Ralph Friedgen waited until the end of his media session with five beat writers tonight to drop probably the biggest news of camp: Dion Armstrong left the team.
Armstrong’s eligibility was an issue that hovered over the Terrapins since the start of spring practice, when Friedgen revealed Armstrong would be held out to concentrate on academic issues.
We’ve heard that one before; Jared Gaither didn’t participate in spring practice in 2007, and the next thing you knew, he was in the supplemental draft. But Armstrong made it to camp before departing today.
The resolution of Armstrong’s situation —- though not in the way the Terps hoped it would turn out —- means a few things going forward.
1. A.J. Francis is the starter at nose tackle. The gregarious redshirt freshman was already going to play a lot, but this pretty much locks him into the starting lineup. And as often as Friedgen has toyed with the idea of how Francis would fare on the other side of the ball, it would be awful hard to switch an entrenched starter. Francis could be a stalwart for years to come.
2. The versatility of Don Brown’s defense will help handle the depth issue. Brown said last week the two tackle positions in his defense are virtually interchangeable. That means Zach Kerr, as well as Ian Davidson and Joe Vellano, will all be in the mix for playing time behind Francis.
3. Attrition happens. Yes, Armstrong joins Bearthur Johnson as what amounts to an academic casualty this year. But two guys is not an abnormally large number for Maryland, nor is it substantial for a major-college football program.
4. Unquestionably, this will be the Terps’ least experienced defensive line this decade. Armstrong’s departure drops Maryland to seven career starts among its defensive linemen —- four for Travis Ivey, two for Jared Harrell and one for Derek Drummond.
Put another way —- Maryland’s line will more than double its total of career starts by the second week of the season.
5. Maryland has an extra scholarship to play with in its recruiting class. Yes, this is a Machiavellian way of looking at it. But Maryland already has 14 commitments (per InsideMDSports.com’s list) for February’s class, plus two guys from the 2009 class who will attend prep school this fall. The Terps have only 12 scholarship seniors and presumably aren’t done recruiting for ‘09 just yet, so Armstrong’s departure —- however unwanted it is —- frees up a scholarship for down the road.
6. The rest of camp figures to be mostly drama-free. The sort of subplots that remain for the next few weeks are, while important, also somewhat mundane. A kicking battle. Figuring out Jamarr Robinson‘s readiness as a backup quarterback. Awarding scholarships to walk-ons. Sorting out the wide receivers.
All could go a long way to determining the Terps’ long-term fate. None is the sort of aggravating nuisance Friedgen isn’t going to talk about at length.
With Armstrong’s situation resolved, the Terps have who they have. What you see is what you get. Uncertainty does remain about this bunch, but it has nothing to do with who will take the field Sept. 5 at California.
—- Patrick Stevens