NCF Nation: Ralph Friedgen

Five lessons from the opening week of Big Ten play.

1. Familiar issues preventing Wisconsin from next step: The Badgers had a wonderful chance to springboard themselves into the playoff conversation, as they had a young LSU team down 24-7 in the third quarter. But it unraveled in a hurry as several familiar problems -- and some bad luck on the injury front -- doomed Wisconsin in a 28-24 loss. Wisconsin won't become an elite program until it has more dynamic quarterback and receiver play to complement its bread-and-butter run, can avoid blunders in the kicking game and shores up the secondary. Injuries to two starting defensive linemen certainly hurt, and star running back Melvin Gordon wasn't right after a long run in the third quarter. But the same limitations we've seen before with the Badgers surfaced again in a painful season-opening loss. There's still a lot to play for, but a win would have been huge for Wisconsin and the Big Ten.

[+] EnlargeWisconsin's Melvin Gordon
Troy Taormina/USA TODAY SportsWisconsin's Melvin Gordon rushed for 140 yards and a touchdown but never seemed right again after a long run in the third quarter.
2. Quarterback play is on the uptick: To take a step forward as a league, the Big Ten must make strides at the most important position on the field. Week 1 was a promising start. Michigan State's Connor Cook picked up where he left off last year and played almost flawlessly (12-of-13 passing, 285 yards, three touchdowns) against Jacksonville State. Other veterans such as Michigan's Devin Gardner (13-of-14 passing, three touchdowns), Iowa's Jake Rudock and Rutgers' Gary Nova started off strong. Second-year players such as Penn State's Christian Hackenberg, Nebraska's Tommy Armstrong and Purdue's Danny Etling made big-time throws in victories, and Ohio State freshman J.T. Barrett delivered in his debut as the starter. Illinois' offense had some hiccups but new starting quarterback Wes Lunt finished with four touchdown passes. No one will confuse the Big Ten's quarterback contingent with the Pac-12's, but there are some good signs heading into some bigger games.

3. PSU, OSU lines are works in progress: A Penn State offensive line with just one returning starter and two converted defensive tackles starting at the guard spots topped any fan's list of concerns entering the season. Ohio State's offensive line might not have been the biggest red flag following Braxton Miller's injury, but there was some curiosity with four new starters. Both units did some good things Saturday, especially down the stretch in wins against UCF and Navy, respectively. But Penn State struggled to get its power run going and endured two holding penalties and two false starts. Ohio State had just 71 rush yards on 24 attempts through the first three quarters against an undersized Navy defense. The Buckeyes finished strong (122 fourth-quarter rush yards) but need to make strides, beginning this week against Virginia Tech. Michigan also entered its opener with the offensive line in the spotlight. Although Appalachian State isn't a great gauge, Michigan got its ground game going with 350 yards and two 100-yard rushers (Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith).

4. Rutgers could be a surprise team: Few expected much from the Scarlet Knights, including the Big Ten reporter crew, but Kyle Flood's team began the season on an impressive note. It's never easy to travel to the West Coast, and Rutgers opened with a Washington State team poised to expose its shaky pass defense. Although Washington State racked up 532 pass yards, Rutgers controlled the line of scrimmage and much of the game in a 41-38 win. New offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen has made an immediate impact, and Rutgers showcased a powerful run game led by Paul James and a big-play pass attack. The defense still needs work, and the competition level will improve, but Rutgers should be 2-0 before its highly anticipated Big Ten debut Sept. 13 against Penn State at High Points Solutions Stadium.

5. Northwestern is reeling: Few FBS teams had a rockier offseason than Northwestern, which endured the union debate, Venric Mark's stunning departure and several key injuries in the preseason. Pat Fitzgerald always had found ways to get his teams ready for the season and entered Saturday with an 8-0 mark in openers. But Northwestern didn't look ready against Cal and was outplayed in all three phases during the first 42 minutes. The Wildcats made a nice run at the end of the third quarter and had chances to complete a comeback but went conservative at the wrong times and made too many errors in a 31-24 home loss, its fifth consecutive setback at Ryan Field. You wonder if this team has reached a breaking point after all the setbacks since the past October. A Week 2 win against Northern Illinois is critical.
We've already covered the conference's potential villains, so it's only natural that we move on to the good guys.

You won't find them in comic books or out in the Big Ten footprint fighting crime. But even opposing fans won't find it all that difficult to root for this cast of characters. Some overcame injuries or other obstacles, some have been wronged, and others just seem like genuinely good people.

There are certainly plenty of other athletes and coaches whom this could apply to, so it wasn't easy just picking a handful. But true heroes don't expect media attention for their good deeds … plus, we had to cut this list off somewhere.

So, in alphabetical order, here are the unmasked Big Ten heroes:

[+] EnlargeNebraska
Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY SportsAmeer Abdullah, left, decided to put the NFL off for another year and return for his senior season at Nebraska.
Ameer Abdullah, running back, Nebraska: About 100 juniors declared early for this year's NFL draft, and no one would've blamed Abdullah if he decided to join the herd. Instead, he decided to stay -- and he's said all the right things. As the youngest of nine children, the other eight of whom have earned college degrees, Abdullah stressed the importance of his education and finishing that degree. When a lot of other players are chasing dollar signs instead of diplomas, that's a refreshing viewpoint. Added Bo Pelini: “He's an All-American on the field. He's an All-American off the field.”

Adam Breneman, tight end, Penn State: Forget the fact he remained loyal and committed to the university throughout the sanctions, when he could've bolted to the likes of Florida State or Notre Dame. He's also used his football celebrity to champion a few charitable causes, something more common for coaches than players. In high school he started “Catch the Cure,” which helped raise more than $200,000 to fight Lou Gehrig's Disease. During his Under Armour jersey presentation two years ago, he even helped man a booth outside the auditorium to seek donations. Currently, he's the secretary of Penn State's nonprofit chapter of “Uplifting Athletes,” which raises money for the Kidney Cancer Association. You don't have to like the Nittany Lions, but you have to like what Breneman's doing.

Ralph Friedgen, offensive coordinator, Rutgers: Underappreciated. Underestimated. Underdog. That's why Friedgen is under two other heroes on this list. It's easy to root for someone who appeared to be unfairly punished – and is now seeking out justice on the gridiron. Friedgen is just about the only head coach to win conference coach of the year and then be fired that same season. It happened with Maryland in 2010; now, he's helping oversee a Rutgers offense that people aren't expecting a lot from. He's in the same division as the Terps -- heck, they're on the schedule this year -- and Friedgen has a chance to show Maryland it made a mistake. He certainly could've handled the dismissal better, but it's hard to blame him and easy to wish him well. As long as you're not a Terps fan, that is.

