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With Combine Looming, Several Players Have Already Made Statements in Draft Season

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With Combine Looming, Several Players Have Already Made Statements in Draft Season

Posted on 10 February 2011 by Glenn Clark

It’s been an eventful Draft season thus far.

National Football League personnel folks have made stops in Orlando, Florida; Mobile, Alabama and San Antonio, Texas for College All-Star Games; as well as a lesser-known stop at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona for the Eastham Energy College All Star Game.

The NFL Scouting Combine is roughly two weeks away at LucasOil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana. It will be the final high profile opportunity for players to make a statement during Draft season. Following the Combine, Draft season will be all about Pro Timing Days on college campuses and private workouts at team facilities.

Before I continue, I remind you of the East West Shrine Game players we have already profiled, the NFLPA Game players we have already profiled, as well as the Senior Bowl prospects we have already profiled.

QB-Ricky Dobbs (Navy), Pat Devlin (Delaware), Colin Kaepernick (Nevada), Josh Portis (California-Pennsylvania), Taylor Potts (Texas Tech)
FB
-Anthony Sherman (UConn)
RB
-Evan Royster (Penn State), Da’Rel Scott (Maryland), DeMarco Murray (Oklahoma), Damien Berry (Miami)
WR
-Lester Jean (Florida Atlantic), Terrence Toliver (LSU), Leonard Hankerson (Miami), Austin Pettis (Boise State), Denarius Moore (Tennessee), Owen Spencer (North Carolina State), Jock Sanders (West Virginia)
OT
-Matthew O’Donnell (Queens University Canada), Gabe Carimi (Wisconsin), Nate Solder (Colorado)
C-Zane Taylor (Utah)
DE
-Justin Trattou (Florida), Allen Bailey (Miami), Eddie Jones (Texas)
LB
-Mark Herzlich (Boston College), Casey Matthews (Oregon), Adrian Moten (Maryland)
S
-Jermale Hines (Ohio State), Jaiquawn Jarrett (Temple), Maurice Rolle (Louisiana-Lafayette)

With no player movement since the last post, my team needs for the Baltimore Ravens remain the same…

1. Defensive End
2. Offensive Tackle
3. Wide Receiver
4. Cornerback
5. Fullback
6. Inside Linebacker
7. Safety
8. Center
9. Running Back
10. Quarterback

Here’s a look at 10 potential Ravens targets who have already impressed during Draft season. Thanks to NFLDraftScout.com/CBSSports.com, ESPN.com, Wikipedia, WNST.net (The AP), YouTube, NFLDraftBible.com and various official websites for their help in putting together these bios.

QB Christian Ponder (Florida State)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zCuu6UyO3B0[/youtube]

For those of us who have followed the ACC in recent years, we’re well aware that Ponder never really lived up to the hype and potential that surrounded him.

There was a time when he was believed to be a legitimate preseason Heisman Trophy candidate. Hell-there were probably two times when that was true. It just didn’t pan out.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean he can’t still develop as a QB, especially holding a clipboard behind an established starter like Joe Flacco.

Ponder had a solid if not spectacular season for the Seminoles in 2010, becoming the first FSU QB to beat both Miami and Florida since Chris Weinke. Some of his numbers suffered a drop-off however, as he completed 184 of 299 passes (61.5%) after completing 227 of 330 passes (68.8%) as a junior. His INT to TD numbers did improve, as he threw for 20 TD’s and eight INT’s a year after throwing 14 TD’s and seven INT’s.

Ponder has good size at 6’3″, 227 pounds and a strong arm. He had an exceptional week at Ladd Peebles Stadium, where he ended up being named MVP of the Senior Bowl. There will be some concern about Ponder’s health-he missed two games in 2010 as he battled an elbow injury, including the ‘Noles loss to Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship Game. He’ll get poked and prodded a bit more than other prospects when he makes his trip to Indy.

If Ponder ends up being a 2nd or 3rd round guy (as many pundits believe he will be), he probably won’t be headed to Charm City. But if he were to slip to Saturday morning, he would be an intriguing option for GM Ozzie Newsome and company to consider.

WR Titus Young (Boise State)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uPM5ttLp_Qg[/youtube]

When I profiled fellow Broncos WR Austin Pettis before the Senior Bowl, I immediately got responses asking “what about Titus Young?”

I chose to profile Pettis (who won the “Hands” competition at ESPN’s All-Star Football Challenge last week in Southlake, Texas) first because I felt his size (6’3″) might be a more ideal fit for a team that desperately lacked a red zone target in 2010.

But in a similar way, Young could also address a significant need for the Ravens-a need for speed if you will.

Young is just 5’11″, 170 pounds-which won’t really separate himself from the team’s current top two receivers, Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason.

But Young is much quicker than either of those two, as he is expected to be able to post a 40 time in the range of 4.40 or perhaps even better. If he does, he could end up stretching the field in the way Donte’ Stallworth was unable to.

Young posted a combined 2,488 yards of offense and 22 TD’s between his junior and senior seasons at BSU. He was clearly a benefactor of playing with Pettis and QB Kellen Moore and probably from playing against WAC defenses as well. But much like you can’t teach size, you certainly can’t teach speed.

If Young posts the times we expect him to at the Combine and/or his Pro Day, he’ll end up being a particularly likely choice for Ravens Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz and company on Friday night.

WR Vincent Brown (San Diego State)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftMEiRffEDg[/youtube]

The city of San Diego has had a good run with Wide Receivers named Vincent.

But unlike the Chargers’ Vincent Jackson (6’5″), Brown’s size (6’0″) won’t be what teams who consider selecting him will be looking to add.

Instead, Brown’s hands and speed will be what teams will be looking for if they add him to their roster. Brown showed off both of those attributes in impressive ways during Senior Bowl week.

Brown had a hell of a senior campaign for the Aztecs, catching 69 balls for 1,352 yards and 10 TD’s; finishing a SDSU career where he caught 209 balls for 3,110 yards and 23 TD’s.

The question for the Ravens will be whether or not Brown could really separate himself from the likes of Mason and Boldin in the teams’ receiving corps. He’s fast, but he doesn’t appear to be as fast as even a receiver like Young.

That’s of course why Brown will likely stay on the board a bit later than Young. That could make him an intriguing option for the Ravens should he stick around until Saturday.

RB Kendall Hunter (Oklahoma State)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QVPuzPacWDY[/youtube]

If not for an ankle injury in 2009, Hunter may have entered the Draft as the top back on the board.

Consider these numbers: In 2008, Hunter produced 1,753 yards of offense and 17 TD’s. In 2010, he bounced back to churn out 1,649 yards and 16 TD’s.

There’s just that pesky 2009 season that’s mixed in-where he missed six games and tallied less than 500 yards of total offense.

Hunter has been one of the most exceptional football players to watch in the country during his time in Stillwater. His big games haven’t just come against lesser opponents, either. In the Cowboys’ loss to Nebraska last season, he ran for 201 yards and two TD’s against a Cornhuskers defense that was amongst the best in the Big 12.

The strange thing about Hunter is that despite being about the same size as Ravens RB Ray Rice (they’re both listed as 5’8″), Hunter was much more of a runner than an all-around offensive threat. Combining his sophomore and senior seasons, Hunter ran the ball 512 times while he caught just 42 passes.

I would assume that at the NFL level, Hunter’s size will dictate a need to be more of an all-around weapon. If that’s the case, he might not be the type of runner to match Rice in Cam Cameron’s offense.

But if NFL teams believe he can be an every down runner despite his size, Hunter could very well be a Friday night option for Baltimore.

DE Ryan Kerrigan (Purdue)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=St9j5K6STws[/youtube]

If I were to describe Kerrigan in just one word, I think the word I would choose would be “monster.”

This guy is an absolute beast.

The Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year tallied 25 sacks between his junior and senior seasons with the Boilermakers; and finished his career as the all-time conference leader in forced fumbles.

The only question for the Ravens about this pass rushing machine is whether or not he can stay on the edge should he be added to Chuck Pagano’s defense.

The Ravens HAVE to find a rush end this offseason. Terrell Suggs is going to remain their rush backer-although they might want to consider adding depth there in case Sergio Kindle never gets to a football field.

Kerrigan showed up at the Senior Bowl having LOST weight and taking stand-up snaps at OLB. For a player that will almost certainly go in the first round, the Ravens would need him to be able to stay on the edge and play the position they used to count on Trevor Pryce to handle.

If he can stay on the edge, Kerrigan could very well be handed a purple jersey (as long as he stays on the board) when the Ravens pick 26th.

RB Roy Helu Jr. (Nebraska)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6NDCE-A1qw[/youtube]

In an option offense, sometimes the numbers accumulated by a running back can be dismissed.

From his sophomore to senior seasons in Lincoln, Helu total 3,195 rushing yards and 27 TD’s. It was an impressive run.

Pun intended.

Much like Hunter, Helu was much more of a runner than a pass catcher in the Huskers offense. Helu’s advantage is that he’s bigger (6’0″, 220 pounds) than Hunter and has shown better durability. If the Ravens are looking for a back more in the vein of Willis McGahee-Helu could well be the guy.

On the surface, it appears as though Helu would be a good fit in John Harbaugh’s locker room as well. Helu was very involved in Nebraska’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) and made visits to area hospitals.

As of right now Helu appears to be a Saturday selection. The Ravens have selected a later round RB from Nebraska in the past (Cory Ross) and didn’t have it necessarily pay off. That doesn’t mean they’d avoid Helu-they’d just hope for better results if they look in his direction.

TE Will Yeatman (Maryland)

yeatman

When a player has 21 career catches for 177 yards and one touchdown, he’s not likely a legitimate draft prospect.

But if there’s a position where it can be done, there’s no doubt the position is Tight End.

Much like players have made the jump from college basketball (San Diego Chargers TE Antonio Gates and New Orleans Saints TE Jimmy Graham are two of the more notable), Yeatman will hope to show his athleticism in hopes of reaching the NFL.

