Breaking News: Etta-Tawo Set to Transfer

247 Sports reports that senior Maryland WR Ambo Etta-Tawo is transferring out of the program.

The article speculates that the transfer may be a result of a lot of returning and incoming talent at the position, making playing time a potentially sparse commodity.

247 leaves it at that, but there are some obvious alternative or complentary possible explanations. For example, Etta-Tawo may not want to start over in Walt Bell’s new offensive system, preferring something more similar to what Mike Locksley ran last year and what he signed on for during Mike Edsall’s regime.

It’s also possible that Bell and/or new head coach DJ Durkin told him directly that he’d have to compete for playing time and that they didn’t see him as a good fit if he wasn’t going to be happy not seeing the field much.

Obviously, all of these scenarios could in theory simultaneously be true. No one scenario directly excludes the others. Transfers can be the result of a number of factors, including off the field factors that we would not be privy to at all. After all, if one is not an NFL prospect, a transfer could be motivated by academic concerns, geographic concerns, new or old relationships of any type that you need distance from or need to be closer to, etc..

In any event, though we’re sorry to see this talented young man leave the program, Maryland should be alright at his position, where there will be a lot of talent on the field next year.

We don’t know where Etta-Tawo will land yet, but what we do know is that he’ll be eligible to play right away thanks to the NCAA’s graduate transfer rule. Though he will only become a senior on the football field this coming season, Etta-Tawo plans to graduate from Maryland in May. Under NCAA rules, that makes him eligible to transfer anywhere that will offer him, and to play immediately, provided that he enrolls in a graduate program there that does not have an equivalent at the University of Maryland.

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The Long Strange Odyssey of Caleb Rowe

Maryland redshirt senior quarterback Caleb Rowe probably expected to be a starter by now. A lot of Terrapin fans certainly thought he would be.

The calls to bring in Rowe got earth shatteringly loud in 2014, when CJ Brown was quarterbacking the Terrapins. Though 2015 may have made most of us wish CJ Brown, Maryland’s eternal quarterback could somehow squeeze in a 7th year, back in 2014, opinions were mixed.

CJ Brown could run, but he couldn’t throw to save his life. Though it was pretty obvious all along, by the time that teams like South Florida were stacking 8 and 9 people in the box on 3&5s (A heavy run-stop formation on a passing down from a team that really shouldn’t have been able to get away with that against a Big Ten quarterback with good receiving options), you knew that they knew that the guy seemingly couldn’t make a completion to save his life. Not only did they know it, opposing teams obviously knew it.

Even then-Terrapins WR, and current NFL star Stefon Diggs’ younger brother, and current Alabama commit, Trevon Diggs knew it, posting a tweet in the middle of a game begging then-Maryland head coach Randy Edsall to bring in Caleb Rowe.

Rowe has a good throwing arm, there’s no denying that. It’s not an NFL caliber throwing arm by any means, but he can get the ball reasonably far downfield at reasonable velocity, a skill that has eluded a lot of recent Terrapins quarterbacks.

Edsall’s decision to go with Brown was seen as an overly cautious coach making an overly cautious decision. Brown could run, and could in theory manage the game enough to beat the bad teams, even if he didn’t provide the type of juice the team would need to beat the nation’s and the conference’s top teams, or provide a come from behind victory. Believe it or not, and many people who watched the games probably wouldn’t, Brown actually set some team records at Maryland.

When Brown graduated, though, it seemed Terrapin nation was more than ready to hand the reigns to Caleb Rowe for the next year or two. They knew the 3-star pro-style passer out of South Carolina was probably not what people would consider elite, but they looked forward to seeing passes of more than 5 yards that didn’t land in the dirt (With all due respect to CJ Brown, who’s passes weren’t always short and didn’t always land in the dirt- that was just the way it seemed sometimes when we were struggling).

The problem with Rowe was not getting the ball downfield, but rather getting the ball downfield to the guys in the red jerseys, or whatever color UnderArmour had cooked up for the chameleon uniform wearing team from the state where UnderArmour is headquartered.