Jerry Kill, head coach, Minnesota: Stop me if you've heard this before. “I'm rooting against them when they play us, but I'm wishing all the best to ________ the rest of the season.” Chances are Kill's filled in quite a few of those sentences the past few years. He has refused to let epilepsy get the best of him, and his longevity's been a testament to his toughness. He's been a coach since 1985, and he just led the Gophers to back-to-back bowls. Plus, he recently started a new epilepsy foundation for young patients, and he put $100,000 of his own money toward that. How can you not root for this guy?

Jake Ryan, linebacker, Michigan: Torn anterior cruciate ligaments are usually big setbacks, something that means missed seasons or at least gradual returns. Not for Ryan. The Michigan linebacker, a team captain last season, was on crutches last spring and returned in time for the Oct. 12 game against Penn State. Said defensive coordinator Greg Mattison: “If he ever truly logged the hours of extra treatment and extra rehab that he has done since the day that happened, I think it would floor you.” Nothing has really been handed to Ryan, as he wasn't a highly sought-after recruit. But he's worked hard and now finds himself on the preseason watch lists for the Bednarik and Nagurski awards. It's his final season at Michigan, and big things are expected from him.

Heroes on deck: Tracy Claeys, Stefon Diggs, Herb Hand, Jeremy Langford, Venric Mark
Maryland and Rutgers officially join the Big Ten on July 1, less than two weeks from now. The reaction from most Big Ten fans, of course, can be summed up in two words: Ho hum.

But what could quickly change the reaction is a new rivalry being created by the two expansion members. On that front, there is some promising potential.

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Eleven Warriors had a good look earlier today at the Maryland-Penn State rivalry, such as it is. The on-field history says, "nothing to see here, move along," as Penn State has gone 35-1-1 all time versus the Terrapins. But first-year Nittany Lions coach James Franklin seems to have a way of getting under opponents' skin, which opens up a realm of possibilities for this feud going forward.

Franklin spoke openly about "dominating the region" in recruiting upon taking the Penn State job. During a speech last month to boosters in Baltimore -- right in the Terps' backyard, Franklin said he viewed Maryland and New Jersey an in-state recruiting territory for his team. As far as other schools in the area? "They might as well shut them down, because they don't have a chance," he told the boosters.

Franklin would later say his words were taken out of context, but the implication was pretty clear nonetheless.

Well, Maryland coach Randy Edsall was in Pennsylvania for a golf outing earlier this week and fired back at Franklin's comments.

"Talk is cheap,” Edsall told the York (Pa.) Dispatch. "We're not gonna boast and brag. We're more about substance at Maryland. We're gonna find guys that fit the profile we're looking for. We're gonna worry about ourselves and not worry about anything else.”

I love it. Sure, coaches often spout off in the summertime, especially when rabble-rousing for their own boosters. Remember Brady Hoke's comments about Notre Dame "chickening out" of the Michigan series last year around this time? It's not so much a war of words as it is something to talk about.

But there's no doubt that these types of things add to the rivalry. Michigan did, after all, play the "Chicken Dance" song after beating the Irish at home last September. Wolverines fans ate it up.

The Maryland-Penn State series already has a little bit of juice, thanks both to the geography and the fact that Franklin used to be the Terrapins' head-coach-in-waiting. There is little doubt the two schools will butt heads on the recruiting trail, as Penn State already has four players from Maryland and the Washington D.C. area committed for the 2015 class.

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin
AP Photo/PennLive.com/Joe HermittSoon-to-be Big Ten members Maryland and Rutgers will hear plenty from Penn State coach James Franklin.
All of this makes the Nov. 1 game between the Lions and Terps at Beaver Stadium much more interesting. Provided, of course, that Maryland can field a competitive team in its new league. When the on-field results don't ignite a rivalry, the quickest way to add some flames is through a coaching conflict.

"Maryland has not had a lot of success against Penn State," Edsall told the Dispatch. "I think it's something that can be a good rivalry. We have to do something about that on our end."

Then there's Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights have been just as futile over the years against the Nittany Lions as Maryland, going 2-22 all time. Still, the two schools aren't that far apart and share some commonality as northeastern state flagship institutions. Penn State has had lots of success recruiting New Jersey over the years, and Franklin's former boss -- ex-Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen -- is now the offensive coordinator at Rutgers.

The Scarlet Knights will host the Nittany Lions on Sept. 13 in their first conference game as a Big Ten member; the game was scheduled before the league invited the Rutgers to join.

Rutgers fans have been looking forward to that game for many months and would love nothing more than to score the upset.

"There is a buzz from the fans,” coach Kyle Flood told reporters last month. “College football is at its best when its regional. They are our neighbor to the west, and they are the Big Ten school in Pennsylvania. Our fans are excited about it. I think they should be excited about it. We’ve got a lot of work to do for the season before that. We’ve got some really challenging games before that, but it’s probably fitting that that’s the Big Ten opener.”

Franklin likely won't be a popular figure in either Piscataway or College Park in the foreseeable future. And that's a good thing, because what the league needs with these two new East Coast additions are some buzz-worthy rivalries.
C.J. Brown turns 23 on June 27. He's a graduate student preparing for his sixth year at Maryland. He has played for two head coaches and three offensive coordinators and suffered two season-ending injuries. He's the most accomplished rushing quarterback in team history, owning five of the top 10 single-game totals, including the top performance (162 yards against Clemson in 2011).

He has experienced two 10-loss seasons (2009 and 2011) and two postseason games (the 2010 and 2013 Military Bowls).

[+] EnlargeBrown
AP Photo/Patrick SemanskyMaryland hopes QB C.J. Brown (1,162 career rushing yards) won't have to carry the ball as much this fall.
Now Brown prepares to play in his second league, the Big Ten, which Maryland joins this fall. The Big Ten move could widen some eyes when the Terrapins enter venues like Michigan Stadium, Beaver Stadium and Camp Randall Stadium.

Brown won't flinch.

"Just thinking about all the things, from defensive schemes to overtimes to weird calls to different situations, the momentum shifts and swings," Brown said. "You've been through it all when you've been around for five, going on six, years now."

Maryland should be optimistic about its offense entering the 2014 season. Explosive receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long return from leg injuries. Wide receiver Marcus Leak and running back Wes Brown both are back after spending a year away from the team. The Terps return five players with at least 450 receiving yards and all of their top ball carriers from 2013.

Perhaps most important is the calming veteran presence Brown provides at the quarterback spot.

"You know he's not going to get rattled," Maryland coach Randy Edsall said. "He's going to be the mature guy and go up to guys and talk to them and get them going [to do] the right thing. It's very comforting for me to know we have that kind of guy with that kind of experience and that kind of makeup being the leader of our team."