Yeatman’s story is compelling. He was a football and lacrosse player at Notre Dame, but two alcohol-related arrests lead to his decision to leave the school. The Irish wouldn’t allow him to transfer to North Carolina, which lead him to College Park.

After getting on the lacrosse field, Yeatman finally returned to football in 2010. Unfortunately, a broken finger forced him to miss the majority of the season.

Yeatman made the trip to Phoenix for the Eastham Energy game and impressed. He made four catches for 49 yards in the game itself; but scouts were impressed with his 6’6″, 250 some pound frame and solid hands.

There will ALWAYS be a place in the NFL for a player like that.

The Ravens don’t necessarily need a Tight End after drafting Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta last year and adding Davon Drew to the active roster late in the season. That being said, the future Hall of Fame tight end running the team never seems to shy away from adding more.

Yeatman could be a late round or free agent steal. Todd Heap certainly isn’t getting younger. If he’s there, I would imagine the organization would at least make the consideration.

CB Anthony Gaitor (Florida International)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WvgcDDD-jMI[/youtube]

The Ravens have lacked size in their defensive backfield; and a 5’10″ corner from FIU probably won’t fix that.

But as we’ve seen from stars like New York Jets CB Darrelle Revis, you don’t always need to be big to a Pro Bowl caliber player.

Scouts have often commented that the former Panthers CB plays like he’s 6’2″ instead of 5’10″. During his appearance at the NFLPA Game (former Texas vs. The Nation) at the Alomodome, Gaitor’s physicality on the line and ability to stay with receivers downfield impressed scouts.

Obviously there is a significant jump from the Sun Belt Conference to the NFL. Gaitor will be scrutinized a bit more because of the talent level he faced in college.

But he’s a guy that will likely stick around until Saturday in the Draft, and could be a steal if the Ravens think they’ll lose some combination of CB’s Josh Wilson, Chris Carr and/or Fabian Washington.

RB Alex Green (Hawaii)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8tLLVQzDTs[/youtube]

It would not be even a bit unfair to call Green a “late bloomer” during his Warriors career.

Entering his senior season, Green had ran for just 453 yards and two TD’s during his time in Honolulu. Seven games into his senior season, Green had yet to put together a 100 yard rushing game.

That all changed quickly.

On October 23rd, Green rushed for 172 yards and four TD’s against Utah State, starting a streak where he would run for 100 or more yards in four of six games. Highlighting that run was a 327 yard, three TD performance at New Mexico State.

At 6’2″, 230 pounds-Green has the ideal size to compliment Rice in the Ravens offense. Like Hunter and Helu, he was much more of a runner than “offensive threat” during his college career.

Before coming to Hawaii, Green helped lead California’s Butte Community College to a National Championship in 2008.

So he has that going for him. Which is nice.

He looks like he’ll be a late round pick in the Draft, which could put him right in the place where the Ravens could look to add a back.

WR Ryan Whalen (Stanford)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ik-LNTMYn50[/youtube]

In the past, the Ravens had easy access to Cardinal athletes-as John Harbaugh could just find out whatever he needed to know from his brother-Jim Harbaugh-who coached players like Whalen at Stanford.

The problem now is that Jim has taken over as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, and probably wants to keep as much scouting info to himself as possible.

Whalen had an impressive junior season in Palo Alto (57 catches, 926 yards, four TD’s), but an elbow injury hurt his numbers in 2010 (41 catches, 439 yards, two TD’s).

The problem for Whalen is that his size (6’2″, 205 pounds) and speed (expected mid 4.5′s 40 yard dash) wouldn’t really separate him from Boldin or Mason in Baltimore.

That doesn’t mean he couldn’t be brought in to give the team receiving depth-especially with TJ Houshmandzadeh and Stallworth possible departures.

Whalen would be an intriguing prospect for Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta and company the longer he sticks around into Saturday.

Flexing my mic muscles since 1983…

-G

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Draft Season Takes Odd Detour to San Antonio

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Draft Season Takes Odd Detour to San Antonio

Posted on 05 February 2011 by Glenn Clark

This one might be the toughest one yet.

After big weeks in Orlando and Mobile, there’s still another All-Star Game for National Football League hopefuls to make a statement at the start of NFL Draft season.

The NFLPA Game is Saturday in San Antonio, Texas (2pm-CBS College Sports) at the Alomodome. You’ll remember the game previously being known as the “Texas vs. The Nation” game. Well, you MIGHT remember the game previously being known as that.

The game will still keep the “Team Texas” vs. “Team USA format”, but the Draft showcase surrounding the game is significantly more important than the game itself.

This one isn’t quite at the level of the other All-Star Games, but it’s just as important for the players involved. These players are mostly guys who are currently on the outside l

Before I continue to with NFLGA Game player profiles, I remind you of the East West Shrine Game players we have already profiled, as well as the Senior Bowl prospects we have already profiled.

QB-Ricky Dobbs (Navy), Pat Devlin (Delaware), Colin Kaepernick (Nevada)
FB
-Anthony Sherman (UConn)
RB
-Evan Royster (Penn State), Da’Rel Scott (Maryland), DeMarco Murray (Oklahoma)
WR
-Lester Jean (Florida Atlantic), Terrence Toliver (LSU), Leonard Hankerson (Miami), Austin Pettis (Boise State)
OT
-Matthew O’Donnell (Queens University Canada), Gabe Carimi (Wisconsin), Nate Solder (Colorado)
DE
-Justin Trattou (Florida), Allen Bailey (Miami)
LB
-Mark Herzlich (Boston College), Casey Matthews (Oregon)
S
-Jermale Hines (Ohio State), Jaiquawn Jarrett (Temple)

The only player movement for the Baltimore Ravens since our last post has been the re-signing of Punter Sam Koch, so my team needs remain the same…

1. Defensive End
2. Offensive Tackle
3. Wide Receiver
4. Cornerback
5. Fullback
6. Inside Linebacker
7. Safety
8. Center
9. Running Back
10. Quarterback

Here’s a look at 10 players to keep an eye on during the NFLPA Game…

QB Josh Portis (California-Pennsylvania)

portis

Yep. Same guy.

After a six year NCAA career that saw him frustrate Gators fans in Gainesville and Terrapins fans in College Park before finally settling in with the Vulcans, Portis is suddenly now thought of as a potential NFL player.

There’s good reason for it.

Portis completed 205 of his 335 passing attempts in 2010, tossing 33 touchdowns and throwing just seven interceptions along the way. He threw for 6,072 yards combined over his junior and senior seasons.

And despite how many times his design run plays went wrong at Byrd Stadium, Portis is still just as dangerous with his feet.

Portis has the look of a QB. He’s 6’4″, 208 pounds, fast and is the cousin of outstanding Washington Redskins RB Clinton Portis. He received an invite to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, where he’ll have the chance to make a further impact for NFL personnel. His California coach was Dwain Painter-who coached NFL quarterbacks for some 20 years.

He’s taking the draft process seriously, having opened JoshPortis.com to help gain a more significant profile.

Fans in the Old Line State have a bitter taste about him because things didn’t work out for Portis in James Franklin’s offense. That doesn’t necessarily mean he was a bad quarterback. His numbers clearly reflect the fact that he played at the D2 level, but there’s still a chance he could be a late round option in Charm City as they try to stabilize the position behind Joe Flacco.

QB Taylor Potts (Texas Tech)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRYaO56e9hU[/youtube]

The great thing about Taylor Potts is that he’s the first Red Raiders quarterback in a number of years whose big numbers can’t immediately be dismissed by saying something along the lines of “that’s just because he played in a Mike Leach offense.”

That being said, the numbers for Potts were still prolific after Tommy Tubberville replaced Leach. Between his junior and senior seasons, Potts threw for 7,166 yards, tossing 57 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. Unlike the QB who came to Lubbock before him (Graham Harrell), Potts didn’t have the pleasure of throwing the ball to now San Francisco 49ers WR Michael Crabtree.

Harrell (and fellow former TTU QB’s Kliff Kingsbury & Sonny Cumbie) haven’t exactly built a pipeline from Lubbock to the NFL. Potts is the first quarterback to come after the Leach era. Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome will have to determine if that makes him worth taking a late round (or free agent) shot on to complement Flacco.

WR Denarius Moore (Tennessee)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AinMXfB3fyM[/youtube]

Moore is going to run one of the most important 40 yard dashes this year at LucasOil Stadium.

If he slides under 4.40, he’ll give himself a great opportunity to be a high pick. If he can’t get under 4.40; folks like Ravens Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz will have to wonder if he’s really capable of addressing a speed receiver need.

Moore had an outstanding senior season for the Volunteers, catching 47 balls for 981 yards and nine touchdowns. He finished his career in Knoxville with a very respectable 112 catches for 2,004 yards and 18 TD’s.

But he HAS to be the speed guy. At 6’0″-6’1″, 191 pounds-if he can’t stretch the field he wouldn’t separate himself from Derrick Mason or Anquan Boldin. The problem is that if he does-the former Vols star probably won’t be around on Saturday when the Ravens might like to pick him.

DE Eddie Jones (Texas)

eddiejones

Until his senior season, Jones had not exactly proved to anyone outside of Austin that he was capable of generating a QB rush from the edge.

But in 2010, Jones was able to tally six sacks (and a forced fumble) for a Longhorns squad that underperformed greatly.

Jones will have to use the stop in San An and other stops during Draft season to show that he is still developing as a rusher. If he does, a team like the Ravens could very well choose to snap him up late in the Draft.

At 6’2″ and 258 pounds he’ll have to bulk up a bit, but the team won’t want to see him lose speed in the process. My guess is that the team wouldn’t select Jones with the idea that he’ll be the primary rusher-but he could team with Paul Kruger to give them depth behind a higher pick or a free agent addition.

S Maurice Rolle (Louisiana-Lafayette)

morolle

I know what you’re wondering and the answer is “no.”

Despite playing in the defensive backfield and having the last name “Rolle”, Maurice Rolle is not related to either former Ravens CB Samari Rolle or Tennessee Titans S Myron Rolle.

