornerback Will Likely.
I think for Diggs to stay in the conversation for the Hornung, the Terps are going to have to at least have a winning record. Austin won it last year with a team that finished 7-6 in its first year in the Big 12, but the Mountaineers were coming off a season when they crushed Clemson in the Orange Bowl behind a record-shattering performance by Austin. It’s fair to say he was the favorite going into the season.
The Maxwell Award is an entirely different situation. The players who have won it recently are from nationally ranked programs, including many whose teams are competing for national championships. You have to go back to 1989 to find a player from a losing team, but Anthony Thompson was given it as much for what he did over his career as for what he accomplished that season for 5-6 Indiana.
I’m not saying I expect the Terps to have a losing record. I have stated a number of times that Edsall should have his first winning season since taking over for Ralph Friedgen. The one interesting thing about the Hornung Award is a little piece of trivia about the man for whom the award is named. He is the only player on a losing team to win the Heisman, when he played for Notre Dame in 1956.
Diggs certainly will have an opportunity to get himself some attention early in the season, when the Terps open with Florida International and Old Dominion at home, and then play in Baltimore against a rebuilding West Virginia team that finished 118thin the country (out of 120) in pass defense last season. He’s on the list for both awards, and that stretch of opponents could get him in the serious conversation for at least one of them heading into Florida State in the fourth week of the season.
What’s your take on the second-degree assault case against Maryland running back Wes Brown?
Jeff Barker: First of all, that Brown made an egregious mistake. The probable cause statement says the talented running back shoved a Baltimore police detective with two hands before taking off on foot. Where was he going to go? The statement says Brown admitted shoving the officer – even demonstrating later how he did it.
Baltimore police say Brown “is a person of interest in an open non-fatal shooting investigation from last month.” His car has been linked to the shooting, and that’s why police had arrived in College Park on the night of July 3 to question him.
But the confrontation raises some questions.