Brown's extended stay in college football has reached many junctions. He came to Maryland to play for coach Ralph Friedgen and offensive coordinator James Franklin. When a broken collarbone ended his 2010 season in the opener, he watched as Danny O'Brien went on to ACC Rookie of the Year honors.

Then came Friedgen's surprise firing after an 8-4 regular season -- on the heels of Franklin's departure to Vanderbilt. Edsall arrived and Maryland went through a disastrous 2011 season, although Brown replaced the struggling O'Brien toward the end.

With what he's had to go through with all the injuries, that stuff makes you a lot more mature and makes you see and understand the big picture a little bit more.

-- Maryland coach Randy Edsall on C.J. Brown
Brown entered 2012 as the starting quarterback and a co-captain, but an ACL tear in August ended his season before it started. He made it through the 2013 season mostly in one piece -- he missed two games with a concussion suffered on a brutal hit against Florida State -- and recorded 2,242 passing yards, 576 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns (13 pass, 12 rush).

"With what he’s had to go through with all the injuries, that stuff makes you a lot more mature and makes you see and understand the big picture a little bit more," Edsall said.

Added Brown: "It's been good to grow, to be able to put all that in the past and take a step forward."

Brown benefits from a resource few major-college quarterbacks enjoy: a dad who did the exact same thing. Clark Brown played quarterback at Michigan State in 1983-84.

C.J. was born in Michigan, and though the family moved to Cranberry Township, Pa., just north of Pittsburgh, C.J. remembers attending Michigan State games every few years.

"He's been a huge resource," C.J. said of his father. "He understood that I had coaches for a reason, and if they wanted his advice or I wanted his advice, I could go to him. He's been an open book, a great support system I could go to when I had questions or I was having a tough time.

"He's been through it, and he can definitely relate."

The scouting report on most college quarterbacks is set by Year 4 or Year 5, much less Year 6. But Brown could be a different player, leading a different Maryland offense this fall, if the injuries that have haunted the unit simply stay away.

Although Maryland flexed its muscles early last season, eclipsing 30 points in each of its first four games, the offense, in Brown's view, hasn't shown its full potential. Despite 1,162 career rush yards, Brown might not have to carry the ball as much this fall. Edsall, pleased with Brown's understated but effective leadership style, wants his quarterback to simply fine tune his game this spring.

"I see how much he's progressing with each practice we have," Edsall said. "He's doing things so much better now than even what he was doing last fall.

"That natural progression, I think he's going to be an outstanding quarterback in 2014."
Spring football kicks off earlier than normal in the Big Ten, as Michigan takes the field Tuesday, Northwestern follows Wednesday and eight other squads begin their sessions by March 8.

The accelerated schedules seem appropriate in a league filled with players, coaches and teams itching for fresh starts.

New assistants get their first chance to repair struggling units, whether it's Doug Nussmeier with Michigan's offense, Brian Knorr with Indiana's defense or Chris Ash and Larry Johnson with a once-feared Ohio State defense. Quarterback competitions begin or resume at nine places, as new faces such as Illinois' Wes Lunt, Nebraska's Johnny Stanton and Minnesota's Chris Streveler enter the mix, while veterans like Wisconsin's Joel Stave and Michigan's Devin Gardner try to retain their starting jobs.

Happy Valley continues to buzz about new Penn State coach James Franklin, who seems to galvanize everyone whom he encounters. But Franklin barely has been around his new players and finally begins the real work with a team facing very real challenges.

[+] EnlargePat Fitzgerald
AP Photo/Jeff HaynesNorthwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald hopes his team can start a rebound from a disappointing, injury-riddled 2013 season.
Spring also allows teams such as Northwestern, Michigan, Purdue and Indiana to look forward after disappointing seasons. Michigan State, meanwhile, continues to bask in the Rose Bowl glow but looks toward its next goal -- a national championship -- as spring ball kicks off March 25.

"It's big-picture stuff, building relationships with the players and everyone associated with the program," Franklin told ESPN.com. "The other thing is laying a really good foundation with the philosophies and schemes of how we're going to do things. That's going to happen naturally over time, but I'm not the most patient person. I wish it would have happened yesterday."

Franklin doesn't water down his goals for Penn State, especially in recruiting, but he's also realistic about the challenges of a reduced roster. The Nittany Lions return strong pieces such as quarterback Christian Hackenberg and defensive back Adrian Amos, but the two-deep has some holes that Franklin and his assistants must address, while installing new schemes.

"It's one thing when you get put in this situation in the first place with limited scholarships," Franklin said, "but the longer you're in it, the more effect it has. We've got some depth issues, there's no doubt about it, across the board. We're going to have to get creative."

Northwestern also is focused on depth after being hit hard by key injuries in 2013. Pat Fitzgerald blames himself and his staff for failing to get enough second-stringers ready, which proved costly in close Big Ten losses.

After their first bowl-less winter in six years, the Wildcats responded well in the weight room, as more than 50 players recorded personal bests. Although 11 players will miss spring practice, including standout running back/returner Venric Mark, the depth should be better in areas like the secondary.

"We're really emphasizing taking ownership of the finish," Fitzgerald said. "Finishing your technique, finishing the call, finishing the route. There's a lot of disappointment in the way the program didn't take the next step forward."

Michigan coach Brady Hoke restructured the roles of his defensive assistants for 2014, but the Wolverines' offense will be in the spotlight this spring after a wildly inconsistent season. Gardner, who continues to recover from a foot injury and likely won't be 100 percent until midway through the spring, will compete with Shane Morris, Russell Bellomy and midyear enrollee Wilton Speight.

But other positions, such as offensive line, figure to be just as important as Michigan tries to achieve Hoke and Nussmeier's vision.

"We had good intentions as far as what we wanted our identity to be, but obviously I don't think it came out the way we'd like it to," Hoke said. "The quarterback position is as important as any, and we have a guy [Gardner] who is very talented and had some really good games and games where we had to protect him better, have a better run game and take pressure off of him, and I don't think we did."

While Michigan turns the page on offense, Ohio State focuses on a defense that allowed 115 points in its last three games and finished 110th nationally in pass yards allowed (268 YPG). The Buckeyes lost top defenders Ryan Shazier and Bradley Roby, but they also added two accomplished assistants.

Johnson, who churned out NFL linemen during 18 years at Penn State, chose Ohio State instead of remaining in State College. Ash leaves a sole coordinator role at Arkansas for a co-coordinator role at Ohio State, where he'll work with the embattled Luke Fickell and others to mend the defense through a simplified scheme.

"Back in the day when Ohio State played great defense, you knew what you were going to get," Ash said. "They played with swagger, played with confidence, played with toughness. We have to get back to that. The simplicity of the things we're going to do will lead to faster players, more plays made and a more aggressive defense.