Rolle started to develop a bit of a nose for the football over his last two seasons with the Ragin Cajuns. He collected four interceptions but battled some leg injury issues, which cut his 2010 season short.

Rolle isn’t a likely draft pick as of this moment, but he’s the type of player that can work that way with a good trip to Indy. His size (6’1″, 197 pounds) gives him the look of a NFL player, he just has to prove to folks (like Ravens Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta) that he can make a transition from Sun Belt Conference to NFL.

C Zane Taylor (Utah)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9o5s1o9IgDE[/youtube]

As the Ravens look for a center of the future behind Matt Birk, Taylor is certainly going to be a viable option.

Taylor is 6’3″ and 313 pounds but battled some minor knee injuries in 2010. In 2010 he also helped lead the way for a Utes rushing attack that tallied nearly 2,000 yards.

Plus…he’s STRONG. According to the team’s official website, he can bench 440 pounds and squat 565 pounds. Impressive, yes.

The Ravens aren’t likely to go center early in this draft, but they might think about Taylor as the Draft moves toward Saturday.

RB Damien Berry (Miami)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QpFtJQsYK5o[/youtube]

Statistically, Berry’s 2010 campaign for the Hurricanes was not all that impressive.

He finished with just 899 yards and 5 touchdowns; although he did average 4.7 yards per carry and managed four games of 100 yards or more.

NFL personnel folks are going to really have to look at the hard running ability of Berry to determine where he might fit in during the Draft process.

He has decent size (6’0″, 215 pounds) and has the look/feel of a back who can take a bunch of handoffs. In fact, he had 15 or more carries in nine of 12 games for the ‘Canes in 2010. Berry should be a hit during the interview process in Indy, as he was voted as the team’s “Good Guy” by Miami media during his senior year.

Berry has the feel of a back who could be a sleeper on Saturday. The Ravens have to make a decision regarding fellow former ‘Cane Willis McGahee; and Berry might be the exact type of back who could complement Ray Rice in a positive way.

WR Owen Spencer (North Carolina State)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pch-yYmCy98[/youtube]

One of the most under-the-radar screen receivers on the board in 2011, Spencer has the opportunity to wow personnel folks over the next few months.

Spencer never really posted explosive numbers during his four years in Raleigh, but he was nothing if not solid. Between his junior and senior seasons with the Wolfpack, Spencer caught 90 balls for 1,677 yards and 10 TD’s, including the goofy deflection of a Russell Wilson desperate heave seen above.

Wilson has size (6’3″, 191 pounds) but could use a little more speed (he’s expected to post a 40 time in the 4.5 range at the Combine) if he’s going to be counted on to extend the field for a team like the Ravens. He was certainly capable of posting big plays for NC State, averaging 22.3 yards per catch in ’08, 25.5 yards per catch in ’09 and 15.2 yards per catch in ’10.

With TJ Houshmandzadeh and Donte’ Stallworth serious question marks to return, a player like Spencer could be the exact addition the Ravens need. But Spencer has a lot of work to do between now and the last weekend of April to prove he’s a solid option.

WR Jock Sanders (West Virginia)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPmgqklGM7A[/youtube]

If nothing else, the former Mountaineers standout might very well have the best name in the NFL Draft.

Sanders’ size (5’7″, 179 pounds) is an issue. His athleticism is not. He’ll be expected to post a very quick time in the 40 at the Combine/and or his own Pro Timing Day in Morgantown. He’ll also be expected to be involved in the return game no matter where he ends up being selected.

He’s absolutely an athlete, having also lettered in basketball at St. Petersburg Catholic High School in Florida. The question now is whether or not he’s really a football player-particularly at the NFL level.

He can certainly stretch the field; but his size will mean he absolutely HAS to be behind defensive backs to be able to make plays. If he ends up in one on one battles with defenders, he’s going to lose. That’s problematic for teams like the Ravens who don’t want to risk turnovers.

He’ll stick around later into the draft; maybe even after that. At some point, he’ll be a player the Ravens will at least want to consider.

LB Adrian Moten (Maryland)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KMT7Bdm1Kpg[/youtube]

He might not be a natural rush backer, but Moten certainly showed the ability at times (despite battling wrist injuries) to get to the quarterback. During four seasons under Ralph Friedgen, Moten tallied 15 sacks.

Not only did he show an ability to pressure QB’s, Moten also finished his four year career with 205 tackles, two forced fumbles and six interceptions-including four in his senior campaign.

Moten is a player who will be available late in the draft and could fit a need for the Ravens if any of their current restricted free agent LB’s depart this offseason. He has good size (6’2″, 230 pounds); but would benefit well from shaving his 40 time under 4.6.

He’s no slam dunk to get picked, but the former Terp could well be an option for Baltimore.

Thanks to WNST.net (The AP), NFLDraftScout.com/CBSSports.com, Wikipedia, YouTube and various official Athletic sites for helping us put together the profiles

Flexing my mic muscles since 1983…

-G

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NFL Draft Season Moves To Alabama For Senior Bowl

Posted on 26 January 2011 by Glenn Clark

NFL Personnel folks didn’t have to travel far this week.

After this past week’s East West Shrine Game at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, NFL Draft season shifts from Florida to Mobile, Alabama for the Senior Bowl.

Saturday’s game from Ladd-Peebles Stadium will air at 4pm on NFL Network. Senior Bowl practices will also air throughout the week on NFL Network.

Baltimore Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome, Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta and Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz lead a group representing the organization in Alabama.

Before I continue to with my player profiles, I remind you of the players we have already profiled.

QB-Ricky Dobbs (Navy), Pat Devlin (Delaware)
FB-Anthony Sherman (UConn)
RB-Evan Royster (Penn State), Da’Rel Scott (Maryland)
WR-Lester Jean (Florida Atlantic), Terrence Toliver (LSU)
OT-Matthew O’Donnell (Queens University Canada)
DE-Justin Trattou (Florida)
S-Jermale Hines (Ohio State)

With the only movement for the organization this week being the (reported) extension the team gave K Billy Cundiff, there’s no movement in my “biggest areas of need”…

1. Defensive End
2. Offensive Tackle
3. Wide Receiver
4. Cornerback
5. Fullback
6. Inside Linebacker
7. Safety
8. Center
9. Running Back
10. Quarterback

Now here’s a look at 10 players participating in this week’s Senior Bowl who you should keep an eye out for.

WR Leonard Hankerson (Miami)

Look, I don’t want to watch this video again any more than any other Terrapins fans reading this. But the 1:40 mark is a perfect example of something Hankerson could bring to Charm City…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6lp4sxzFlQ[/youtube]

Ugh.

Here’s what we know. Hankerson is 6’2″ (205 pounds), but can both stretch the field and get up and get balls-although maybe not quite as well as some of the 6’4″ and 6’5″ receivers available.

Hankersoon broke Hurricanes single season records in 2010 with 72 catches, 1,156 yards and 13 touchdowns. He had 75 receiving yards or more in eight of the Canes’ 13 games his senior year.

Those single season records come from a school that produced the likes of Andre Johnson, Santana Moss and Michael Irvin just as a reminder.

There really aren’t any red flags with Hankerson. There are no obvious character flaws (although he’ll certainly be picked apart when he reaches the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis) and he served as a team captain in Coral Gables last season.

If he was two inches taller, he’d be a slam dunk. If he’s on the board in the 2nd or 3rd round he might still be.

LB Mark Herzlich (Boston College)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OzZUA5CZ6IQ[/youtube]

The good news for Mark Herzlich is that no matter what happens in his quest to reach the NFL, he already has enough material for writing his first book.

Herzlich is best known now for his recovery from Ewing’s sarcoma, a form of bone cancer that caused him to miss the entire 2009 season. But before getting cancer, Herzlich was on his way to being a potential Top 45 pick in the NFL Draft.

In ’08, Herzlich tallied 110 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles, six interceptions and two TD returns. He was an absolute wrecking machine.

He was still one of the better linebackers in the ACC when he returned in 2010, but he didn’t post the same type of season. He finished with just 65 tackles, but still forced two fumbles and brought down four interceptions.

He looks like he can still perform at a very high level, but it isn’t a guarantee. NFL teams will take his recovery into account, but they will look at both the positive and negative aspects.

On the positive side, he’s a solid human being who has already shown the ability to to overcome adversity.

On the negative side, teams will have to at least CONSIDER the possibility that he might not ever regain the dominance he showed in Chestnut Hill before his diagnosis.

He might very well be a hell of a player, perhaps the exact type of defender the Ravens could line up next to Ray Lewis and let him learn from the future Hall of Famer.

Neat story-Herzlich was such an impressive athlete coming out of Conestoga High School (Pennsylvania) that was actually offered a lacrosse scholarship by Dave Pietramala at Johns Hopkins. Doesn’t make him a better option, just a neat story.

OT Gabe Carimi (Wisconsin)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjPsgcj2ufI[/youtube]

While Carimi will almost certainly at least START his National Football League career as a Right Tackle, his 6’7″, 325 pound frame will make some scouts think of him as a Left Tackle of the future.

Carimi’s representatives will ABSOLUTELY throw around the name of Cleveland Browns Pro Bowl Tackle Joe Thomas during Draft season. Thomas was also a dominant O-Line force for the Badgers, although he was thought to be more of a slam dunk at the NFL level than Carimi has been thus far.

Not only does Carimi have a solid ability to protect the passer, but he showed quite the ability to run block as well. The Badgers finished second in the league in rushing, just five yards behind Illinois. RB John Clay rushed for over 1,000 yards despite missing two games.

Mobile is a big week for Carimi. Indy will be a big week for him as well. His size and his success in the Big Ten (not only did he take care of NFL prospect/Ohio State DE Cameron Heyward for the most part in the video above, he also handled NFL prospect/Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn as well) combined with a strong Draft season could push him to the Top 10 in the Draft.

