Baltimore Sun reporters Jeff Barker and Don Markus and editor Matt Bracken weigh in on the three biggest topics of the past week in
Is Dez Wells Maryland's next great player?
Don Markus: A generation of Maryland basketball has produced only a handful of truly great college players.
What puts a player in this group is not based solely on talent and statistics, but also on what they meant to the program.
Bias was arguably the most talented offensive player in this generation, and as a junior led Maryland to its first
Maryland would not have won a national title had Williams not stayed when the program went on probation. What he did as a senior – scoring a school-record 26.8 points a game – grabbed the attention of Smith, who loved The Wizard's high socks and sweet jumper. Vasquez did more with less around him than nearly any in this bunch, and nearly carried the Terps to the Sweet 16 singlehandedly.
Which brings this conversation to Wells.
It is a little premature to even consider putting Wells with some of these great Maryland players, given that he has only been a part of
The first thing you notice about Wells is his athleticism. When was the last time you saw a player since Bias block a shot over the rim at one end and dunk at the other – in one breathtaking sequence – as Wells did earlier this season? Wells is on an athletic par with Bias and
Wells is the best player off the dribble who I have seen at Maryland since Francis, and his pull-up mid-range jump shots the other night in the second half against
If he stays at Maryland long enough, Wells could be to Mark Turgeon’s program what Walt Williams and eventually Smith was to
But the numbers he has put up this season – 12.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3 assists – are among the best ever by a Maryland player in his first year.
Consider where this year’s team would be without him? I’m sure Turgeon shudders at that thought, given how
The only Terps in this generation with better stats in his first year were Jerrod Mustaf (18.5 points, 7.7 rebounds in Bob Wade’s last year), Matt Roe (who transferred from
Wells might just be a more athletic version of Rhodes: a good all-around player who makes his teammates better but never gets the recognition he deserves. And this all could be moot if Wells leaves after next season, which seems likely given the way the system works these days.
But Wells talks about watching old clips of
What he has done in recent weeks makes me think Wells could be the next great Terp -- if he stays long enough.
With football signing day Wednesday, which Maryland unit stands the best chance for improvement?
Jeff Barker: It's not a stretch to say that the offense will be upgraded considerably. Injury-wracked Maryland finished with fewer yards (a 284.8-per-game average) than any team in the ACC.
After losing four quarterbacks, Maryland will benefit merely by having an actual healthy quarterback. Last year, the Terps were scouring the roster for anybody who had played the position effectively in high school.
New receiver Deon Long (Iowa Western Community College) could help Brown this season. You'll hear about Long on Signing Day. The Terps need another receiver to draw attention away from Stefon Diggs in the slot.
In his freshman season, Diggs was second in the conference in all-purpose yards (172.4 yards). He was aided by the emergence of receiver Marcus Leak, a deep threat who wears Torrey Smith's old Maryland number (82). But Leak’s season ended early with a
Maryland has enough talented skill-position players – Diggs, Leak and running back Wes Brown among them – to be optimistic about upgrading its offense.
What it needs now is more offensive-line talent and depth – and also a bit of luck to steer it clear of the sorts of injuries that wrecked last season.
Who is the biggest sleeper in Maryland's football recruiting class?
A 6-foot-4, 225-pound senior out of Bozeman High in Panama City, Fla., Burkett's first offer came from Maryland last spring, but he eventually chose Florida International over the Terps, Florida Atlantic, Middle Tennessee State, South Florida and Troy. When FIU dismissed coach Mario Cristobal in December, Burkett decided to reopen his recruitment.
"[FIU] said they’d have a new coach in over a month. [They said they'd] hopefully have a head coach by January 7. A month away," said Bozeman coach William Tillman. "[I asked Chandler], 'You want us to send anything else out?' He’s like, 'Please do.' We contacted [assistant coach Lyndon]
Tillman's not sure why Burkett landed just two offers from
"We played him up in some varsity games as a ninth-grader," Tillman recalled. "The first game, [we] put him in there to try and motivate a senior. Next thing you know, he has seven tackles, three for loss, a blocked kick. [We said], 'OK, we're not getting that production from a senior. The freshman has to play.' He's been playing ever since."
Burkett saw time as a senior at middle linebacker, which Tillman said allowed him to play off the line of scrimmage, drop back in coverage and showcase his versatility. Burkett, with his 4.6 speed, did just that, recording 122 tackles (88 solo), including 15 for loss.
Burkett is clearly a developmental prospect that will be an interesting case study in the Maryland staff's evaluation skills. In Tillman's opinion, though, the Terps got a "hell of a defensive end" -- no matter what the recruiting services may say.