We all knew accuracy was going to kind of be an issue, but no one dreamed it was going to be quite the issue it was. Edsall tried to start the season with game manager Perry Hills, who also brought some leadership and guts to the huddle, but when your “game manager” quarterback is throwing picks and losing to Bowling Green, you might just have to look to your bench.

As it turns out, Edsall may have had reasons other than “He lacks seniority”, conservatism, or pure stubbornness for not starting Caleb Rowe initially. He’d watched the man in practice, and may have had inkling of what was to come.

In 2015, Rowe, who did finally get to play after Hills sputtered, threw 6 touchdowns to 15 interceptions.  Not a pretty picture.  Even uglier if you were watching it.  At least one of his interceptions came on his first passing attempt of a game.  Not what you’re looking for our of your redshirt junior quarterback.

However, in 2016, Maryland finds itself in a tough sitaution quarterback wise.  They do have two senior scholarship quarterbacks- Rowe and Hills.  However, as alluded to earlier in this post, neither inspire a ton of confidence as a solution at quarterback.  Both were big parts of Maryland’s epically poor play at quarterback next year, when they were statistically among the worst teams in the entire FBS at the position.

Gage Shaffer, a sophmore (or perhaps a redshirt freshman, not sure if the team tagged him with the redshirt last year, though he didn’t play) out of West Virginia, wasn’t rated very highly by scouts coming out of high school, and was considered a project.  Some people liked his performance at last year’s spring game, but that he didn’t get into a game last season when first Edsall and then interim head coach Mike Locksley were fighting to keep their jobs probably says something about his state of readiness.  He’ll get a chance to compete and keep on improving, as will the two senior quarterbacks, in spring practice and beyond, but it’s more of a wish and a prayer situation than someone we could confidently project right now as the starter from day one in 2016.

There are a few other QBs hanging around from last year- Shane Cockerville, most notably, but if they didn’t play last year…. Well, one wonders.

That brings us to the freshmen.  Maryland thought they were going to get 4-star Bullis quarterback Dwayne Haskins.  He committed verbally very strongly and started recruiting guys and…. Well, I’m not getting into that in this post.  Suffice is to say, screw Ohio State.  I hope Haskins enjoys holding a clipboard for the next four to six years.  He’ll be booed when he comes “home” and deservedly so.

But Maryland was able to pick up the pieces a bit from that recruiting fiasco.  Tyrell Pigrome, while short, is a dual-threat QB that may Maryland fans view as having potential, and who new offensive coordination Walt Bell and new head coach DJ Durkin have both talked up big, possibly in part to try to cushion fan panic about Haskins decommitting.  With the quarterback situation as it is, I can’t absolutely rule out him starting day one under the circumstances, I don’t know if the 3-star prospect is going to play at all, or ever start.  And if he does start as a true freshman, well, true freshmen are often pretty raw.

There is another kid coming in, Max Bortenschlager, who some services rate as a 2-star and others as a 3-star, who is a pro style QB without a great arm, but who is excellent at finding and hitting receivers in stride, and placing balls where corners can’t find them.  I see him as potentially an excellent game manager in the making.  I think he’s better than his rating.  But he is a game manager, his throwing arm will never make him elite.  And it’s hard to think he’ll be effective as a game manager as a true freshman.  Usually you need a couple years under your belt before you’re ready to manage games- because game managers are primarily about mistake avoidance, and you need a lot of practice in your offensive system and reading college level defenses before you can fill that role, generally speaking.  And, obviously, he’s not going to be a gunslinger.

So, that brings us around back to Rowe, and the question is, can he start for Maryland and be effective in 2016?  It doesn’t seem likely, but he’s going to have a chance to win the job, and there is a new coaching staff to teach him, and a new system that he might be better suited for.  In a sense, it’s a change of scenery without a change of scenery.

I’m not real confident that we’ll get much out of Rowe in his final year at College Park, but you never know.  It’s looking like we might have a half dozen or so quarterbacks in the mix, all of whom have potential in one respect or another, and Rowe might have the best arm of the bunch.  He’s going to need to look to cut down on turnovers and increase his accuracy significantly if he wants to win the job and play, though, and, well, we’ll see…

A quick uptempo Walt Bell offensive could cut either way for him.  Some quarterbacks throw picks because they don’t have time to think, which an uptempo offense would worsen the effect of, especially if you add to that the possibility that he’ll have to make a lot of option-reads after the snap.  On the other hand, sometimes guys have good instincts, and overthink things and get nervous and throw picks because they have *too much* time to think- something the Bell offense could conceivably cut down on.