"I wasn't here [in 2013], but I can tell you what Coach Meyer has told me, what Luke Fickell has told me and what I watch on film. I can see there's some hesitation, there's some uncertainty. Why that is, I don't know. But it's my job to get it fixed."

Purdue has plenty to fix after a 1-11 season, and players not surprisingly are wearing T-shirts with the word "FORWARD" on the backs. Maryland and Rutgers move forward to a new conference after an offseason that saw several staff changes, including new coordinators at Rutgers (Ralph Friedgen, Joe Rossi).

There's a fresh start of sorts at Wisconsin, as a large and decorated senior class departs. Coach Gary Andersen's markings will be more obvious with his second team, which begins practice March 7.

Wisconsin is just one of many places where the top quarterback job is at stake. Lunt, who sat out last season after transferring from Oklahoma State, competes with Reilly O'Toole and Aaron Bailey at Illinois.

"Competition's competition, no matter where it's at," said Lunt, who has added about 15 pounds since his arrival and checks in at 225. "It's different because it’s different people, different coaches, but I'm excited for it."

He's not alone in the Big Ten. Spring ball can't start soon enough.
So just what should we expect from Maryland as the Terrapins enter the Big Ten? To get some answers, I turned to our in-house expert, Heather Dinich. She covered the program for the Baltimore Sun before joining ESPN.com's ACC blog. And Heather still lives in Maryland.

As we take the Terps off Heather's hands, she was kind enough to answer a few of our pressing questions about the Big Ten newbie-to-be:

Heather, how competitive should Big Ten fans expect to the Terrapins to be when they enter the Big Ten?

[+] EnlargeRandy Edsall
AP Photo/Patrick SemanskyRandy Edsall and the Terps will face a brutal schedule in their first foray into the Big Ten.
HD: Think Hoosiers. Somewhere around not quite as good as Penn State and not as bad as Purdue. And nowhere near the likes of Ohio State. Average at best. The schedule is brutal, with Ohio State and back-to-back road trips to Wisconsin and Penn State, plus a trip to Michigan. The travel and stadiums alone are going to be a culture shock for the Terps. It’s a good thing Rutgers joined the Big Ten so the Terps have somebody they can match up against. (Though former Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen is going to be a wee bit motivated for that one as the Scarlet Knights’ new OC.) I think it’s going to be a long season for Randy Edsall, and it’s going to be a dose of reality for athletic director Kevin Anderson. Then again, ADs are paid to see the big picture and follow the money. I have football tunnel vision and it looks like a huge train coming at the Terps through this one.

How solid is Randy Edsall's standing as head coach, especially now that he'll have to compete against Friedgen and former Maryland coach-in-waiting James Franklin (the new head coach at Penn State)?

HD: I think it’s tenuous at best. Look, considering all of the injuries they’ve had, Edsall gets a bit of a pass. Two seasons ago his quarterback position was completely decimated by injuries, to the point where he had a backup linebacker throwing the ball. Last season he lost his top two receivers to injuries, including Stefon Diggs, one of the most exciting playmakers in the country. But he lost the bowl game to Marshall last year -- in Annapolis. That’s unacceptable if you’re the top team in the state. The Terps lost five of their last seven games. They lost to Wake Forest and Syracuse, you think they’re gonna beat Wisconsin and Penn State? On the road? Maryland is going to be haunted by its past, with those games against Franklin and Friedgen, and losses against those two programs will further fuel the fire for Edsall’s critics. Playing the first season in the Big Ten could buy him some time, but it shouldn’t buy him much.

As you mentioned, injuries have been a big problem for the Terps lately. How good can they be if everyone stays healthy?

HD: Even at full strength, I still don’t think they can match up with the best of the Big Ten, but Maryland should look like a better team than what fans saw in 2013. They should be expected to beat Indiana, Iowa and Rutgers and be able to steal one or two they’re “not supposed to win.” The question is if they can handle winning on the road in a new conference. This could actually be a pretty decent team with Diggs and WR Deon Long healthy for the season, and a veteran quarterback in C.J. Brown. Overall, they lose only four starters, and last year was a very young team. The whole defensive line returns and the entire defense should be an experienced group. They should pick up at least two more wins in the nonconference schedule, but they’ve got to win at Syracuse, a team they lost to last year. So while it might be a better team overall, it might not necessarily be reflected in the win column. Still, if everyone stays healthy, fans should expect a bowl game.

Have Maryland fans come around to the idea of leaving the ACC, or does it still seem weird to think of Maryland in the Big Ten?

HD: Weird. Very weird. I live in Maryland and can’t get used to it, and a lot of fans, of course, are focused on the impact it has on the hoops season. Many fans are indifferent, and even more are still trying to understand it.

Finally, what are some must-see attractions/traditions for visiting Big Ten fans who come to College Park?

HD: I cannot tell a lie: Gameday traffic will be created by Ohio State fans. I recommend checking out Cole Field House, which is right behind Byrd Stadium, for some historic hoops scenery, and Comcast Center, for the modern version. On the field, the statue of Testudo is said to bring some good luck, and of course, the pride this state takes in its flag is, well, dizzying. As for places to eat and consume adult beverages downtown, sources say R.J. Bentley’s and the Cornerstone Grill & Loft are the local institutions.
1. Local recruits might be a program’s bread and butter, but it sure seems as if more schools are looking outside their geographic comfort zone. UCLA signed five players east of the Rockies. National champion Florida State reached beyond the local bounty to sign players from 11 other states. Alabama signed recruits from 14 states, not to mention linebacker Rashaan Evans from enemy country (Auburn [Ala.] High). Evans narrowed it down to Alabama, Auburn … and UCLA.

2. Here’s another way of making the same point: Jake Trotter, our Big 12 reporter, said on Paul Finebaum’s radio show Wednesday that the best players in the conference states of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Iowa signed with SEC schools. Texas A&M’s move into the SEC opened the doors of the state to the conference. Ten SEC schools, including every Western Division program, signed at least one Texas recruit.

3. It’s great to see Ralph Friedgen return to coaching. The 66-year-old Fridge, after three years of golf and hanging around, will help Rutgers move into the Big Ten as the offensive coordinator for head coach Kyle Flood. Friedgen, who went 75-50 in 10 seasons at Maryland, returned for the same reason that Dennis Erickson and Tom O’Brien are now assistants: to coach young men. That’s why these guys got in the business. After all the years and the money and the fame, that’s why they’re still here.

Hope springs in the ACC

May, 22, 2013
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As the season slooowwly creeps up on us and we enter what will be the final season in the current BCS system, ESPN.com is taking some time today to reflect on how each conference has overachieved and underachieved during the BCS era. History reminds us it's impossible to predict how the season will play out. Who will disappoint? Who will exceed our expectations?