But much like Michael Oher, if he’s around in the early to mid 20′s (especially at 26), the Ravens might not think twice to grab him. With Jared Gaither’s future in Baltimore in question, the Ravens could be wise to try to bookend Oher and Carimi moving forward.

LB Casey Matthews (Oregon)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUz2o2a_OXA[/youtube]

As NFL fans watched Matthews lead the Ducks against the Auburn Tigers in the BCS Championship Game out in Glendale, many of them thought to themselves, “this guy could really help my team.”

Some of those same NFL fans will be watching Clay Matthews (III) lead the Green Bay Packers against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl next week and will think to themselves “my team needs to get his brother.”

It’s with that in mind that I point out Casey Matthews ISN’T Clay Matthews. It doesn’t mean he isn’t a good player that could help NFL teams, it just means he isn’t the type of sack machine his brother has been.

Casey Matthews is more of inside linebacker, perhaps the type of player that could step in and learn the WILL spot that Jameel McClain, Dannell Ellerbe and Tavares Gooden have failed to nail down.

Matthews is 6’1″ and 232 but isn’t quite as quick as a number of other inside linebackers. He averaged over 69 tackles a season from his sophomore year to his senior in Eugene; adding eight sacks, four interceptions and a forced fumble over the same three year span.

The NFL is clearly in his blood. Not only is his brother an All-Pro performer, his father (Clay Jr.) was a four time Pro Bowler over a 19 year career with the Browns and Atlanta Falcons. His grandfather (Clay Sr.) played for the San Francisco 49ers in the 1950′s. His uncle (Bruce) was a Hall of Fame OL for the Houston Oilers. His cousin (Kevin) is a lineman for the Tenneessee Titans. His cousin (Jake) just finished his freshman season at Texas A&M and could well reach the NFL too.

He looks like he could hang around for awhile on Draft weekend. If he’s available into late Friday night or Saturday, he could end up being a steal for the Ravens.

(Thanks to Mobile Press-Register for headline photo of Matthews)

DE Allen Bailey (Miami)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-A6SlfWKPo[/youtube]

The Ravens need a Defensive End. Unfortunately for them, Bailey has looked better on the inside of the D-Line in Mobile-at least according to CBSSports.com.

Bailey measured in at 6’3″, 278 pounds in Mobile; which reportedly left him at a not-so-surprising disadvantage when matched up against the better Offensive Tackles participating in the Senior Bowl. It might be nothing more than a blip on the radar screen for a player who will eventually become a dominant Rush End. It might be a sign that Bailey will never truly be an End at the NFL level.

Bailey showed an ability to get after Atlantic Coast Conference quarterbacks, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to the next level. He tallied 102 tackles and 19 sacks over his final three seasons with the Canes. He has the moves, but the power is a question.

He might prove to be an effective interior lineman at the next level. But if the consensus is that he’ll be a Defensive Tackle in the NFL, he probably won’t be the guy for the Ravens in the first or second round.

WR Austin Pettis (Boise State)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FfqGvm5PNuY[/youtube]

Yep. That’s impressive.

There’s a lot that’s impressive about the former Broncos receiver. First, he’s 6’3″ and can get up (as you saw in the video). Second, he’s quick. He’s expected to be able to run in the 4.5′s at LucasOil Stadium.

Pettis finished his career with 229 catches for 2,838 yards and 39 touchdowns. In BSU’s 2010 Labor Day upset of Virginia Tech at FedEx Field, Pettis also blocked a punt and held for an extra point. Later in the season he even THREW for a touchdown.

Clearly some of Pettis’ impressive numbers came from being part of a high-powered WAC offense that included Heisman Trophy QB candidate Kellen Moore and fellow Senior Bowl WR Titus Young. The question will be whether or not he can still be effective at the NFL when a team doesn’t have the football for as many plays and a coordinator (say…Cam Cameron) isn’t calling quite as many passes.

Right now Pettis looks like a potentially dangerous target for QB Joe Flacco if he’s available late Friday night or Saturday afternoon. He could be a solid compliment to Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason and whoever else the team lines up at WR.

RB DeMarco Murray (Oklahoma)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBFs5HZwyng[/youtube]

Much like Carimi’s reps will do their best to use the words “Joe Thomas” as much as possible during Draft season, Murray’s reps will ABSOLUTELY look to use the words “Adrian Peterson” as much as possible during the same stretch.

They’ll do well to compare Murray’s explosiveness to the fellow former Sooners back. They’ll unfortunately also remind NFL personnel that Murray (hamstring, knee, etc.) has a bit of an injury background much like Peterson.

Murray’s size (6’1″, 207 pounds) and ability (he once ran a 4.42 40 and recorded a 36.5 inch vertical leap while in Norman) should translate to the NFL with no problem. Murray averaged well over four yards per carry during his career in the Big 12. He ran for 50 touchdowns and caught another 13 over four seasons. The word “explosive” certainly fits.

If he’s available in Round 2, the Ravens would likely do well to pair him with current RB Ray Rice, especially if RB Willis McGahee departs.

QB Colin Kaepernick (Nevada)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jq1gL_Q-vO0[/youtube]

This much I know. In Reno, there couldn’t be a negative word said about Kaepernick. The guy is an ICON.

I understand why. Kaepernick LOOKS like a quarterback. He stands at 6’6″ and weighs in at 225 pounds. He’s unbelievably quick, with the capability to run a 4.5 40 (or maybe even under that) at the Combine.

During his four year career with the Wolf Pack, Kaepernick became the only NCAA FBS quarterback to throw for 10,000 yards and rush for another 4,000. He was also the only player to ever have three seasons of 2,000+ passing yards and 1,000 plus rushing yards.

At times (including the team’s upset win over Boise State in 2010), Kaepernick looked absolutely brilliant.

There will be one particularly big question mark surrounding Kaepernick during Draft season. NFL personnel folks will have to figure out how much of Kaepernick’s success can be tied to Coach Chris Ault’s “Pistol Offense.” The system was fun to watch and produced explosive numbers-but it isn’t a system that will translate to the NFL level. Kaepernick doesn’t really have much in the way of injury concerns, with his only notable injury being an ankle sprain against the Terps in the 2008 Humanitarian Bowl.

Kaepernick looks like he could be very good. If he keeps performing at a high level during Draft season, he’ll probably be picked too high for the Ravens to consider him as a compliment to Flacco.

OT Nate Solder (Colorado)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76BVEBtw-qk[/youtube]

As of right now, Solder looks like he could very well be in the mix when the Ravens pick at 26.

If so, he could be a VERY tempting option to join new Offensive Line Coach Andy Moeller’s group.

Solder is an enigma. His technique and ability didn’t always match his mammoth size (6’9″, 315 pounds) during his Buffaloes career. There were absolutely times where he manhandled players who were clearly matchup problems. There were also times where quicker ends and linebackers were able to move around him.

Reports from Mobile say Solder has struggled against players like Cal’s Cameron Jordan, but has impressed against Purdue’s Ryan Kerrigan.

He looks like he could be a franchise tackle; but he’ll need further development. The Buffs weren’t really an offensive juggernaut, but that isn’t necessarily Solder’s fault.

The question for the Ravens will be whether or not a project like Solder is a good compliment to Oher. It’s a fair question. They’ll hopefully get an answer as Draft season progresses.

S Jaiquawn Jarrett (Temple)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_K2Aj0xujxc[/youtube]

I’ve been having trouble trying to figure out exactly how good Jarrett is.

He had a very good career for the Owls, collecting 292 tackles, forcing two fumbles and tallying nine interceptions. He was often the best player on the field during MAC contests.

Yep…no idea.

Jarrett has the look of a NFL player, checking in at 6’2″ and weighing 202 pounds. He’s agile and looks good in man coverage. He’s not necessarily an Ed Reed-type ballhawk; and might translate better at strong safety at the next level.

He’s probably a Friday night guy at this point. With Dawan Landry potentially leaving, he could be an option to get into the mix with Tom Zbikowksi and Haruki Nakamura next season.

(Thanks to YouTube, NFLDraftScout.com, WNST.net (The AP), ESPN.com, Wikipedia, and various official college websites for help in putting together the profiles.)

Flexing my mic muscles since 1983…

-G

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NFL Draft Season Kicks Off In Orlando at East West Shrine Game

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NFL Draft Season Kicks Off In Orlando at East West Shrine Game

Posted on 22 January 2011 by Glenn Clark

For NFL Draft nerds (like myself), this week has marked the true start to NFL Draft season.

Baltimore Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome lead a group of staffers who traveled to Orlando to watch practice ahead of this year’s annual East West Shrine Game.

With the NFL Draft likely to take place before free agency begins this year, it can be argued that Draft season is more significant than it has been in years past.

Before we start to look at players involved in Draft season, I think we should first identify the Ravens’ biggest areas of need. With free agency still to determine many things, here are the areas where I believe the team most needs to improve.

1. Defensive End-Newsome said this week the team needs a “companion” for LB Terrell Suggs in pass rush. I agree, and I believe it needs to be a true edge rusher.
2. Offensive Tackle-If the team feels comfortable with bringing back Jared Gaither (and Head Coach John Harbaugh indicated they were), re-signing him could address the problem. If not, they’ll need to upgrade.
3. Wide Receiver-The Ravens will have to make decisions on TJ Houshmandzadeh and Donte’ Stallworth; but need to come away with a big receiver and a speed receiver that can both be counted on offensively.
4. Cornerback-Only Domonique Foxworth and Lardarius Webb are under contract, so the team needs to make decisions on Chris Carr, Josh Wilson, Fabian Washington and Cary Williams. Either way, they would be well served to add a bigger, more physical corner.
5. Fullback-If Le’Ron McClain returns, this wouldn’t be an issue. With the current expectation that he won’t return, the team will be looking for an option here.
6. Inside Linebacker-At the MIKE spot, the team knows Ray Lewis can’t play forever. At the WILL spot, the team has three players (Jameel McClain, Tavares Gooden, Dannell Ellerbe) who are all coming up on some form of free agency and who have not separated themselves from each other at all.
7. Safety-While it doesn’t appear Ed Reed will retire this offseason, the Ravens have to think about the possibility it could happen in the near future. At the same time, Dawan Landry is a free agent and appears to be one of the more likely free agents on the team to get bigger money elsewhere.
8. Center-Whether or not Matt Birk retires (I’ll guess he doesn’t), the team clearly needs to review the position. If Birk returns, it will only be for one more season. I don’t think the team has future plans for Chris Chester in the middle. Daniel Sanders could be an option, but the team might be well to draft a center as well.
9. Running Back-Willis McGahee is a very likely departure this offseason, leaving the team with a need to compliment Ray Rice.
10. Quarterback-If Marc Bulger departs, the Ravens will need someone else to backup Joe Flacco. Hunter Cantwell could be an option, but they might want to at least CONSIDER a doomsday theory scenario with Flacco and draft a mid to late round QB as well.