My gut tells me that a senior transfer quarterback might be out best bet, and that’s still a possibility.  But Rowe will be in the mix if he plays well in practice.

Spring Football!

One of the great parts of living in Maryland is that you can experience all four seasons in their fullness. Sure, you can argue that spots south may have a more summery summer, or that points north have a more wintery winter, and you’d probably be right, but when you move too far north or south, you tend to mostly lose the season opposite of what a given region is most known for.

Summer time in Maryland brings warm weather, with thoughts of surf, sand, beaches, and bikinis, the trees with their seasonal leaves green and healthy and full grown, the flowers in bloom, sweat trickling down your brow while you walk the city concrete or the country path. Crabs, of course, when you can afford them. The Chesapeake Bay. Maryland actually even has a little bit of the Appalachian Trail within it’s borders (Not the South American Mark Sanford version 😉 ).

Two Appalachian Trails:

at

Maria-Belen-Chapur_1432161c

Which would you rather hike?

Anyway, summer’s opposite is kind of a neat experience, too, at least until about the beginning of February when the snow starts to feel like the plague and the electric/heating bill starts to resemble the Ohio State Buckeyes’ player payroll (See what I did there? 🙂 ).

The Christmas season, huddling by the fire, snowball fights, and so on and so forth can hold a lot of appeal to both traditionalists and young people alike:

Even fall (aka “Autumn” to those of you from the University of Virginia), is anecdotally a favorite season for many in the region.  Traditionally thought of as beginning around Labor Day (The earth’s rotation around the sun aside 😉 ), the first weeks of fall feel like one last gasp of summer.  Some days even require air conditioning (Most window air units don’t come out until October), but others you can feel like you almost, but don’t require need something other than a t-shirt (or pants- which are optional only if you rate  a 7 or better attractiveness wise 😉 ).

Those gentle days, as the summer sunsets, drinking Octoberfest beers, are many people’s favorite.  Football season, college and pro, is in swing, the weather is still nice but milder, there’s just a hint of a chill at night, the air conditioning bills are down, the heating bills are not yet on the radar, etc..  This melts into October and November with a beautiful display of red and brown leaves, breaking out the windbreaker light jackets, Halloween, Thanksgiving (Don’t forget the sauerkraut with that turkey if you’re in Baltimore!  It’s a longstanding tradition, and it’s delicious 🙂 ), etc..

sauerkraut

Spring, somehow, seems undefined.  March almost feels like winter.  There’s a lot of rain.  There’s no football.  Baseball season starts if you’re into that.

In DC (College Park is within the DC beltway, despite being within the state of Maryland), you do get a beautiful view of Cherry Blossom trees, which only bloom in the spring for a short amount of time:

cherryblossoms

For football fans, though, there is only spring practice, where the players who will be returning to fight for Maryland in the fall and early enrollees and transfers hone their skills.  The highlight of spring practice, for the fans, is the annual spring game.

We now have a date, and a time, and a bonus lacrosse game:

 

The nice thing about the spring game is, Maryland always wins:

There will also be autograph opportunities, and a chance to look at available season tickets by actually walking around the stadium and finding the seats that are tagged as available.

And, did I mention *FOOTBALL* in the Spring?

I believe I did. 🙂

Hat tip to PeachesTerp.

Meet Second Generation Maryland Star Trey Edmunds

Lost in all the (quite understandable) press coverage of signing day and the entire recruiting process leading up to it is that University of Maryland have a new player who’s much more likely to see the field at the beginning of the 2016 season than any individual true freshman recruit.  His name is Trey Edmunds.

Edmunds was originally a 4-star recruit for the Virginia Tech Hokies at running back, turning down offers from Maryland (Everyone makes mistakes), North Carolina, Oregon, Penn State (Good call turning that one down), Tennessee, Texas Tech, Vanderbilt, Virginia, and West Virginia according to rivals.com.