Since 1998, when the BCS began, here’s a look at five things each the ACC has done to overachieve and underachieve during that span:

Five best overachieved

1. Wake Forest in the 2007 Orange Bowl. The 2006 Deacs were the Cinderella of the BCS that year, the smallest school in the BCS making big history under coach Jim Grobe. The unheralded team defeated Georgia Tech 9-6 to win the program’s second ACC football championship (and its first since 1970). The Demon Deacons' nine points were by far the fewest ever scored by a winning team in a Division 1-A title game. Wake Forest earned the program’s first trip to a BCS game.

[+] EnlargeRalph Friedgen
Josh D. Weiss/US PresswireRalph Friedgen, who coached the Terrapins from 2001-2010, finished his career at Maryland with a 75-60 overall record.
2. Ralph Friedgen winning 31 games in his first three seasons. In 2001, Friedgen became the first coach in league history to win the ACC title in his first year as head coach, and he was a consensus choice for national coach of the year. With the players he inherited from Ron Vanderlinden, Friedgen had three straight seasons of at least 10 wins each -- unprecedented success in the program’s history.

3. ACC conning Notre Dame into affiliation. It was a major coup for commissioner John Swofford, who convinced the Irish to join the ACC in all sports but football, and to commit to an agreement to play five annual football games against the ACC, beginning in 2014. It was a critical step in stabilizing the future of the conference.

4. 2007 Boston College: The Eagles were ranked as high as No. 2 in the country that year after rallying to beat Virginia Tech in late October. Jeff Jagodzinski had one of the most successful first seasons in school history, as he guided the team to 11 wins, including a win against Michigan State in the Champs Sports Bowl. It was the first time BC had won 11 games since 1940.

5. Joe Hamilton Heisman runner-up. Georgia Tech’s quarterback finished second in the 1999 Heisman Trophy voting, an impressive accomplishment for a player listed at 5’10, 190 pounds. While many doubted his pro potential because of his size, there was no questioning his accomplishments with the Yellow Jackets. The ACC’s all-time leader in total offense with 10,640 yards led the Jackets to an 18-5 record over his last 23 games, including a share of the 1998 ACC championship.

Five worst underachieved

1. Florida State’s 2012 loss to NC State. The Seminoles’ 17-16 loss at NC State last year was unforgettable, and to some FSU fans, probably unforgivable. The Noles were ranked No. 3 in the country at the time and finally being taken seriously as a national-title contender again when it all slipped away in the fourth quarter in Raleigh. Despite the ACC title and Orange Bowl win, there will always be a sense of what could have been had FSU not squandered a 16-0 halftime lead.

2. The ACC’s 3-13 record in BCS bowls. Despite all of the NFL draft picks the conference has produced, despite all of the elite recruits the league lured in, the ACC spent the BCS era digging itself a gaping hole it could never climb out of in the current system. Florida State, Virginia Tech and Clemson combined for a 3-10 record in BCS bowls.

3. Miami’s mediocrity. Five national titles -- and yet not one Coastal Division crown. When Miami joined the ACC on July 1, 2004, league officials thought the perennial power would be an instant upgrade. Instead, Miami’s mediocrity has been its main storyline, and more recently, its saga involving the NCAA has overshadowed any success Al Golden has had on the field. Since joining the ACC, Miami has had three different head coaches and hasn’t been able to win more than nine games or finish better than second place in the division. When Miami is great again, the ACC will be, too.

4. Clemson’s collapse in 2008. The Tigers entered the season as the No. 9 team in the country and finished with a thud at 7-6. The downward spiral began in the opener against Alabama, when Clemson had zero yards rushing on 14 attempts. Despite the dynamic duo of James Davis and C.J. Spiller, and standout receiver Jacoby Ford, Clemson lost three straight to Maryland, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech, and former coach Tommy Bowden resigned mid-season. It couldn’t have gone much worse for a team that began with such high expectations.

5. FSU vs. the best since its last BCS appearance. Since 2000, when Florida State last played for a national title, the Seminoles are 18-24 against opponents ranked in the Associated Press top 25, and that includes a win against Northern Illinois in the Discover Orange Bowl. Despite playing in two national championship games in the BCS era, Florida State was unable to translate that success into a winning record against ranked opponents.
Maryland defensive tackle Joe Vellano is a self-described “under-the-radar-kind-of-guy.”

“I kind of liked it that way,” he said.

Those days are over.

[+] EnlargeMaryland's Joe Vellano
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesJoe Vellano had 20 tackles during a loss to Georgia Tech last season.
The transformation from unknown to unstoppable occurred on Oct. 8, 2011, when Vellano shocked the college football world with a career-best 20 tackles in a 21-16 loss to Georgia Tech. It was the most tackles by any defensive lineman in the FBS.

“It was kind of crazy,” Vellano said. “The first drive, I picked up like three or four tackles, and I was like, four tackles on one drive? Then I kind of got a beat on their offense from watching a lot of film. My brother played the option when he was at Rhode Island. Watching them, you get a feel for what they like.”

ACC offenses should now have a feel for Vellano, who enters 2012 as one of the league’s best linemen. Last year he finished third on the team with 94 tackles, had 7.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, four pass breakups, two fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles. It didn’t matter that Maryland was 2-10. It was clear that Vellano was a first-team all-conference player stuck on a sinking ship. This year, the hard-nosed tackle will move to end in the new 3-4 scheme. While his position will change, his work ethic and method of preparation will remain the same.

“I’m just trying to do my job the best I can,” he said. “I’m going out swinging at least.”

It’s how he was raised.

Vellano’s dad, Paul, was a two-time All-ACC selection (1972-73) at defensive tackle for Maryland. They are the first father-son All-America combo at the same school in ACC history and one of four known in FBS. Vellano’s brother, Paul, played football at Rhode Island (2006-09) and has been a player-coach for the past three years for the Parma Panthers of the Italian Football League (if you haven’t read John Grisham’s “Playing for Pizza,” do it now).

Vellano said his father has played an integral role in his career.

“He wanted the best experience for us growing up,” he said. “My dad never told me I had to play football. He said, ‘If you like it, I’ll be happy to do everything I can to help you play,’ but he never pushed it on us. He comes to every game, he and my mom, and my brother. Not even just my immediate family, but my uncles, everyone tries to make every game. There’s a lot of support.”

Vellano said his father was a major influence on his decision to attend Maryland. The building his father lived in is right next to the stadium. It was the first college football program he saw when he was younger, and it was a part of his life growing up. Despite the disaster that was Randy Edsall’s first season, Vellano said he has no regrets trying to follow in his father’s footsteps.