Some of these positions will be addressed whenever free agency finally does begin, others can be addressed simply by signing the team’s own free agents. Before free agency is even an issue, the Ravens will have to get through Draft season.

Here are a look at 10 players participating in the Shrine Game, which you can watch at 4pm on NFL Network.

RB Evan Royster (Penn State)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tWf1NOPkL0[/youtube]

After an explosive sophomore season (1,391 yards of total offense and 12 TD’s), Royster immediately gained attention.

Incredibly, he posted two more very steady seasons, tallying 1,356 yards of total offense and 8 TD’s in 2009; 1,216 yards of total offense and 7 TD’s in 2010. He has the size of a back who could compliment Rice (6’1″, 228 pounds) and many scouts think he’ll have a solid career as a third down back at the NFL level.

So what’s the problem? Well, Royster’s biggest performances as a senior came against Temple and Michigan, neither or which can really be considered premiere defenses. He also doesn’t fit the bill of the dynamic backs in the Naitonal Football League currently like Rice, Jacksonville Jaguars back Maurice Jones-Drew, Houston Texans back Arian Foster, Tennessee Titans back Chris Johnson or Kansas City Chiefs back Jamaal Charles.

As of right now, he’s probably a mid to late round pick. If so, he might be a solid pick-up should McGahee leave Charm City.

WR Lester Jean (Florida Atlantic)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mihM5auuXx0[/youtube]

As the Ravens look for a receiver who can  extend the field, they might want to think about Jean. He’s 6’3″ (and somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 pounds), and has deceptive quickness.

While the Owls don’t exactly play against top caliber opposition in the Sun Belt conference, Jean also managed to post big games against Texas (see above) and Michigan State. He finished the 2010 season with 64 catches for 988 yards and 8 TD’s, wrapping up a career with 146 catches for 1,992 yards and 15 touchdowns.

He’s probably a late round pick at this point, but what he does at the Citrus Bowl Saturday and what he does at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis could lift him to late Friday night or early Saturday morning. If the Ravens don’t go receiver early, he could certainly be an option for the team later in the weekend. Jean wasn’t exactly hotly pursued out of High School in Miami, but he could be a hot name in April.

DE Justin Trattou (Florida)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DBWhBn75KM[/youtube]

Maybe an interception isn’t the greatest highlight to offer for a player the Ravens would be looking to see handle an edge rush, but I can only work with what I have.

Trattou is a rising end whose size has never matched his ability to bring down a QB. He tallied just 8 sacks over his four seasons in Gainesville despite his 6’4″, 255 pound frame. In fairness, he was surrounded by top notch rushers like Carlos Dunlap during much of his Gators career.

Trattou may pan out to be more of a Dwan Edwards or Cory Redding contain type of end, but NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks says he’s put together an impressive mix of rush moves this week in the shadow of Disney World. If he continues to show a rush presence, he could be an intriguing name for the Ravens to consider on Saturday.

S Jermale Hines (Ohio State)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=atBM7zf2IAw[/youtube]

Hines’ career interception total over four years in Columbus (three) looks more like a single game for a future Hall of Famer like Reed, but that doesn’t mean Hines hasn’t had a nose for the football. The safety from Cleveland also finished his Buckeyes career with 159 tackles and two sacks, and was named first team All-Big Ten by conference coaches in 2010.

At 6’1″, 216 pounds; Hines is bigger than your typical free safety-but is also quick. In fact, Hines could be an option as a returner at the next level as well. He’s as much an athlete as a football player, but his football skills certainly developed well at OSU, and could very well still improve as he reaches the NFL.

As the Ravens approach Saturday, Hines could be a valuable depth option at safety. While Tom Zbikowski handled FS well with Reed on the PUP list, he didn’t necessarily convince anyone he was absolutely the team’s replacement for Reed longterm. Hines could be that type of player someday if groomed appropriately at a young age.

WR Terrence Toliver (LSU)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hhIrQn1Nd7w[/youtube]

His numbers are by no means overwhelming, but exactly how many times was Ravens Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron able to call a play like the TD pass Toliver caught from Jarrett Lee above?

Exactly.

The Ravens finished 22nd in red zone efficiency in 2010. For the numerous complaints about the lack of creative play-calling, there was only so much for Cameron to work with. Namely, he missed a target the size of Toliver.

Toliver caught just 41 balls for 579 yards and five TD’s during his senior campaign in Baton Rouge. All five TD’s happened either in the Florida game above or in the Tigers’ Cotton Bowl win over Texas A&M, where he caught three.

But there’s another number that’s significantly more important.

6’5″.

The only receiver the Ravens have with such size is James Hardy, and he’s James Hardy. If the Ravens are truly looking to get more dynamic offensively, Toliver could be a solid pickup on Friday night or Saturday.

FB Anthony Sherman (UConn)

anthonysherman

I would love to have been able to share a YouTube clip of the Huskies FB with you, but when you rush just four times for a total of one yard in your senior season I guess there’s not much to post.

Sherman might not have big numbers, but he can help take credit for a rushing attack that finished 2nd in the Big East in 2010, just four yards behind conference leading Louisville. He also showed himself to have reliable hands in the Connecticut offense, grabbing 48 passes for 477 yards and a TD over his four seasons playing football in Hartford.

More importantly, Sherman lead the way for RB Jordan Todman to finish fourth in all of the NCAA FBS in rushing with 1,695 yards. If the Ravens are going to want a traditional blocking back (and the way they used McClain would make you think they are), Sherman could very well fit the bill. At 5’11″, he has a very effective way of throwing around 244 pounds.

OT Matthew O’Donnell (Queens University Canada)

I know what you’re thinking.

“Canada?”

Yeah, I’d usually just ignore a Canuck and let CFL teams fight over who gets him. But there are two unique things O’Donnell has going for him.

1-He’s 6’10.”

2-He did THIS to Boise State DE Ryan Wintersyk at an indoor practice during Shrine Game week.

Does it make him NFL material? Not necessarily. But does it mean more folks will be paying attention? Absolutely.

RB Da’Rel Scott (Maryland)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ADjVJ3MKd8k[/youtube]

Scott HAS to hope scouts were paying close attention to the Military Bowl, as his 200 yard, 2 TD performance against East Carolina was by far and away the best of his senior campaign for the Terps. If scouts could only remember his bowl game performances he’d be a lock to get selected, as he also compiled 174 yards and 2 TD’s against Nevada in the 2008 Humanitarian Bowl.

After a breakout season (1,133 yards and eight TD’s) in 2008, Scott totaled just 1,133 yards and nine TD’s in his junior and senior seasons combined.

That being said, Scott’s 5’11″, 200 pound frame is shifty but can still take a hit. He could be a steady performer behind a solid O-Line at the next level and will likely be available late into Saturday.

QB Ricky Dobbs (Navy)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gSDGeekCtMg[/youtube]

A number of teams (including the New England Patriots and Detroit Lions) have had no problems selecting service academy players in the NFL Draft and waiting until they were eligible to play. The Ravens have never done that, but with their partnership with the Maryland National Guard, they’ve certainly been more military friendly in recent years.

Dobbs probably doesn’t project to be a quarterback at the next level, but he’s a better passer than those who don’t follow the Midshipmen (see above) probably realize. Dobbs threw for over 2,500 yards over his junior and senior seasons; combining with 2,170 yards rushing.

It will be interesting to see if Dobbs stays at quarterback throughout Draft season or if he works at other positions. Receiver seems to be the best bet for him given his 5’11″, 215 pound size; but he could fit with some of the more undersized running backs in the NFL as well.

The military service will be an issue. He’s much more likely to sign as an undrafted free agent than to be picked, but he’s the type of special athlete a team might very well be willing to wait for. There’s no off-field red flags for NFL teams to worry about with Dobbs, as everything he does he keeps in mind that he ultimately wants to be the President…of the United States.

QB Pat Devlin (Delaware)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OkPzmE0__7A[/youtube]

If the Pat Devlin story sounds familiar, it should. Substitute “Pitt” for “Penn State”, and it’s basically the Joe Flacco story again.

Devlin nearly lead the Blue Hens to the NCAA FCS title in 2010, throwing for 3,032 yards and 22 TD’s before the Hens were cut down by Eastern Washington in the Championship Game.

Devlin doesn’t project quite as high in the 2010 Draft as Flacco did in the 2008 Draft, but he’ll have time to try to improve that. As of now, he looks like a Friday night selection, but will get the chance to go up against better talent in Orlando and will get to work out against better players at LucasOil Stadium in Indy.

If he moves up, there’s no chance the Ravens take him. If he’s around late into Saturday, it wouldn’t stun me.

