By: Eddie Hobbs
With the start of the season just around the corner, and Jordan McNair’s death still at the forefront of the coaches and players’ minds, the team has been able to find the right balance between grieving for McNair and preparing to play No. 23 Texas at FedEx Field on Saturday afternoon.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the way they are working at it. As I mentioned we’ve all had grieving processes and things like that to deal with. So, we’re helping each other,” interim head coach Matt Canada said. “When someone is having a tough day, we try to help each other out. But I think everything that they’ve dealt with, they’ve done the best job they could possibly do. I think we’re as ready as we can be, given the situation were in, I feel really good about that.”
With head coach D.J. Durkin on administrative leave, the responsibilities of the head coaching position have rested on Canada’s shoulders. In just his first year in College Park, Canada hasn’t had this kind of obligation during his stints at other schools, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t prepared to take on the task.
“I’m really focused on being the offensive coordinator most of the time,” Canada said. “That’s my job. Obviously, the situation has occurred. I have met with the defensive players. And am certainly more involved with the players on defense, trying to get around them, letting them know I am there, I am available.”
The University of Maryland Board of Regents called for a meeting last Friday to discuss the actions they might take following the death of McNair. After four hours in a closed-session the university announced that the board of regents would take over the investigation in the death of McNair.
Canada was asked what kind of communication he has had with the board and how the investigation has been going since the announcement from the university last Friday.
“As far as the commission goes, they are handling all that,” Canada said. “We’re dealing with them, we’re doing anything they ask us to do. I know their charge is to get this wrapped up and find what they need to find. We’re doing anything we can as a staff to support them in that, and whatever they want us to do we’re doing.”
The mystery surrounding the team doesn’t stop with the investigation, it also lies within some of the position battles. With the first game just four days away, Canada has his mind set on who will be leading the team under center yet, though he did not disclose who he has chosen, leaving everyone to speculate.
“I have decided on a starting quarterback,” Canada said. “But, we’re not going to discuss that today.”
Last year, when Maryland traveled to Texas to play the Longhorns, Tyrrell Pigrome was at the top of the depth chart. Pigrome looked impressive in the season opener. The dual-threat QB complete 9 of 11 passes for 175 yards and 2 touchdowns, but his season came to an end after he tore his right ACL in the third quarter of the 51-41 victory.
Kasim Hill entered and finished the game for Pigrome, going 3-3 for 44 yards, and adding a rushing touchdown against Texas. Hill led Maryland to a blowout 63-17 win over Towson before tearing his ACL in the very next game against the University of Central Florida in the first quarter.
Max Bortenschlager was the starter the rest of the season for the Terps, leading the team to a disappointing 4-8 record.
Given all of the outside distractions that the team has been through and the difficulty it takes to be at the top of an organization, Canada has only one option.
“I don’t have any other way to do it but day-to-day,” Canada said.