“Without a doubt,” he said. “I love both coaches and that’s out of my control really. Coach Friedgen, he’s the one who offered me a scholarship. I would never be here without that. And coach Edsall, nothing but the best for our team. It’s been good to have both coaches.”

And it’s been just as good for Maryland to have both Vellanos.
Wisconsin fans probably got worried Monday when photos of Danny O'Brien wearing a Penn State jacket at the Nittany Lions' first spring practice began making their way around the Web.

Sure, O'Brien reportedly had enjoyed his visit to Madison during the weekend. But the coveted quarterback transfer was making his second trip to Penn State, which could show off a straight-from-the-NFL offense and a head coach (Bill O'Brien) who weeks ago was working with Tom Brady. Two SEC schools, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt, also reportedly courted Danny O'Brien, the former ACC Rookie of the Year who decided to transfer from Maryland last month.

[+] EnlargeDanny O'Brien
AP Photo/Patrick SemanskyBecause quarterback Danny O'Brien graduated from Maryland in three years, he will have two seasons of eligibility at Wisconsin and can play right away.
Wisconsin had some nice selling points, too: a Heisman Trophy candidate at running back (Montee Ball), Big Ten championship trophies from the past two seasons and a path to success blazed by another ACC quarterback transfer (Russell Wilson). A great college town doesn't hurt, either.

But the Badgers also had four new offensive assistants, including a new coordinator in Matt Canada. They were losing three stud offensive linemen and their top receiver. Despite three consecutive seasons of 10 or more wins, Wisconsin looked like a team that might have missed its window to become elite.

In many ways, Wisconsin had a tougher sell with O'Brien than it had with Wilson.

But by late Wednesday morning, any angst in Badger Land had turned to joy. Danny O'Brien will suit up for Wisconsin in 2012 and 2013.

O'Brien's decision to pick Wisconsin, first reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, confirms that the program remains an appealing destination despite the recent transition. While some fans grumbled when Wisconsin signed only 12 recruits in February, they were giddy about the 13th. Penn State would have been a good spot for O'Brien. He had ties to Vanderbilt because of head coach James Franklin. But in the end, he picked Wisconsin.

Here's coach Bret Bielema's statement on O'Brien's arrival:
"We're excited that Danny has chosen to attend Wisconsin. The first thing we did when we were aware of Danny's interest was to try and find out what type of person he was and if he would fit into our program. From our dealings with him and all the things I have heard from those who have been around him, he is a tremendous person and has great character. He had a fantastic visit and our current players who met him came away impressed. Having graduated from Maryland in just three years, you know right away that he is a smart kid.
"As is the case with any player who joins our program, we have not promised Danny anything other than the chance to come in during the fall and compete for the starting quarterback position. He understands that and is excited for that opportunity."

There are several reasons Wisconsin should be excited -- and relieved -- about this addition.

  • The Badgers currently have only two healthy quarterbacks practicing this spring in Joe Brennan and Joel Stave. Neither is proven in games, and there are no guarantees that Jon Budmayr or Curt Phillips will be ready to go by the fall. People will mock Wisconsin for taking another transfer quarterback, but there's really no downside to this move. The Badgers need bodies at the quarterback spot.
  • Unlike Wilson, who played just one spectacular season in Madison, O'Brien has two years of eligibility left after graduating from Maryland in three years. Should he win the starting job this fall, he could establish some continuity under center for a team that hasn't had too much of it in recent years other than Scott Tolzien.
  • Wilson said former Badgers offensive coordinator Paul Chryst was a huge factor in his decision to pick Wisconsin over Auburn. Chryst is no longer at UW, leaving to become Pitt's head coach, but the program still appealed to O'Brien more than several others in major conferences. This is a good sign.

Moments after Wisconsin announced O'Brien's signing, Ball tweeted, "Danny o brien just messaged me this.. 'let's do this'... it shall be done then my man. #wiscONsin."

The Wilson comparisons will be made, but it's unfair to expect O'Brien to replicate what No. 16 did. O'Brien is a different type of quarterback. He struggled last season at Maryland, throwing 10 interceptions and seven touchdowns and lost his starting job. Then again, he thrived for the Terrapins under coach Ralph Friedgen in 2010 and didn't seem to fit with what the new staff wanted.

O'Brien clearly is a sharp guy, and he'll have to quickly absorb Wisconsin's offense, as Wilson did last summer.

It's not ideal for a program to take graduate quarterback transfers in consecutive years. But injuries have left Wisconsin in a unique position, and you can't fault the coaches for trying to get better. The Badgers undoubtedly got better Wednesday.

While it's unlikely the transfer trend continues beyond 2013, Wisconsin has reached a level of success as a program that when it needs personnel help, it can attract good prospects.
Bill O'Brien wasn't lying when he said his coaching staff would be assembled in a hurry.

Penn State's new coach has quickly hired a group of assistants to help him during the transition.

Ted Roof comes aboard as the Nittany Lions defensive coordinator, Roof confirmed to ESPN.com in a text message Monday night. He joins a defensive staff that includes two holdovers from the previous regime, defensive line coach Larry Johnson and linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden.

Roof spent the past two seasons as Auburn's defensive coordinator, although he left last month for the same post at Central Florida. He and O'Brien worked together at Duke from 2005-06, Roof as the Blue Devils' head coach and O'Brien as the team's offensive coordinator. The two also worked together at Georgia Tech from 1998-2001. Although Roof's name is eliciting mixed reactions from Penn State fans, he did a nice job in his last Big Ten stint with Minnesota's defense in 2008.

Penn State's hasn't officially announced any of O'Brien's assistants, but three other coaches reportedly will join the staff. They are: Buffalo Bills wide receivers coach Stan Hixon, former Texas offensive line coach Mac McWhorter and Ball State offensive line coach John Strollo. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports McWhorter will coach offensive line at Penn State and Strollo will coach tight ends.

Tennessee Titans assistant Charles London has confirmed he'll coach running backs at Penn State.

There's also buzz that former Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen, who had O'Brien on his staff, could be coming to Penn State as offensive coordinator. Don't bet on this, though, as O'Brien plans to call the offensive plays in Year 1.

So while nothing is official, here's how O'Brien's staff could look in 2012:

Defensive coordinator: Ted Roof
Defensive line: Larry Johnson
Linebackers: Ron Vanderlinden
Running backs: Charles London
Offensive line: Mac McWhorter
Wide receivers: Stan Hixon
Tight ends: John Strollo

O'Brien told ESPN.com on Sunday that at least seven assistants will be in place by Wednesday. He's working quickly as he needs his assistants on the road recruiting while he's fulfilling his responsibilities with the New England Patriots.