-G

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

Posted on 17 January 2011 by Glenn Clark

Honorable Mention: Maryland State Cheer & Dance Championship (Saturday 1st Mariner Arena); Women’s College Basketball: Maryland @ Virginia (Friday 8:30pm from Charlottesville live on Comcast SportsNet), North Carolina @ Maryland (Sunday 5pm from Comcast Center live on ESPN2); NBA: Washington Wizards @ Milwaukee Bucks (Wednesday 8pm from Milwaukee live on Comcast SportsNet), Phoenix Suns @ Washington Wizards (Friday 7pm from Verizon Center live on Comcast SportsNet), Boston Celtics @ Washington Wizards (Saturday 7pm from Verizon Center live on Comcast SportsNet), Washington Wizards @ New York Knicks (Monday 7:30pm from New York live on Comcast SportsNet); Golf: PGA Tour Bob Hope Classic (Wednesday-Friday 3pm, Saturday & Sunday 4pm from La Quinta, CA live on Golf Channel), Champions Tour Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai (Friday 6:30pm, Saturday & Sunday 7:30pm from Kaupulehu-Kona, HI live on Golf Channel); High School Basketball: Kenwood @ Perry Hall (Wednesday 6:30pm), Basketball Academy-including Perry Hall vs. Archbishop Spalding & Perry Hall vs. Havre de Grace plus Poly, Woodlawn, Western, Milford Mill, Parkville, Patterson, City, Douglass, Aberdeen, Owings Mills, Lake Clifton (Thursday-Saturday Coppin State Physical Education Complex)

10. Avenged Sevenfold/Stone Sour (Sunday 6:30pm 1st Mariner Arena); Chrisette Michelle (Friday 7pm Rams Head Live); Gary Puckett & The Union Gap (Wednesday & Thursday 8pm Rams Head On Stage); B-52′s (Wednesday 7pm 9:30 Club); Lyle Lovett (Tuesday, Wednesday, Sunday 7:30pm Birchmere)

I’m not really that much of an A7X fan, but I will admit that I REALLY dig Corey Taylor and Stone Sour…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIzDsGyxsQM[/youtube]

Make fun of me all you want. I dig Gary Puckett…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98QH7LdPeO0[/youtube]

When I was a kid, I had no idea if the B-52′s were actually any good or if they were just sorta weird. As an adult, I’ve realized it’s both…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDZy6-fMCw4[/youtube]

There isn’t much I would enjoy about a Lyle Lovett show. But “If I Had A Boat” would be something…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-_W18CWypE[/youtube]

9. Baltimore Restaurant Week (Friday-Monday throughout Charm City), Baltimore County Restaurant Week (Tuesday-Monday throughout Baltimore County)

Another fat guy holiday?

Who knew Thanksgiving would come twice for us this year?!?!?

My favorite spot on the list might be a little joint in Little Italy Robert McClintock immortalized (and apparently Lee Smith’s favorite joint in Charm City)…

sabatinos

8. Boxing: Evander Holyfield vs. Sherman Williams (Saturday 9pm from White Sulphur Springs, WV live on Pay-Per-View); Mixed Martial Arts-UFC Fight Night: Fight For The Troops 2 (Saturday 9pm from Fort Hood, TX live on SpikeTV)

Holy hell Evander Holyfield is still fighting?!?!? Jamie Moyer thinks Evander Holyfield is old!

If Evander Holyfield managers to beat “Ask” Sherman Williams, I think I know who he should fight next (Language NSFW)…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIiPTTwEJJQ[/youtube]

7. NHL: Washington Capitals @ Philadelphia Flyers (Tuesday 7pm from Philadelphia live on Comcast SportsNet), Washington Capitals @ New York Islanders (Thursday 7pm from New York live on Comcast SportsNet), Washington Capitals @ Toronto Maple Leafs (Saturday 7pm from Toronto live on Comcast SportsNet PLUS and NHL Network), New York Rangers @ Washington Capitals (Monday 7:30pm from Verizon Center live on VERSUS)

I don’t care about Caps hockey, but I like funny videos. Here’s a funny video of a Pittsburgh Penguins fan from the Winter Classic this year…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNXddsqLjq0[/youtube]

Yep. That was funny.

6. College Football: East West Shrine Game (Saturday 4pm from Orlando live on NFL Network)

Amongst the players in the East West Shrine Game is former Terrapins RB Da’Rel Scott. Or as he likes to call himself, a man whose spot was once blown up by Glenn Clark…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7mJNNAvNuw[/youtube]

I thought I needed to carry two phones at one point. Life can be pretty tough when Camille Rowe is always trying to blow up your spot…

crowe
(Thanks Busted Coverage!)

5. Soccer: Chile @ Team USA (Saturday 10pm from Carson, CA live on ESPN3.com); MISL: Milwaukee Wave @ Baltimore Blast (Friday 7:35pm 1st Mariner Arena)

I’m not sure about this. I’m as patriotic as they come, so I’d always pull for the Red, White & Blue.

BUT…Chile happens to share a name with the restaurant that gave us Chicken Crispers…

crispers

4. US Lacrosse National Convention (Friday-Sunday Baltimore Convention Center)

Or as local marijuana dealers are calling it, Christmas Season Part 2.

Seriously, how much visine is necessary at a lacrosse convention?!?!? And has there ever been a bigger gathering of folks who listen to Dave Matthews Band and Phish???

Wait a second…I love Dave Matthews Band and Phish…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lMiyN3Gxwts[/youtube]

Okay, someone get me a ticket…

3. NFL Playoffs: NFC Championship Game-Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears (Sunday 3pm from Chicago live on FOX), AFC Championship Game-New York Jets @ Pittsburgh Steelers (Sunday 6:30pm from Pittsburgh live on CBS)

Well clearly this was GOING to be Number 1…right up until the 3rd quarter of the Ravens’ game at Heinz Field Saturday night. Then everything went to hell.

Like I need to remind you.

Now, I’d be open to other ideas for Saturday if you’ve got something better for me to do than watch football. Seriously. There’s no reason why I have to watch these games, especially if it involves having to watch those a-holes in the Steel City earn another Super Bowl berth.

My girlfriend wants me to go to the Horse World Expo with her at the Timonium Fairgrounds. I’ve never had even HALF an ounce of interest in it, but I think I’m going to go.

Or maybe I’ll just sit around at home in my underwear and play Wheel of Fortune on Facebook.

I just don’t want to think about it. It’s too painful.

2. Tennis: Australian Open (Tuesday 12am & 9pm, Wednesday & Thursday 11pm, Friday & Saturday 9pm, Sunday 7pm, Monday 9pm live on ESPN2; Tuesday-Friday 8am, Saturday 1pm, Sunday & Monday 8am live on Tennis Channel. All action from Melbourne, AUS)

In breaking news from Down Under, Maria Sharapova has a new line of tennis wear that she wants you to see…

sharapova
(Thanks again Busted Coverage. Solid week for you.)

Look, I’m personally just as interested in what’s going on with Mardy Fish and  Juan Martin Del Potro’s comeback attempt as I am in Maria Sharapova.

But…ummm….look at that again. What the hell else could possibly matter in the world?

1. College Basketball: Virginia Tech @ Maryland (Thursday 9pm from Comcast Center live on ESPN2), Clemson @ Maryland (Saturday 2:30pm from Comcast Center live on Raycom Sports-WNUV 54 in Charm City); Morgan State @ UMES (Monday 7:30pm Hytche Athletic Center); Coppin State @ UMES (Saturday 4pm Hytche Athletic Center); William & Mary @ Towson (Wednesday 7pm Towson Center), Virginia Commonwealth @ Towson (Monday 7pm Towson Center); Manhattan @ Loyola (Thursday 8pm Reitz Arena)

Here are two schools for which my level of dislike is TOTALLY underrated.

For as much as I like Malcolm Delaney, I can’t freaking STAND the Hokies. So why is it that I like everything about this picture?!?!?!?!

turkeyleg

And my dislike towards Clemson dates at LEAST as far back as my 12th grade journalism teacher Ms. Matasofsky…who LOVED the Tigers. It was a constant source of contention between us. I couldn’t ever understand why she didn’t like the Hangman t-shirt I wore at least once a week…

clemson

Flexing my mic muscles since 1983…

-G

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Friedgen leaves on high note as Terps demolish ECU

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Friedgen leaves on high note as Terps demolish ECU

Posted on 29 December 2010 by Luke Jones

WASHINGTON — With the backdrop of Maryland’s dominating 51-20 victory over East Carolina in the Military Bowl serving as a final act, it was obvious who the day was really about.

For just a few hours on Wednesday afternoon in front of 38,062 at RFK Stadium, Ralph Friedgen was able to put aside the sleepless nights and disappointment and do what he loves one more time: coach his Maryland Terrapins to victory.

There were no mentions of Mike Leach and his potential arrival in College Park.

The day wasn’t about athletic director Kevin Anderson who so clearly exercised his clout over the last two weeks.

Declining season-ticket sales and unsold luxury suites were afterthoughts as the Terps rushed for 297 yards against a porous Pirates defense.

And even his assistant coaches were able to go out and do their jobs despite not knowing where their future lies — in College Park or anywhere else for that matter.

For the last time as head coach of the Terrapins, Friedgen coached his team to victory in convincing fashion, finishing a 9-4 season and a seven-win improvement from the disastrous 2-10 record of a year ago. The Powerade coolers received plenty of use as Friedgen and several assistants — defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Dave Sollazzo and defensive coordinator Don Brown among them — were doused by jubilant players wanting to send off the coaching staff as winners.

However, reality set in as the final seconds ticked away, and there was only one thing left to say to the man who leaves the Maryland football program in better shape than he found it 10 years ago:

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Surprisingly, the emotional head coach was composed through most of his post-game press conference despite all but two questions focusing on his departure as the game took a backseat to the real story of the day.

“It really kind of got to the point where I just wanted to get this game over with and try to get on with the rest of my life,” said Friedgen, who was overwhelmed by the amount of support he received over the last two weeks.

“I had some really special memories here. The biggest thing is I’m not going to be able to be around these kids. I really cherish being around them. Being there when we were 2-10 [in 2009] and now we’re 9-4 and hopefully we’re in the top 25. When you go through something like that, with pretty much the same individuals, you get pretty close. I really think they have a chance to be special. That’s what I’m going to miss.”

