Baltimore Sun reporter Don Markus, editor Matt Bracken and intern Connor Letourneau (The Diamondback's co-sports editor) weigh in on the three biggest topics of the past week in Maryland sports.
Are Kevin Plank's feelings about Randy Edsall genuine?
Don Markus: It didn't surprise me that the Under Armour CEO told The Sun's Jeff Barker that Maryland fans should be more supportive of the school's embattled football coach. Had he stayed mum, Plank's silence would have been construed by the media as a sign that he wasn't on board anymore -- if he ever had been. After all, Plank and Under Armour had a relationship with Mike Leach when the current Washington State coach was still at Texas Tech.
I would like to think that Plank's support of Edsall is heartfelt, and that the two have forged a friendship since Edsall became the Maryland coach. Maybe I am completely jaded, but Plank has too much invested in Maryland -- and in Edsall -- not to come out strongly in the coach's corner. Just as Phil Knight's Nike brand is closely tied to the success of Oregon football, Plank doesn't want his brand to be associated with a losing football team. If the Terps had been 10-2 last season rather than 2-10, the Under Armour uniforms might not have been as widely criticized as they were. I can see the same thing happening with the new turf field this season, especially if it turns out to be anything but green.
Unless Edsall's team starts turning it around on the field, and soon, there's going to be a steady drumbeat to find a new coach. I believe Kevin Anderson when he says he's solidly behind Edsall and will give him time to build the program the way he sees fit. As much as Anderson's future in College Park is tied largely to Edsall, athletic directors have survived if their first major hire doesn't work out. Just ask Debbie Yow, who was around more than a decade after firing her first major hire, Ron Vanderlinden.
I am not sure I believe Plank's motives to publicly support Edsall are strictly personal.
There has been a lot of speculation in recent weeks regarding the color of the new turf field at Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium. What should fans expect?
Connor Letourneau: At this point, I’m just as curious as anyone. Designs of the field have circulated throughout the blogosphere. Some say it’s going to be black, some think pewter and others maintain it’s just going to be plain old green.
Of course, everyone seems to be rooting for the extreme. Names like “Boise State” and “Eastern Washington” — schools that have already forayed into the world of colorful fields — are becoming a part of fans’ collective consciousness. That excitement was compounded when Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank addressed the topic during his visit to the Baltimore Sun last week.
“How do we make a better field?” said Plank, whose company is consulting on the project. “How do we make the coolest field in the country? And I mean that figuratively, and I mean that literally.”
The significance of that statement is really anyone’s guess. Was he implying that the field will be temperature controlled? That it will feature a hologram of Testudo? I don’t know.
What I do know, however, is that all questions will be answered in the coming days. Deputy Athletics Director Nathan Pine told The Diamondback Wednesday to expect a full announcement — complete with renderings and descriptions of the new technologies — in the “middle of next week.”
Until that day arrives, I’m going do something I’ve struggled with my entire life. I’m going to temper my expectations. I suggest anyone interested in the topic does the same.
Sure, it’s possible Maryland is doing precisely what it did with the Pride uniforms last season — keeping mum before ultimately unveiling a wacky design that captures national attention.
But then again, the turf may not end up looking too different from the natural grass of years past.
Whatever the case, though, one thing is certain: The Terps will have a much-improved playing surface next season. It’ll drain better, it’ll hold up better and it’ll likely attract more outside events. And everyone can agree those are positive things.
Terps small forward signee Jake Layman made the 12-man USA Basketball U-18 team, which will compete in the 2012 FIBA Americas U18 Championship in Brazil. Should we adjust our expectations for him now?
Matt Bracken: The popular refrain from scouts when Layman committed to the Terps last fall was essentially this: intriguing player, lots of skill, needs time to get stronger and develop. With his inclusion on the U.S. team, it's probably time to reevaluate our expectations for the incoming freshman.
Layman's invitation to be one of the 23 players competing for a spot on the 12-man team might have come as a surprise to some Terps fans -- especially since center Shaquille Cleare has been anointed the unoffical centerpiece of Maryland's 2012 class. But Layman making a team that consensus Top 20 players like Aaron and Andrew Harrison and Jabari Bird did not indicates that the future Terp has developed quicker than expected.
At 6 feet 7, 180 pounds, Layman is still skinnier that Mark Turgeon would probably like him to be. Layman, in an interview with USABasketball.com, acknowledged as much.
"I have been working out with my trainer a lot. His name is Steve Hailey, and he's been pushing me every day," Layman said. "I think I need to improve my dribbling a lot because there are going to be smaller guards defending me, poking at the ball. So, I definitely need to improve my dribbling, and you can always improve your jump shot. And I'd say my strength, too -- getting bigger."
He certainly got a taste of what it's like going up against bigger and stronger players during U.S. team tryouts -- a far cry from the competition he dominated at King Philip High in Wrentham, Mass. The experience he'll get playing in the FIBA Americas tournament should be invaluable in preparing him for his time at Maryland.
Although he'll be behind the other Terps freshmen, who have already enrolled at College Park, Layman should catch up quickly once he gets to town next month. Even before Layman made the U-18 team, he was likely the odds-on favorite to start at the 3 for the Terps. Everything he's done in Colorado Springs has confirmed that projection. Provided he does get those minutes, Layman seems poised for a big freshman year.