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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.

Oklahoma State OT Arlington Hambright announces transfer to Colorado

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Former Oklahoma State offensive tackle Arlington Hambright is ready for his final season of college football. He’ll play it at Colorado, Hambright announced via Twitter.

“I give all glory and praise to God, without him I would be nothing but I will be spending my last year in Boulder, Colorado playing in the Pac-12 under some GREAT coaches and for [an] amazing University,” Hambright announced, via Twitter. “Now let’s get to work!”

Reports of Hambright potentially transferring from Oklahoma State surfaced earlier this month as the player transfer fun has continued to run wild this offseason. While no specific reason for his reason for transferring has been made public, he will certainly be looking to close out his college football career on a high note. An ankle injury brought an early end to Hambright’s 2018 season after starting the first five games of the season. He did return for the Liberty Bowl against Missouri, but Hambright will look to get in a full season as a potential starter in the Pac-12 this fall.

E.J. Price, Kentucky OL with starting experience, leaves Wildcats

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Coming off one of the most successful seasons in recent memory in Lexington, Kentucky now has a hole to plug on the offensive line. Starting offensive tackle E.J. Price has reportedly left the football program. According to a report from Kentucky Sports Radio, Price will pursue other opportunities and a university spokesperson confirmed he is no longer with the program.

Price transferred to Kentucky from USC in 2017, but it was about a year ago Price suggested he was ready to leave Kentucky too. However, Price stuck with the Wildcats in 2018. He started 11 of 13 games for Kentucky as the Wildcats turned in a 10-win season capped with a victory in the Capital One Bowl against Penn State. It was Kentucky’s first 10-win season since 1977 and their first bowl victory since the 2008 season.

What’s next for Price remains to be seen. He will be required to sit out the 2019 season if he transfers to another FBS program unless he applies for a waiver and receives approval to be eligible in the fall.

As for Kentucky, the spring will open with a starting job up for grabs on the offensive line, although the return of Landon Young from a season-ending injury a year ago should help solidify the efforts up front.

Virginia Tech promotes ex-Hokie Justin Hamilton to safeties coach

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Virginia Tech has promoted director of player development Justin Hamilton to safeties coach, the program announced Monday.

“Justin has more than proven his mettle to our staff over the past year and has earned this opportunity to take the next step in his football career,” head Hokie Justin Fuente said in a statement. “We know how invested Justin is in the continued success of our program. He’s a bright and talented coach who has built a solid rapport with our players and football staff. Coach Foster and I are both excited to expand his responsibilities with our team.”

A former Hokie player himself, Hamilton spent the bulk of this decade coaching at smaller programs in the Commonwealth. He was UVA-Wise’s defensive coordinator from 2011-13 and coached linebackers at VMI from 2014-17.

Hamilton fills a void created by the departure of current safeties coach Tyrone Nix. Virginia Tech officially said goodbye to him on Monday by announcing his departure for Ole Miss, though Ole Miss has yet to say anything as of press time.

Derrick Nix is on staff as Ole Miss’ running backs coach.

Southern Miss reportedly hiring offensive coordinator away from Arkansas State

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Southern Miss reportedly has its offensive coordinator, and the hire is more notable for who it’s not than who it is.

After the fiasco that was Art Brilesinterview and interview postscript, Golden Eagles head coach Jay Hopson has decided to go with the decidedly uncontroversial choice of Arkansas State offensive coordinator Buster Faulkner, according to FootballScoop. (Full disclosure: I also write for FootballScoop.)

Faulkner spent the past three seasons as the offensive coordinator at Arkansas State, and prior to that spent four in a similar role at Middle Tennessee. Faulkner’s first stint as an offensive coordinator came in 2010 at Murray State, where his Racers offense became the first in FCS history to post a 500-yard passer, a 200-yard rusher and a 200-yard receiver in the same game.

Faulkner takes over for Shannon Dawson, who was let go and subsequently became the tight ends coach at Houston.

Southern Miss finished No. 109 nationally in yards per play and No. 90 in scoring; the Golden Eagles went 6-5 but did not garner a bowl bid last season. Arkansas State, meanwhile, was No. 31 in yards per play and No. 55 in scoring.