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Enemy Intel, Pt. 2: Q&A with WVU beat writer Craig Meyer


Enemy Intel, Pt. 2: Q&A with WVU beat writer Craig Meyer

As Maryland prepares for West Virginia, CSN collaborated with Craig Meyer (@CraigMeyerPG), West Virginia beat writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, for a Q&A to get a look Saturday's game from another perspective. The conversation has been published in two parts, with Part One published Thursday morning. Read that here.

CSN: West Virginia’s first two games have been blowout wins over smaller schools and then they had a bye week, so do you feel like you can tell how good a WVU team this is, or will their first test against a Power 5 school like Maryland go a long way toward showing you if they’re a quality team?

Meyer: Even with the 2-0 start, there's still a certain amount of mystery surrounding this team. They've looked impressive in the games they've played, outscoring their opponents by a combined score of 85-17, but that's too small of a sample size to draw too many sweeping conclusions.

To me, this will be their most telling test yet. Georgia Southern is a good team, one that nearly won on the road against Georgia Tech and NC State last season, but WVU had the benefit of playing against GSU's backup quarterback and having all offseason to prepare for them and their triple-option scheme. It may be arbitrary (it probably is), but I think there's something to playing a Power Five team with whom you have a fairly extensive history. I've seen the Mountaineers pegged as a 16.5-17 point favorite, but games like this one that come with a little more of an emotional investment have a way of being closer than they maybe should. Is WVU the better team in this matchup? So far, it seems like it is. But it will still be interesting to see how they respond to an opponent who will almost certainly test them more than either or their first two did.


CSN: Maryland really struggled against Bowling Green’s spread offense in Week 3, but has simplified some things defensively in an effort to correct that. WVU runs something similar. What should we know about some of the skill position players who will power this offense, especially QB Skyler Howard?

Meyer: The early offensive stars for WVU have been Howard, Durante and Gibson. Durante's a 6-foot-1 freshman wideout who coaches raved about in the weeks leading up to the season. You get a sense from talking to them that he may be the school's next big star at that position. Gibson is a speedy wideout who Holgorsen said is the fastest player he's ever coached. He's had some problems with drops, but he's the team's leading receiver and has shown major signs of improvement from his freshman season last year.

Howard, at least for me, has exceeded expectations thus far. He has shown signs of inexperience, like rifling short passes to open receivers that require a little more touch, but he threw on-point deep balls against Georgia Southern and carved up Liberty's defense two weeks ago with a series of short and intermediate passes. More than anything, Howard has been known for his lack of mistakes. In four career starts, and with 159 pass attempts in those games, he hasn't thrown an interception. Again, the competition in two games this season hasn't been great, but in those wins, he has proven to be a capable and adaptable quarterback.

Offensively, there are a few other guys to keep an eye on. Daikiel Shorts is the team's third wideout, with 133 receiving yards and a yards-per-catch average of 19. Wendell Smallwood is WVU's leading rusher so far, averaging 7.1 yards per carry, but he's also a strong receiver who they like to incorporate in their passing game.

Rushel Shell is more of a burly, bruising back, but the Pitt transfer and former top-100 recruit has struggled so far this season, averaging just 3.6 yards per carry. Given his talent, it's hard to write him off so early, but posting those kind of underwhelming numbers against a Sun Belt team and an FCS squad has to be more than a little alarming for WVU.

One thing to really look out for is WVU's struggles in the red zone early in games. They've scored points on more than 90 percent of their red zone possessions, but early in each of their first two games, when the score was still relatively close, they would march easily down the field only to settle for field goals once they got inside the 20.

As the games would go on, they had more success scoring touchdowns, but at that point, the games were pretty much decided and it stands to reason that a) opposing defenses had perhaps let up a bit and b) there was less pressure on WVU's offense. How they deal with those problems in a closer game, like the one against Maryland may very well be, could be the difference between a 2-1 and 3-0 start for them this season.

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Maryland football announces plans to honor the late Jordan McNair during 2018 season

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Maryland football announces plans to honor the late Jordan McNair during 2018 season

University of Maryland football players shared their plans to honor late teammate Jordan McNair this upcoming season Monday morning in College Park. 

This is the first media availability for players granted by the university since the 19-year-old's tragic June death following an offseason workout that left McNair hospitalized due to heatstroke. 

Sophomore center Johnny Jordan and junior offensive lineman Ellis McKennie each outlined how the team will remember McNair, beginning with a moment of silence during the team’s opener Sept. 1 against Texas at FedEx Field.

Additionally, each player will rock helmet stickers with McNair's No. 79 uniform number which the team plans to retire in 2020. The offensive linemen room will also be renamed in honor of McNair. 

On Friday the university's Board of Regents announced it is taking over the in-depth look at investigations surrounding the football program. Head coach DJ Durkin is currently on paid administrative leave and strength and conditioning coach Rick Court resigned August 14. 

As speculation continues to grow, Maryland is expected to have a decision made within the next two weeks



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Tony Dungy weighs in on the alleged toxic culture within the University of Maryland football team


Tony Dungy weighs in on the alleged toxic culture within the University of Maryland football team

Tony Dungy is about as cool, calm and collected as a person can get. And when it comes to his coaching style, it's exactly the same.

Fourteen years in the NFL spent as a defensive coordinator/coach and 13 years as a head coach earned Dungy a Super Bowl Championship with the Indianapolis Colts. He posted an overall record of 148-79 with the foundation that cursing and raising your voice wasn't necessary for success. 

The culture and coaching style of the University of Maryland football team is now under a microscope with the on-going investigation regarding the death of 19-year-old offensive lineman Jordan McNair. The university has taken responsibility for McNair's death after an ESPN article brought to light the abuse and "toxic culture" within the team, and what ultimately led up to McNair's passing under their supervision on May 29. 

It has also brought into question how high-level football teams are coached and if it's all just a part of the football culture. On Thursday, Dungy weighed in on the matter on 106.7 The Fan's Sports Junkies, simulcasted on NBC Sports Washington.

"Well first, I hope we don't just read into well, here was the culture, here's what the coach was doing so that's why this young man died," Dungy said.

Dungy recounted a scenario during his coaching career with the Colts where a player had an underlying condition that almost caused him to lose his life during a practice.

"You can't equate well, this happened because," Dungy went on to say. 

What Dungy does want people to understand is that the tough love, scream-in-your-face type of coaching style is not the stereotype coaches must adhere to. 

"But I do think we are a victim of caricatures. That we think that's the way it has to be."

"One of the last interviews I had before I got my head [coaching] job in Tampa, I was explaining to this owner how I was going to do things. He had heard about my reputation. He said 'I know you don't use profanity. You rarely raise your voice. How are you going to motivate these guys? How are you going to discipline? How are you going to keep guys in line?' And I said the same way my father kept me in line. By saying here's the rules and here's what we're going to do. I'm going to be like that with my players. And the guy looked at me square in the eyes and said 'impossible, that will never work in the NFL.'" 

Well, it did work for Dungy as his tenure spent as a coach in the NFL earned him enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016. 

Dungy noted in his interview with the Sports Junkies that the different personalities of coaches in the league highlighted in shows like HBO's Hard Knocks do not represent each and every coach. He mentions Jim Caldwell and Bill Belichick as successful coaches who are more mild-mannered like Dungy.

"And there's a thousand ways that work," Dungy said about coaching. "And you got to be true to your personality and everything. But the two coaches that I played for in the NFL – who won seven Super Bowls between them and were tremendous coaches, Hall of Famers – there was none of that. There was instruction, teaching, motivating, building you up and getting you ready to play, and so that's what I followed."