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Putting aside the disappointment of being invited to the ACC’s eighth-place bowl and traveling only a few miles to Washington, D.C., the Terps made the most of their opportunity against an inferior opponent, containing one of the most prolific offenses in the nation while also accumulating 478 total yards of offense.

As convincing as the performance was and the optimism that exists for next season with so many key offensive players returning, even the seniors realized this game was about their head coach and sending him out on a high note.

“We just wanted to make a statement,” said senior running back Da’Rel Scott, who rushed for 200 yards on 13 carries and was named the game’s MVP. “It was good to play at home — we could have gotten a better bowl — but it is what it is. We just tried to go out with a bang and make sure coach Friedgen went out as a winner. I think that was the team’s main focus.”

Despite the win, the hurt feelings remain apparent in such a tenuous situation. Rarely do coaches have the opportunity to knowingly coach their final game at a school — other than retirement situations. The reality is even tougher to swallow when that coach is finishing a 9-4 turnaround season.

That pain will linger for a long time, as Friedgen said he gave his best for 10 seasons only to find out he wasn’t wanted anymore.

“Everybody has their own opinion,” Friedgen said. “Obviously, the powers that be didn’t feel like I was good enough to go to the next level. Only time will tell whether that was accurate or not.”

Time is running short as Maryland has set January 4 as the deadline to have its new coach in place. The fate of the assistant coaches — including Brown who masterfully frustrated the East Carolina offense all afternoon — remains in limbo.

Whether the new man is Leach or one of the other names thrown around by various media outlets, the bar will be high as Anderson’s “good-to-great” proclamation will bring pressure and obstacles that Friedgen never faced when he arrived on campus 10 years ago.

“I can tell you this, it’s not an easy job,” Friedgen said. “There’s a lot of things that really have to change to help [the football program] reach its potential. To be honest with you, I don’t know if the university is willing to do that. You kind of have to know that going in, and I did. I think that was a benefit to me.”

After coaching at his alma mater, Friedgen must now face the uncertainty that goes with being an unemployed 63-year-old football coach, a reality that even he has labeled as surreal.

“Everybody thinks that I can’t live without football,” said Frieden, who received a call from former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer assuring him there is, indeed, life after football. “I don’t know. This is what I’ve done for 43 years, going to be 44. It’s probably what I do. We’ll have to see.”

It had to be sobering coaching his final game in the unspectacular Military Bowl — with memories of the 2001 season, an ACC championship, and a trip to the Orange Bowl in the back of his mind — but closing his career with a win for the players he’s repeatedly called his favorite group to coach should count for something.

“If you have to go out, this is the best way to do it. I am happy to watch this team and I wish them the very best. I am with them in spirit every step of the way.”

NOTES: D.J. Adams ran for four touchdowns, a career high as well as a season high for Maryland. … Scott’s 91-yard touchdown run was the longest by a Maryland running back since an 80-yard scamper by Bruce Perry in 2003. … Scott’s 200 yards was a personal best and season best for the Terps.  It was the best running performance by a Terp since Perry ran for 237 at Wake Forest in 2003.

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Terps fall in heartbreaker to Florida State, 30-16

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Terps fall in heartbreaker to Florida State, 30-16

Posted on 21 November 2010 by Luke Jones

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — The final score failed to tell just how competitive Maryland was against Florida State Saturday night.

The Terps fell 30-16 to the Seminoles, ending their improbable dream of winning the Atlantic Division and advancing to the ACC championship game in two weeks. Maryland found itself in position to tie the game with under a minute left until Danny O’Brien threw a fourth-down interception at the 19 that was returned 96 yards by Nick Moody for a touchdown.

Maryland played much of the night like a team fully expecting to win and looked like they could do it through the game’s first three quarters. Despite losing three offensive linemen to injuries — a unit already decimated this season — the Terps compiled 432 yards, including 163 on the ground against one of the better run defenses in the nation. And despite allowing long touchdowns of 70 and 44 yards, the defense held Florida State to just four conversions on 14 third-down plays.

Misfortune also played a part in the fourth quarter when an O’Brien pass intercepted by Greg Reid appeared to hit the ground, but was upheld after official review. Even after the interception gave Florida State the ball on the Maryland 43, the defense held firm again, only to have the short punt hit defensive back Cameron Chism, leading to a Seminoles recovery and eventual field goal.

But when it came down to the crucial moments of the game, the Terps simply weren’t good enough, explaining why their ACC championship hopes ended Saturday and Florida State’s were still alive, needing a Maryland defeat over N.C. State next week.

The Terps committed four turnovers — half as many as their season total entering the game — and went just 5-for-16 on third down attempts. Despite 269 passing yards from O’Brien, the Maryland passing game lacked the ability — or the willingness — to throw downfield, allowing the Florida State defensive backs to play tight coverage much of the night.

Special teams breakdowns also hurt. In addition to the punt bouncing off Chism’s back (the safe return team was on the field to prevent a fake), the Seminoles ran a fake punt that led to a field goal late in the first half, tying the game at 13-13 as the teams went to halftime.

“You can’t turn the ball over four times, and I bet that they got 13 or 14 points off turnovers, maybe more (13 points was the total),” coach Ralph Friedgen said after the game. “We hadn’t been doing that, and I didn’t think we played well on special teams.”

When it counted most, the Terps were the antithesis of what had led to such an improbable turnaround from last season. All year long, Maryland had been careful with the football with O’Brien taking what the defense would give him.

“We were down,” said O’Brien, who tossed two interceptions and fumbled an option pitch to Davin Meggett that led to a first-quarter field goal. “It was a tough loss, just to lose down the stretch like that, it’s tough. We turned the ball over which hurts. When we win the turnover battle we seem to always win, but we didn’t do it tonight.”

Friedgen and the Terrapins will undoubtedly feel the sting of this one for awhile — especially if they manage to beat a tough N.C. State team next Saturday — but a heartbreaking loss to Florida State in no way diminishes what this group has accomplished in 2010.

Critics have maintained Maryland’s winning record is more a product of a soft schedule than a good football team, but the truth lies somewhere in the middle. While it’s clear the Terps have failed on several occasions to substantiate their record in games against quality opponents, you can’t take away what they’ve done after being picked to finish last in the Atlantic entering the season, even with their less-than-stellar schedule in mind.

The Maryland team we saw Saturday night wasn’t that far away from Florida State despite lacking the overall team speed of the Seminoles, which was apparent on Chris Thompson’s 70-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and Bert Reed’s 44-yard touchdown catch from Christian Ponder late in the third.

“We made a lot of plays in space, but on those two, they just broke on us,” said safety Kenny Tate, who made seven tackles and intercepted Ponder in the second quarter. “They’re a team that’s known for their speed, so you just have to get them to the ground any way you can.”

On another night, the Terps may have bested the Seminoles had they played the type of game that fit their season-long profile, but it’s a message nobody in that locker room wanted to hear following the game. Instead, Maryland must now look to its regular-season finale against N.C. State, with bowl implications still in play for the Terps and an opportunity to dash the Wolfpack’s division title hopes.

“I will be disappointed if we aren’t ready for N.C. State,” Friedgen said. “It’s the last game of the season for some of our seniors and 8-4 is a pretty good season. I’m not so worried about that with this team. I think that they will be ready for the next game.”

NOTES: The Terps will host N.C. State next Saturday at 3:30 p.m., a game that will be televised on ESPN2. … Maryland dropped its first home game of the season and failed to win the turnover battle for just the third time this season. … The Terps had nine tackles for loss against the Seminoles, setting a season high. … Tight end Will Yeatman earned his first career touchdown catch on a 7-yard toss from O’Brien early in the second quarter. The senior set career highs in catches (four) and yards (42). … Maryland surrendered 13 points off turnovers after allowing only seven points after miscues all year entering Saturday. … Da’Rel Scott rushed 10 times for 87 yards despite a violent, penalized hit by Florida State safety Greg Reid that temporarily knocked him from the game. “[The hit] kind of really got me going [running the ball].” … Right guard Justin Lewis (knee), center Bennett Fulper (hand), and freshman tackle Max Garcia (leg) all suffered injuries, causing the Terps to reshuffle the offensive line. Fulper, however, returned to the game after an X-ray on his hand was negative.

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Terps end Charlottesville horrors in 42-23 win over Virginia

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Terps end Charlottesville horrors in 42-23 win over Virginia

Posted on 13 November 2010 by Luke Jones

Ralph Friedgen and the Terps weren’t taking their latest trip to Charlottesville for granted, and how could they?

With their Atlantic Division title hopes still in their own hands and having lost eight of their last nine at Scott Stadium, Maryland used a 21-point fourth quarter to take care of business in a convincing 42-23 win over the Cavaliers Saturday night.

Freshman running back D.J. Adams scored three touchdowns and freshman quarterback Danny O’Brien tossed two scores and ran for one, as the Terps improved to 7-3 overall and 4-2 in the ACC, setting up a primetime battle against Florida State in College Park next week.

We’ve doubted the Terrapins all season, because of a soft schedule and the fresh memory of a 2-10 record in 2009, but it’s time to start giving credit where it’s due. Issues remain for the Maryland football program that won’t be resolved overnight — the future of the coaching staff at the top of the list — but Friedgen has this group playing efficient, opportunistic football.

Recent history made it easy to envision the Terps falling flat against the Cavaliers after a heartbreaking 26-20 loss at Miami last week, a game in which the freshman O’Brien played the worst game of his young career and the defense struggled throughout the afternoon and folded on the final drive.

Instead, O’Brien threw for 289 yards against a formidable Virginia pass defense, including fourth-quarter touchdown passes to Torrey Smith (7 catches for 157 yards) and Da’Rel Scott that transformed a two-point deficit through three quarters into a comfortable 19-point win. The Terps went 6-for-6 inside the red zone to account for their 42 points.

Don Brown’s defense struggled to pressure Virginia quarterback Marc Verica and surrendered 20 first-half points, but held the Cavaliers to just a field goal after intermission and picked off Verica twice in a stout second-half effort.