Thoughts on the potential staff?
Penn State's wait for a head coach finally ended Saturday as the school introduced Bill O'Brien as its new leader. O'Brien came across well at his news conference, and while I waited for him to get on the phone Sunday, I could hear fans wishing him well at Penn State's basketball game in the background. But there are challenges ahead, namely juggling his new job with his current one (New England Patriots offensive coordinator). He also has to try and salvage a recruiting class and form a staff that will include current Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson, who will lead the team's recruiting efforts for the time being, as well as Charles London from the Tennessee Titans.

Here's what O'Brien had to say during our conversation.

What has been the reception so far for you at Penn State?

Bill O'Brien: It's been unbelievable. To arrive at this place and to drive onto campus from the airport, you realize what a special place it is. It's been a great experience so far, had a great reception at the women's basketball game [Saturday] and another great one today at the men's game versus Indiana. They've welcomed my family and I with open arms.

How much will you be reaching out to different sectors of the Penn State fan base in the next couple of days? Is there any damage control to be done?

[+] EnlargeBill O'Brien
Patrick Smith/Getty ImagesNew football coach Bill O'Brien and his family made an appearance Sunday at the Penn State-Indiana men's basketball game.
O'Brien: Any time you had a transition where there's been a coach [Joe Paterno] here for 60 years and now you're transitioning into a new coach, there's obviously going to be people who are going to be a little bit skeptical. I'm not naive to that. I've been coaching for 20 years so I understand that. I'm going to do the best I can to reach out to the Penn State community and the Penn State lettermen. I've already started that process with my press conference [Saturday] and different phone calls I've received and players I've spoken to already. Again, I'll reiterate what I said [Saturday]: I want everybody in the Penn State community to just give us a chance to allow us to earn their trust and respect. I promise you that we're going to work very hard to do that every day.

What are the biggest challenges you face at Penn State?

O'Brien: Again, any time you're a new coach and there's a transition, it's getting the staff in place. It's securing the guys that are committed right now and getting guys on the road. We're fortunate that there's a little bit of a dead period here in recruiting, so we've got a couple days to get the staff in place, get them kind of settled in here in State College, and then hit the ground running when recruiting opens back up toward the end of the week. That's probably the biggest immediate challenge, and then from there we've got to evaluate everything that's here, and make decisions as we go along.

Where do things stand with your staff and how much will you lean on them the next few weeks as you have other responsibilities?

O'Brien: I'm going to lean on them a lot. Right now, I really don't want to get into specific things, but we're still in the process of putting the staff in place. You'll see soon enough. By the middle of the week, you'll have a good understanding of who the staff is. It's a very, very strong staff, a mixture of college and NFL experience, a mixture of great recruiting experience, national championships won. It'll be a very, very strong staff.

How would you describe the offensive philosophy you want to bring to Penn State?

O'Brien: It's a game-plan offense. The first thing we've got to do is evaluate our own personnel, see who we have, and then we've got to make sure we're putting our players in the best position to attack the defenses we see. We're not this offense, we're not that offense. We're a diverse offense, and we require our players to learn a lot of different things about defense and offense. We're going to have to have some smart, instinctive players here as we go forward, and I hear that we have some. I'm not going to get into specifics. You'll see what it is when the season starts next year.

You're meeting with the players later today. What are some of the most important things you want to get across to them about you and the direction of the program?

O'Brien: I think the expectations I have for them, especially in the immediate future while I'm not around. I'm going back to the Patriots, so I'm not going to be right here on campus. Those expectations that I have, both off the field and on the field. That's the first thing I want to get across to them. And then there are some different things I really believe in. Anything other than that is going to be kept between myself and my team. They'll know that, too. That's going to be a very private conversation.

And as far as the coaches they'll be reporting to during the next few weeks, is it just Coach Johnson or whoever else you name?

O'Brien: By Wednesday, there will be at the very least seven full-time coaches. You're allowed nine on staff, and seven of those guys will be in place by Wednesday in the building, in addition to a couple guys that are coming on board for different roles. So they'll know who their coaches are very soon here.

You've been a guy who said he has followed Penn State for a long time. What was your reaction to everything that happened back in November?

O'Brien: I'm here now. I'm the head football coach now, and it's my job to put the best football team out on the field and off the field. That's my job. There are very many people here, special people that are in charge of that situation. I wasn't here, I'm here now, so just moving forward, that's all I'm going to say about publicly because again, I wasn't here. I'm just here to lead the football program, from my start date that was [Saturday] moving forward.

How much patience do you have?

O'Brien: Oh, you know, it depends [laughs]. Some people would say I don't have a lot of patience. I don't have a lot of patience with mistakes that are made over and over again. I have patience with the first mistake, but once we learn from that mistake, you can't make the same mistake twice.

Are there guys you're planning to reach out to who were in similar situations, taking over a program? Coach [Charlie] Weis is one that comes to mind. Have you already done that or do you plan to in the future?

O'Brien: There's no question. I don't know Coach Weis, so that specifically would be no because I don't know him, but there's a number of coaches, starting with Coach [Bill] Belichick, who's been very, very good to me during this whole process. There's a lot of guys -- George O'Leary, Ralph Friedgen -- guys who have already reached out to me, and I'm definitely going to be reaching back out to them when I get a chance to and talk to them about different advice that they would have for me going forward.

Meet the new SEC head coaches

August, 11, 2011
8/11/11
9:00
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It's time to look at the new men on the block -- the guys heading into their first years as head coaches in the country's most cutthroat league.

The SEC welcomes Will Muschamp at Florida and James Franklin at Vanderbilt. Expectations are certainly high in Gainesville, where Muschamp replaces Urban Meyer, who developed into an icon in his six seasons by winning two national championships and appearing in three SEC championships. Franklin steps into a program with a history of consistently finishing near the bottom of the SEC barrel and is riding back-to-back 2-10 seasons.

Here is a look at both coaches and what impact each could have on the SEC this fall:

Will Muschamp, Florida: Muschamp enters his first season at Florida with 16 years of coaching experience, with eight coming in the SEC. The former Georgia safety served as defensive coordinator at LSU (2002-04; he was LSU’s linebackers coach in 2001) and Auburn (2006-07), where he was a finalist for the 2007 Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant. He was also the assistant head coach for defense for the Miami Dolphins in 2005.

Muschamp replaces Meyer, who left the cupboard far from bare and the expectations high. Muschamp, who left Texas as the coach-in-waiting, is a hard-nosed, all-business coach who has tempered those crippling Gator egos from last season. He also assembled a NFL-heavy staff, headlined by offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, who scrapped the spread favored by Meyer for a pro-style offense.

The talent is there for Muschamp to lead Florida back to the SEC championship, but with a new system and staff, expect growing pains. Muschamp will be very hands-on with the defense, which should be a major strength for the Gators, but offensively, Weis will do most of the directing, with the goal of resurrecting an offense that ranked 82nd nationally in total offense (350.85 yards per game).