He took his 6’2″ frame and added almost 20 pounds of muscle over the years.

His college career at Tech got off to a nice start in 2013, averaging 4.1 yards a carry.

Here he is reeling off his first career touchdown against #1 ranked Alabama:

With 2014, his sophomore year, came an increase from that 4.1 yards a carry average his freshman year, to an even more impressive 4.6 yards a carry.  However, unlike in his freshman year, where that statistic is based on 166 total carries, his sophomore stat comes from only 21 attempts, which is roughly a single game’s worth of carries.  As a junior, he got less than 50 attempts.

So, here we had a player who was highly rated out of high school and who displayed some great potential and had some amount of success as a freshman, who barely saw the field the next two years.

What happened?

Well, first a broken tibia happened.

Then, a pair of freshman stole his job, prompting a site called Gobbler Country to declare him a man without a country, and if Gobbler Country is the code for Virginia Tech, and that’s the country they’re talking about, maybe it’s true that he was a man without *a* particular country.

However, he never lost his job on the field.  He lost it while he was off the field.

We don’t know, of course, what happened at closed Hokies practices, but we know the man has talent, and we know he has been productive when he’s actually gotten into game situations.

In fact, the talent is literally in his blood.  His father, Farrell Edmunds, is a Maryland Terrapins legend who went on to play for the Miami Dolphins, and his brothers Tremaine and Terrell are both current Virginia Hokies.

Having lost Brandon Ross to graduation, and Wes Brown to a suspension that may close out his Terrapins career, the Terps were looking for leadership at the tailback position, and should get it thanks to Edmonds’ senior transfer to the University of Maryland after graduating from Tech.

Of course, he won’t be without competition at Maryland.  Sophomore Ty Johnson returns, and the Terps have three freshman running backs who’ve signed letters of intent, including local Damascus, MD sensation Jake Funk, who scored over 50 touchdowns in his senior year of high school.  That’s not a typo, over 50 touchdowns in one season. 

Obviously, high school competition is high school competition (i.e. not necessarily indicative of future success), and Funk grades out below Maryland’s other two 2016 freshman commits at his position (All three stars, but there are percentiles even within those broad categories), as well as below Edmunds’ 4 star rating from when first came out of high school (Ty Johnson was a 3-star athlete coming out of high school).  However, 50+ touchdowns is 50+ touchdowns- I don’t care if you’re playing in a beer league, that’s extremely impressive.

Funk is considered a little slow for the next level, and he’s going to need to add some muscle to hold up as the downhill runner he projects as, but he’s got a great weightroom at College Park, a great coaching staff, and of course Trey Edmonds, who added weight of his own to compete in college, as a potential mentor.

It’s good bet that Edmunds will see the field next year.  He could be the starter.  He could just be a situational or a change of pace back.  But he’s very likely to get significant carries.  And his senior leadership and his background growing up around the game will be significant for the Terrapins.

With four four-star offensive linemen who are really big fellows, and some questions at the quarterback position, if I were new Maryland offensive coordinator Walt Bell, I’d be tempted to line up in the Power-I and let the linemen create holes for the running backs to churn through.  As the running backs rotate in and out grinding out yards, it’d keep the opposing offenses off the field, giving them fewer chances to score, and the opposing defenses on the field (Wearing them down so 2-4 yard gains become 5, 10, 20 yard gains and beyond by the 4th quarter).
Walt Bell from all indications isn’t going to do that.  He’s got an uptempo style of offense that likes to keep things moving.  While that’s not my style, it’s an exciting style that worked well for him at Arkansas State, and, unlike many coordinators who go uptempo, Bell isn’t afraid to run the ball when the situation or personnel dictates it.  He may not like eating time off the clock, but he doesn’t wind running some plays out of the pro set or even a three-wide with a run-blocking offensive line scheme, and handing the ball off.  His running backs do get carries.

 

Trey  Edmunds is eager to show Walt Bell and the rest of the Big Ten that Virginia Tech made a mistake when they didn’t give him a chance to regain his starting position after he was injured.

 

Maryland head coach DJ Durkin says everything’s a competition and the best players will play.

 

Ring the bell.  The competition begins with spring practice.  Edmunds will be ready to go.