As they have throughout the season, the Terps limited their mistakes (no turnovers) unlike the Cavaliers who committed 16 penalties for 145 yards and two second-half turnovers.

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In many ways, Saturday’s win was a microcosm of how improbable this season has been. Who would have guessed Adams — who totaled just two carries all season against teams not named Morgan State and Wake Forest — would cure Maryland’s struggles inside the red zone with three touchdown runs from inside the 10?

And who would have predicted this team would snap a three-game losing streak against Virginia and win for only the second time in Maryland’s last 10 trips to Charlottesville, a place of horrors for over a decade? As we saw two years ago when the Terps went there as a two-touchdown favorite and were lambasted 31-0, a win over the Cavaliers can never be taken for granted, even with Virginia’s 4-6 record in 2010.

Whether you’re a believer in Friedgen and the current staff, or one of the many shouting for drastic change to a program that’s fallen on difficult times over the last several years, it’s time to acknowledge this is a pretty good football team — at least how it relates to a soft ACC — and credit a group of players determined to put a disastrous 2009 season behind them.

Maryland will undoubtedly be a home underdog next Saturday when the Seminoles invade Byrd Stadium with the Atlantic Division up for grabs (N.C. State is also very much in the picture), but this Florida State team isn’t one of the unbeatable squads coached by Bobby Bowden in the mid-90s. If the Terps play mistake-free football as they have so often this year, it’s not impossible envisioning a victory at Byrd Stadium, which will hopefully be packed to support an unlikely success story.

Regardless of what happens in their final two games against Florida State and N.C. State, Friedgen and the Terps are playing with house money after reaching the seven-win plateau and assuring themselves of a bowl game in a season in which they were picked to finish last in the Atlantic Division.

Friedgen spoke two weeks ago about his team reaching its “minimum” goal of bowl eligibility after picking up its sixth win of the season against Wake Forest. With Saturday’s win at Virginia, the Terps kept themselves in position for their maximum goal of an ACC Championship.

While it still seems unlikely, it’s becoming more conceivable every week.

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Terps quarterback O’Brien playing well beyond years

Posted on 30 October 2010 by Luke Jones

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — If you glanced up at the scoreboard Saturday evening, you might have wondered how Ralph Friedgen and the Terps managed to schedule Morgan State for a second time this season.

Maryland (6-2, 3-1 ACC) dominated all facets of the game in a 62-14 victory over a Wake Forest team (2-6, 1-4 ACC) that looked more like an FCS school than an ACC rival. The win makes the Terps bowl-eligible for the first time since 2008 — and after the first 10-loss season in the history of the program.

A soft schedule makes it difficult to figure out how improved the Terps really are — though a 48-point victory over a conference opponent will raise a few eyebrows at least — but the next four weeks will provide a clearer picture with the Terps taking on two teams currently ranked in the Top 25. We have to acknowledge the Terps, at the very least, are winning all the games they’re supposed to, a concept Maryland has struggled with in recent seasons.

Special teams play and and a emphasis on taking better care of the football have been major factors in the turnaround, but there’s no questioning one area in which the Terps have improved dramatically.

The quarterback position, with Danny O’Brien under center.

“He’s very intelligent,” Friedgen said. “He’s like a sponge, wanting to soak up experiences. He doesn’t get rattled if he makes a mistake, which is really quite a quality in a redshirt freshman. I think he’s going to continue to get better. I really do.”

Despite junior Jamarr Robinson beginning the season as the starter, the redshirt freshman O’Brien has seized control of the job more emphatically than any quarterback in College Park since early in the Friedgen era with Shaun Hill and Scott McBrien. He plays the opposite of what you expect from a freshman quarterback, taking care of the football (only three interceptions) and completing the throws the defense gives him (13 touchdowns).

Those three interceptions came in the fourth quarter at Clemson after the Terps had fallen hopelessly behind, eventually falling 31-7 in Death Valley. It was a rare time in which O’Brien looked the part of a freshman quarterback trying to force throws and making mistakes.

Entering Saturday’s game, O’Brien already held the freshman record for touchdown passes (nine) and added to that mark Saturday with four touchdown strikes despite being replaced by Robinson halfway through the third quarter with the game getting out of hand quickly in the second half. It was the most in one game by a Maryland quarterback since Joel Statham — one of several quarterbacks to frustrate the fan base over the last seven years — threw four at Duke on Sept. 25, 2004.

O’Brien finished the day completing 13 of 20 passes for 168 yards with the four passing scores to Torrey Smith, Quintin McCree, Haroon Brown, and LaQuan Williams. The young quarterback completed passes to eight different receivers in what’s becoming a trademark in his performances, diversifying the passing game and using a talented receiving unit that has been underutilized in recent years.

“Just getting into the flow of a game quicker and quicker every week,” O’Brien said. “I’m starting to [play with] more of a rhythm. I’m really confident just because I have playmakers all around me and a line that’s protecting me, so it makes my job pretty easy.”

To say O’Brien has played beyond his years is an understatement, but his performance is not as surprising to those who have watched him closely, especially Friedgen, who considered burning his redshirt eligibility late last season but decided against it. Offensive coordinator James Franklin immediately saw the potential in O’Brien by watching him practice a year ago, often looking like the best quarterback on the field.

Interestingly enough, I first watched O’Brien play in a scrimmage at Byrd Stadium in August 2009. For my money, he was the best quarterback on the field. Better than Chris Turner and Robinson despite having only walked on campus a few weeks earlier.

“He really hasn’t exceeded my expectations,” said offensive coordinator James Franklin. “I had very, very high expectations for him and our entire offense and our team. He’s accurate, he’s got good athleticism. He’s got a lot of the ingredients that we looked for when we recruited him, and all those things have held true.”

The freshman oozes confidence and efficiency for a Maryland offense that was plagued by the turnovers of Chris Turner and Robinson a year ago. The Terps offense now stands at plus-10 in turnover margin after Maryland committed an appalling 24 turnovers in 12 games last season.

That growing conviction has even radiated during his conversations with Friedgen, who shared how certain O’Brien was about beating Wake Forest, the college team he cheered for  growing up in Kernersville, N.C.

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Special teams gaffes doom Terps in 31-7 loss to Clemson

Posted on 16 October 2010 by Luke Jones

Despite an encouraging 4-1 start and an opportunity to end a nine-game road losing streak against a struggling team on Saturday, we didn’t know how improved the Maryland Terrapins really were in comparison to last season’s 2-10 squad.

A soft schedule — with only a victory over Navy passing as a respectable feat — caused most to wait and see how well Ralph Friedgen’s team would play during a trip to Death Valley to take on the Clemson Tigers, the last place they had won on the road in over two years. And despite a hostile environment at Memorial Stadium, it looked like a win for the taking with the Tigers having lost three in a row.

But if the ugly 31-7 loss was any indication, the Terps are far more similar to last year’s team than any of us had hoped. Despite looking like the better football team midway through the second quarter and outgaining the Tigers by 137 yards for the game, the Terps did exactly what we saw countless times in 2009.

Shot themselves in the foot. Repeatedly.

It started with special teams.

The facet of the game that invigorates your football team as quickly as it can suck the very life out of it doomed the Terps as they dropped to 4-2 (1-1 ACC) on the year. Ironically, Maryland had received major lifts from the special teams units in their first five games, particularly from punter-kicker Travis Baltz and punt returner Tony Logan.

The first gaffe occurred immediately after running back Da’Rel Scott tossed a 4-yard touchdown to quarterback Danny O’Brien — no, you didn’t read that incorrectly — to give Maryland a 7-3 lead early in the second quarter. Nick Ferrara’s ensuing kickoff was a low, line drive that was returned 87 yards for a touchdown by Clemson running back Andre Ellington.

It only got worse from there.

In the ensuing drive, O’Brien moved the Terps down to the Clemson 7 before being  sacked by Da’Quan Bowers — a common theme as the defensive end compiled three for the day as the Maryland offensive line really couldn’t block anyone — on third-and-1. The previously reliable Baltz came in to attempt the 33-yarder and missed badly to the right.

From that point on, the momentum shifted dramatically in favor of the Tigers, and Maryland barely voiced a whimper the remainder of the afternoon.

Later, Clemson’s Jaron Brown returned a punt 41 yards down to the Maryland 20 after the Terps went three-and-out to set up another touchdown, pushing the lead into blowout territory at 24-7.

Those three gaffes led to a 17-point swing on the scoreboard, which happened to be the deficit for much of the second half before Xavier Brewer returned an O’Brien interception 61 yards for a score late in the fourth quarter after the outcome had long been decided.

The reality is Maryland had an excellent opportunity to beat a not-so-good football team on the road and couldn’t get the job done. Despite looking like the better football team for the first 20-plus minutes of the contest, the Terps couldn’t recover from critical errors, even when they had opportunities to do so on both sides of the football.

To be fair, the special teams weren’t the only reason Maryland dropped its first conference game of the season, as missed tackles on third down, dropped passes, and critical penalties were themes of the afternoon, particularly in the second half.

An offense that looked promising in the first half managed just 118 yards and three turnovers after the intermission, unable to provide a lift to a defense that wasn’t as bad as the final score indicated. However, the unit’s inability to make tackles in several favorable spots allowed the Tigers to pick up key first downs in the second half.

Time and time again, the Terps drove the nails into their own coffin in Death Valley.

Watching them disintegrate over the game’s final 40 minutes was a clear reminder of how quickly things can fall apart. The talent isn’t there for this Maryland team to overcome mistakes, and Clemson made them pay for it in embarrassing fashion.

This one will really cause Friedgen and his football team to lose sleep, as there was really no excuse to lose by 24 points to a mediocre football team that managed just 213 yards of offense on the afternoon.

But when it came to special teams and doing the little things needed to get a victory, Clemson beat Maryland like a drum all over the field.

And the Terps could only look helplessly at the scoreboard as they walked off the field, with memories of the losses from last season fresh in their minds.

As good as the 4-1 start may have felt, Saturday’s performance was a very harsh reality.

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