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Maryland suspends trainers, strength coach after report details ‘toxic’ culture under D.J. Durkin

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Ohio State is not the only Big Ten school dealing with a growing scandal on the eve of the season as some serious allegations at Maryland are poised to rock the Terps football program.

Sources told ESPN that the school has placed athletic trainers Wes Robinson and Steve Nordwall, as well as assistant athletics director for sports performance  Rick Court on administrative leave late Friday as the school continues to look into the tragic death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair following a late May workout. It is not coincidence that the Terps waited this long to suspend the trio as ESPN released two detailed reports shortly before on Friday evening, one detailing physical signs McNair was showing before he collapsed and another, much broader, look into what was described as a “toxic” culture that Court and head coach D.J. Durkin have installed in College Park.

“There were multiple people that said, ‘Wow, Jordan looks f—ed up, he doesn’t look all right,'” one anonymous player said of the May workout in question. “We knew he was really exhausted, but we didn’t know he was in danger of his life. But that doesn’t mean that a medical professional shouldn’t know to put him in an ice tub.”

McNair died nearly two weeks after collapsing as the result of what the family said was heatstroke following a workout that included several 110-yard sprints the team was put through.

Just as critical for the program were additional allegations regarding the culture at Maryland that have been established the past few years under Durkin and his top lieutenant in the strength and conditioning program in Court. Per ESPN this included:

  • There is a coaching environment based on fear and intimidation. In one example, a player holding a meal while in a meeting had the meal slapped out of his hands in front of the team. At other times, small weights and other objects were thrown in the direction of players when Court was angry.
  • The belittling, humiliation and embarrassment of players is common. In one example, a player whom coaches wanted to lose weight was forced to eat candy bars as he was made to watch teammates working out.
  • Extreme verbal abuse of players occurs often. Players are routinely the targets of obscenity-laced epithets meant to mock their masculinity when they are unable to complete a workout or weight lift, for example. One player was belittled verbally after passing out during a drill.
  • Coaches have endorsed unhealthy eating habits and used food punitively; for example, a player said he was forced to overeat or eat to the point of vomiting.

Perhaps the most damning statement that the report included was this quote from a former Terps staff member: “I would never, ever, ever allow my child to be coached there.” There were also several current or former players who spoke about the conditions under Durkin in the report as well and none paint a flattering picture.

It’s unclear as to what the next steps are for the team and the program. Durkin remains in charge pending further investigation with fall camp already under way and the season opener against Texas fast-approaching on September 1st. Athletic director Damon Evans, who was elevated from an interim role in late June and who has overseen the department while all this has gone on, could also have his job in jeopardy depending on the outcome of the investigation.

There’s no timetable for how long it will take to sort everything out and get to the bottom of things but needless to say, the Terps will need to be prepared to answer a lot more questions over the coming weeks and months.

Ohio State may get two defensive starters back in Week 8 vs. Purdue

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Ohio State’s injury-hit defense bent but didn’t break (too much) in a closer-than-expected win over Minnesota this past weekend.  With a matchup against a more potent offense in the offing this weekend, the Buckeyes appear set to be a helluva lot healthier on that side of the ball this coming Saturday than they were the last.

Both defensive end Jonathon Cooper and linebacker Malik Harrison missed the 30-14 win over the Gophers because each was in concussion protocol.  With Purdue looming in Week 8, Cooper and Harrison have been cleared and are expected to play against the Boilermakers.

Through six games and before last Saturday, Harrison’s 25 tackles were second on the team.  Cooper replaced All-American Nick Bosa, who underwent surgery after suffering a core muscle injury in Week 3 and could be sidelined for another month at least, in the starting lineup.

Another two defensive starters could be getting healthier as well.  From the Associated Press:

In addition, starting defensive tackle Robert Landers, who has been limited by an unspecified injury, is probable for the game, while starting cornerback Damon Arnette, who was hurt in the Penn State game, is questionable, Meyer said.

Purdue is currently 42nd in scoring offense (33.5 points per game) and 10th in total offense (510.2 yards per game).

Thanks to Georgia’s loss, Ohio State moved up to No. 2 nationally in both major polls.

All-Freshman B1G TE Louis Dorsey tweets transfer from Illinois

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As he announced on Twitter, Bennett Williams left Illinois earlier this month because of a dismissal.  Because of a decidedly different reason (?), the Fighting Illini has felt yet another personnel loss.

On the same social media website utilized by his former teammate, Louis Dorsey announced that he has “decided it is in my best interest to transfer and continue my career elsewhere.” Dorsey gave no specific reason for his midseason move.

Dorsey was suspended during the spring of this year for violating unspecified violations of team rules.  He was also suspended for the first three games of the 2018 regular season for the same reason.

As a true freshman in 2017, Dorsey led the Illini with three receiving touchdowns; was second in receiving yards with 395; and fourth in receptions with 22.  His 18 yards per reception were tops on the team.  BTN.com named the 6-6, 225-pound Dorsey to its All-Freshman Team for that performance.

Because of his off-field issues, Dorsey has played in just one game and not caught a pass this season.

Tennessee loses LB Jonathan Kongbo to torn ACL

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Heading into this weekend’s rivalry game against Alabama in Knoxville, Tennessee’s linebacking corps has taken a hit that will be felt for the rest of 2018.

Late in the third quarter of Tennessee’s huge Week 7 upset of Auburn this past weekend, Jonathan Kongbo went down with an injury to his right knee and didn’t return to the game.  Over the weekend, Jeremy Pruitt confirmed that Kongbo was diagnosed with a torn ACL.

Obviously, Kongbo, who is expected to undergo surgery at some point this week to repair the damage, will miss the remainder of the 2018 season.  As this was his final year of eligibility, it also means that this effectively ends the linebacker’s collegiate playing career.

The fifth-year senior had started five of the six games this season for the Vols.  In that half of the regular season, he had accounted for 11 tackles, four quarterback hurries and an interception.  The pick came in the second quarter of the upset of the Tigers.

Last season, Kongbo started 10 games.

After throwing and landing punches on Mizzou player, Alabama DL Raekwon Davis will lose playing time

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An on-field incident in Week 7 will cost Raekwon Davis on the field in the future.  Just when and how much remains to be seen.

During Alabama’s romp over Missouri this past weekend, the defensive lineman was caught by the all-seeing television broadcast eye punching (x3) Mizzou offensive lineman Kevin Pendleton.  Not only did the cameras catch him, but so did the officiating crew, who flagged Davis for unsportsmanlike conduct.

While Davis very publicly apologized to Pendelton, and the human punching bag very graciously accepted…

… there will be, after Nick Saban spoke with SEC commissioner Greg Sankey about the incident, playing-time repercussions for the lineman.

“We will have him do some things and I think it should affect his playing time in the future,” the head coach said.

Again, just what effect specifically the incident will have on Davis on the field is unclear.

Davis is currently sixth on the Crimson Tide with 27 tackles while his three tackles for loss are tied for sixth.  Alabama will face rival Tennessee, coming off a huge upset of then-No. 21 Auburn this past weekend, in Knoxville this coming Saturday.