Baltimore Sun reporters Jeff Barker and Don Markus and editor Matt Bracken weigh in on the three biggest topics of the past week in Maryland sports.
Maryland unveiled renderings of its new FieldTurf surface at Byrd Stadium that will be traditional green – not red, black or pewter. After last season’s debut of those wild-looking football uniforms, did the university intentionally decide to go conservative with the field?
Jeff Barker: I think Maryland accomplished what it wanted. It incorporated the “Maryland Pride” design into the end zones. They call that “branding.” The school also got a field with the latest cooling technology.
I think Maryland and Under Armour didn’t want the field – or even last year’s uniforms – to become a sideshow.
When he was at The Sun offices recently, Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank talked to me about the unveiling of those uniforms during last season’s opening game.
“The thing I didn’t like about the uniforms from last year is that it became this, ‘Look at this show just about the uniforms,’ ” Plank said. “The purpose of those uniforms wasn’t to say, ‘How do we get trending on Twitter?’ The idea was how are we leveraging our technology and our platform to help advantage the University of Maryland team. I think that story got lost in it being fashion. I think there was some Maryland pride, and that’s what we named the uniforms, and that’s what we did it for.”
Based on those comments, I’m guessing that Maryland had lots of objectives with the field, but that looking “wacky” wasn’t one of them.
How excited should Maryland fans be about Jake Layman's performance with the U-18 national team, and should they expect him in Mark Turgeon's starting lineup come opening night?Don Markus: That Layman even made the team should be something for Maryland fans to get excited about. The level of competition for those 12 spots was pretty intense -- even the highly rated Harrison twins, who the Terps are pursuing along with Kentucky, Baylor and Villanova, were not invited -- and I'm sure Layman benefited from having to fight for minutes with some of the best 18-and-under players in the country.
He wound up scoring more (7.4) while playing less (12.2) than North Carolina State-bound Rodney Purvis (7 points in 14.8 minutes) Syracuse-bound Jerami Grant (5.6 points in 18.2) and North Carolina-bound Nate Britt (5.2 points in 21.2 minutes). Layman shot a more than respectable 14 of 26 from the field, including 6-for-15 on 3s. He had one big game, scoring 18 points in 16 minutes off the bench in a second-round romp over Mexico, and later getting 10 points in 15 minutes in a semifinal win over Argentina. I saw that he only got five minutes in the gold-medal game against Brazil, but I haven't heard why he played so little. I know he missed the Capital Classic in April after having his tonsils removed, and maybe he just wore down a little over there.
As for Layman being a starter by opening night, I'm not ruling it out. At 6-8, 200 pounds, Layman is the only natural small forward Turgeon has among the players he signed in the spring and in the small group of four returning scholarship players. Given how skilled he is supposed to be, I think it's more likely he starts the opening against Kentucky than not with the way Mark Turgeon wants to play.
Maryland landed five football commitments in three days, and each recruit was from either Maryland or D.C. Is this now the norm for Terps recruiting?
Matt Bracken: Here's a quick rundown of local players that have committed to Maryland since Mike Locksley was hired as offensive coordinator on Dec. 22, 2011:
Levern Jacobs, three-star wide receiver, Suitland grad; Wes Brown, four-star running back, Good Counsel; Albert Reid, three-star running back, Friendship Collegiate (D.C.); Stefon Diggs, five-star wide receiver, Good Counsel; Shane Cockerille, three-star quarterback, Gilman; Derrick Hayward, two-star linebacker, Wicomico; Derwin Gray, four-star offensive lineman, Friendship Collegiate; Yannick Ngakoue, four-star linebacker, Friendship Collegiate; Cavon Walker, three-star linebacker, Friendship Collegiate; DeAndre Lane, two-star running back, Catonsville; Mike Williams, three-star lineman, Archbishop Spalding; and Richy Anderson, a three-star running back from Thomas Johnson in Frederick who reportedly committed last night.
That's 12 players (four from D.C., eight from Maryland) and a 3.25 star average (according to Rivals.com). Just two of the Terps' past 14 commitments -- Charter School of Wilmington (Del.) cornerback Jarrett Ross and McEachern (Ga.) offensive lineman Jajuan Dulaney -- are from outside this area. Give credit to Locksley for immediately reconnecting with coaches from this area and leveraging those relationships. Credit recruiting coordinator John Dunn and assistant Ryan Steinberg, both of whom have been instrumental in enacting this in-state plan. And credit Randy Edsall for selling these players -- who have been bombarded with the negative press of a 2-10 season much more than out-of-staters -- on what the future could be.
Every February I speak to recruiting analysts about Maryland's class, and every year the message remains the same: if the Terps could build a wall around the state and the District, ACC championships would be sure to follow. If Edsall, Locksley and company keep this up, we'll find out soon enough if that theory holds true.