Highlights:
  • In four of his eight seasons as a defensive coordinator, Muschamp's teams allowed less than 100 rushing yards per game and twice led the nation in rushing defense while allowing less than 75 yards per game.
  • LSU's 2003 defense led the country in rushing defense (67 ) the best of any SEC team in the 2000s.
  • In 2009, Texas led the nation allowing 73.1 yards rushing
  • Over the past three seasons, Texas' defense ranked first nationally with 119 sacks for 949 yards lost.
James Franklin, Vanderbilt: Franklin is the 27th head coach at Vanderbilt and also brings 16 years of coaching experience. Most notably, he was the wide receivers/recruiting coordinator at Maryland from 200-04, the wide receivers coach for the Green Bay Packers in 2005 and spent two years as the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Kansas State before taking the same job at Maryland from 2008-10.

Though he was named Ralph Friedgen's successor at Maryland in 2009, he decided to take one of the toughest jobs in college football, where he'll be asked to win at a school known more for academics than football in the nation's best conference . Franklin inherits 21 returning starters and has brought a new and exciting energy to Vanderbilt. You can see it in the confidence his players are showing and in the solid recruiting class he's putting together. There seems to be a new culture at Vandy and Franklin is out to make sure this team becomes competitive in the SEC.

It's hard to say what the Commodores will do in Franklin's first season, but expect him to be immersed in Vanderbilt's offense, which ranked 110th in total offense (298.3). If this team can improve its play like it has its confidence, the Commodores could pull a surprise or two this fall. Starting the season off right will go a long way. Beginning the year with numbers in the loss column could hurt that swagger Vandy is strutting.

Highlights:
  • Last season, Maryland quarterback Danny O'Brien earned ACC Rookie of the Year and first-team Freshman All-America honors, ranking third nationally among freshmen with a pass efficiency rating of 135.2 and throwing 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
  • Marylands' 2010 offense ranked third nationally committing only 12 turnovers.
  • In 2007, Franklin mentored Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman, who set numerous school records and threw for 3,353 yards. Freeman was selected in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft (17th overall) by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
James Franklin served as the coach-in-waiting at Maryland to Ralph Friedgen. But Franklin is the new head coach this season at Vanderbilt, not Maryland, and Friedgen is biding his time between his homes in Charleston, S.C., and northeast Georgia. Franklin discussed on the ESPNU College Football Podcast the biggest lessons he learned from his mentor.

“Probably the thing that jumped out to me the most was his preparation,” Franklin said. “I would say to him, kid around with him, ‘You’re an offensive guru in college football.’ He would say, ‘What I’ve done, James, is I’ve outprepared people. That’s the thing I’ve probably learned the most from coach Friedgen. His toughness, his discipline, his perseverance -- he was going to dot every I and cross every T.”

In terms of his knowledge of his team, Franklin is in a no-man’s land. He coached the Commodores in the spring. But he has all the practices of August and then -- and then -- the knowledge will begin to gush forth in games.

“I think I have a really good feel,” Franklin said, complimenting Dwight Galt, the strength coach he brought with him to Vanderbilt. “But as we all know, it’s different when you go out there and the lights go on, for myself as well as the team. It’s going to be a transition for all of us … We don’t have a returning starter on our team, the way I view it. Every job is open, even (two-time All-SEC linebacker) Chris Marve. I want every player on the team to feel like they’re going to have to compete.”

I’m going to go out on a limb and say Marve wins a place in the starting lineup.
ESPN.com is taking a closer look this week at the possibility of paying college athletes. Can schools even afford the pay for play option? Here's an overview of Maryland's financial situation, with data compiled from Maryland's web site detailing undergraduate tuition and fees for fall 2011 and spring 2012, and also from the U.S. Department of Education, for the reporting year 7/1/2009 - 6/30/2010.

What a full scholarship entails: Tuition, fees, room, board and books ( $35,278 out-of-state in fiscal year 2011)

Cost of attendance: $4,327.65 per semester for resident full-time undergraduate students; $13,013.13 per semester for non-resident full-time undergraduate students

Maryland's revenue and expenses:

Football: (116 athletes) Revenue: $11,540,368 Expense: $9,863,748

Men's basketball: (14 athletes) Revenue: $10,739,282 Expense: $5,160,381

Men's other sports (cross country is included with track and field, and competitive cheerleading was not included): (eight sports / 274 athletes) Revenue: $2,185,847 Expense: $5,399,723

Women's other sports (cross country is included with track and field, and competitive cheerleading was not included): (12 sports / 359 athletes) Revenue: $4,599,703 (including women's basketball) Expense: $9,661,431 (also including women's basketball)

Grand total expenses: $51,418,347
Grand total revenue: $51,641,771
TOTAL: $223,424


Student fees: $844.65 for full-time students, which is included in the total cost of attendance above.

Amount athletics receives from student fees: $198.77 per full-time, undergraduate student, and part-time student taking at least nine credit hours. That adds up to about $10.5 million per year.

WHAT IT MEANS

Citing the sensitive nature of the pay-for-play topic, University of Maryland officials declined an interview with ESPN.com to help explain the athletic department’s finances. In looking at the numbers from the U.S. Department of Education, though, Maryland’s total revenue shows that there is little if any margin for error, let alone any extra free flowing cash to pay its athletes.

No other school in the ACC spends less money on its football program than Maryland. The Terps’ overall expenses for football were $9.8 million, according to the most recent report. Boston College spent $17.9 million during that reporting period. Duke spent $14.3 million. Wake Forest $12.5. The only other school that even came close was NC State at $10.4 million.

The numbers show that Maryland isn't on the same playing field as the rest of the ACC when it comes to putting money into the football program. Overall, including competitive cheerleading, which wasn’t included in the DOE’s report, Maryland has 27 sports, and too many of them don’t have a prayer of making any money.

And don’t forget that the university is also paying former coach Ralph Friedgen $2 million to do nothing right now.

In football, the problem starts at home -- literally. The athletic department is chained to a $35 million loan for stadium expansion that it’s still paying off, and there are still 19 unsold suites (selling at $36,000 per year) out of 63. Byrd Stadium seats about 54,000, and about 10,000 of those seats are reserved for students. There’s more of an opportunity for demand at schools like Florida State and Clemson, and Maryland in no way compares to the money makers in the SEC. Maryland’s attendance was at 76 percent capacity last season, according to the NCAA. If Maryland could sell out every home game, the athletic department could probably make an additional $3 million or more (educated guess), but that’s asking a lot of a fickle fan base. Overall, attendance would be where the biggest potential for growth in revenue would occur.

It all adds up to one answer: Maryland simply can’t afford to pay its players.

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