Sorry to interrupt our Calhoun coverage with football, don't worry, we'll be right back at it with the hoops....
Welcome back to our semi-regular feature Friends With Bennies, where we sit down with another blogger to talk about their team. Today we have Ben from Testudo Times to talk about Saturday's game with Maryland. I also answered some questions for them, which you can find here.
TheUConnBlog: So, what are your thoughts on Randy Edsall? And before you ask, no you can't trade back for Don Brown.
Testudo Times: Pretty much exactly what you'd think: we don't like him. He's an unlikable personality and most probably deeply incompetent for the tasks the Maryland job requires. He's failed at almost every opportunity he's had here, save the second shot at hiring coordinators (which he may or may have actually done), and has done nothing to build up excitement or goodwill with the fanbase. I would say last year's record speaks for itself, but it doesn't. It's not just that Maryland went 2-10; it's that it happened in such incredibly disastrous fashion. Edsall got very, very little right last year, and that's not an encouraging sign for the future. You easily got the better of the Edsall-Brown trade.
That said, I'm not ready to write him off entirely. Aside from the absurd rules, he's actually been relatively hands-off in running the program. Which means that if Maryland's coordinators are good enough, they might just be able to save themselves, and that seems to be what's happening. The biggest problem last year wasn't Randy's incompetence; it was offensive coordinator Gary Crowton's and defensive coordinator Todd Bradford's. (Unaffectionally known as Crwtn and Brafor in College Park.) Both got the can in the offseason with apparently level-headed coaches as their replacements, and the signs are good. There was last year's crazy recruiting finish and now a solid start to this season - it's not that tough to talk yourself into Randy turning the ship around, if you want to. But I don't think anyone's giving him the benefit of the doubt after last year.
TUB: Between transfers and injuries you've had a lot of turnover at quarterback, what should UConn fans be expecting to see from Perry Hills? Who are Maryland's other offensive weapons?
TT: Hills is a true freshman and plays like it. In terms of his raw tools, he has a fairly accurate arm (and he delivers an absolute bullet over the middle) and underrated legs, though Maryland doesn't really make use of them. And as the folks at ESPN will tell you 37 times on Saturday, he was a state wrestling champ in high school, so, y'know, toughness and grit. (Which he does have in spades, actually.) At his best, he'd probably be a very good version of a game-manager type of QB. Problem is, a good game-manager doesn't make mistakes, and Hills is still young enough that he's making them. Anything down the field will be floated up and underthrown, and those passes are crying out to be intercepted. He doesn't often escape pressure, either; he's more likely to panic and put his head down than escape the pocket and find an open guy. I like what I see as a long-term proposition, but there are going to be plenty of mistakes in the interim.
The rest of the offense tells a similar story: a lot of talent, but a lot of youth and inexperience, too. Aside from senior receiver Kevin Dorsey, I'd say that the next four biggest weapons in Maryland's offense are true freshmen or true sophomores, so mistakes are plenty. (Very promising freshman RB Wes Brown looked great against Temple last week, only to fumble twice in the second half and get pulled.) Without a doubt, though, the biggest name to know is Stefon Diggs, the true freshman and former five-star wide receiver. He's absurdly dynamic and every time he touches the ball there's a feeling that he'll make something happen. Maryland's staff has been wary of overloading him early on, but he remains the Terrapins' most dangerous player and best shot of scoring points. It's only a matter of time before they start leaning on him heavily.
TUB: UConn has been able to get next to nothing going on offense this year. What are the Huskies in store for against the Terrapins defense? Where are your strong points? Where should the Huskies focus?
TT: Easy: pass, don't run. Maryland's switched to a new 3-4 scheme this year and have taken to it like a duck to water, completely shutting down Temple's running game and consistently pressuring the passer in the opening two weeks. Everyone in the front seven has major experience and talent, and any team will find it tough to get a foothold against them. But the secondary is a different story: half of the starters were true freshman for the first two weeks, and the only reliable DB, Dexter McDougle, suddenly forgot how to play football. Two likely starters will be back this week in Isaac Goins and Matt Robinson, so hopefully that'll be shored up. Even still, judging by the first two weeks, Maryland can easily be beaten over the top if Chandler Whitmer has the arm to get it there.
TUB: How interested are you in taking a pass on the full game and just deciding the winner with a kickoff? Or failing that, could we play soccer instead?
TT: I'd give the world not to have to play this game. But we'll pass on the kickoff. That hasn't gone so well for us this year. Gladly play in soccer, though. The general feeling around UMD is that this team is national-title good. Look forward to meeting you in the NCAA Tournament.
TUB: Give us a prediction for Saturday.
TT: I didn't see Maryland having a chance against Temple, but they not only won but played quite well at times. That's upped my perception of this team quite a bit, and I actually thought this was a good matchup for them even before then. So I have a bit of a quiet confidence surrounding this game, especially with the cavalry coming to the secondary with Robinson and Goins back. Of course, being a Maryland fan, confidence is usually a bad sign and means a massive disappointment is coming. So I'll balance the two out and say the bookies are probably right on this one: it'll be a very close, very ugly UConn win. Probably around 13-10.