Familiarity Key With Terps Position Changes

After three spring practices, how the 'Big Three' are faring

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The biggest eye-opener this spring was when Maryland's first-year head coach announced that All Atlantic Coast Conference safety Kenny Tate would be transitioning to linebacker.

The STAR – a fusion of the strong safety and linebacker positions – will feature Tate largely due to his tendency to play close to the line of scrimmage. Edsall said the move not only catered to Tate's talents but the defense on the whole.

"We wanted to put him in the position for us," Edsall said. "By moving him to safety allowed us to do that, and it made us a faster and quicker defense."

Edsall felt comfortable with the move given the crop of young safeties roaming in the defensive backfield this spring. With Tate's move and Antwine Perez's graduation, the Terrapins will be without both starting safeties from last season.

Not alone in the positional carousal are a pair of linebackers. Sophomore David Mackall returns to the defensive line where played during high school, and junior Demetrius Hartsfield, inherits inside linebacker responsibilities.

Maryland defensive line took a hit when defensive end Drew Gloster graduated, creating a huge void for Edsall to fill. In 12 games in 2010, Mackall racked up three sacks, good for most among non-starters.

Hartsfield spent last season at outside linebacker, where he finished as the team's third-leading tackler (88) and 6.5 tackles for loss. He will now take over as field general after Alex Wujciak's graduation.

"I think they are right in the exact spots for their abilities and what we want do schematically on defense, and get our best 11 people on the field," Edsall said.

Following the team's first three spring practices, Edsall suggests the players – including Kate, Mackall and Hartsfield which he labeled his own "big three' – are still seeking familiarity in their new positions.

Edsall said they need to better understand their roles – to improve on their fundamentals and sharpen their technique. But in early April it is not alarming to see some growing pains.

"We have 15 days this spring and then we have 29 practice opportunities before we play Miami. What I'm looking to do is just build on each one of those practices, and then get us to the point when we play on September 5 that were going to be the best we can be come that day. We don't need to be the best we can be on April 4."

With that timeframe intact, there will be plenty of time for the young wide receivers to develop. The upperclassmen – Kevin Dorsey, Ronnie Tyler, Quintin McCree and Kerry Boykins – will try and overcome the losses of seniors Adrian Cannon and LaQuan Williams, and Torrey Smith as he sets sail for N.F.L. waters.

"Those guys all have the ability; it's just the repetitions to get more familiar," Edsall said, acknowledging the youth at the position. "I do like the natural ability I've seen."

The man throwing to them – Danny O'Brien – is already a proven talent. O'Brien is looking to build upon conference Rookie of the Year honors in his redshirt sophomore campaign, but perhaps maybe a big too eager heading into the spring.

Edsall admitted his quarterback was pressing the first day, trying to be just a little bit too perfect. But after the coach advised him to relax and have fun, and to treat each rep in practice as if it were a rep in a game, O'Brien reverted back to his regular form, impressing Edsall on Thursday and Saturday.

"He's got all the tools that we're looking for to be a QB in this offense. He does have the ability to help you win an ACC championship. He's got that total package. Plus he's got the ability to escape back there, the ability to run," Edsall proclaimed. "He has all the talent and the skill set to run the offense."

Addressing the Academic Progress Report Violations

After the NCAA penalized Maryland for failing to meet academic progress rate standards during the 2009-10 season, the team will be relieved of three scholarships.

In addressing the penalty, Edsall was confident in the measures he has already enacted to protect the university from such sanctions in the future.

When recruiting, Edsall prescribed three elements he and his coaching staff seeks out: importance of academics, work ethic and character – a concept Edsall has made known numerous times, including his first press conference when he assumed head coaching duties.

"It's just changing a culture in terms of the expectations when it comes to academics," Edsall said.

On Mondays, Edsall will not hold practices. Instead, he has a sit-down with all of his players to discuss their progress in the classroom, and allows them the day off for class, labs, meetings with professors or community service.

"We're going to put that plan in place that gives them every opportunity to [graduate], and we're going to give them that responsibly but hold them accountable."

Edsall stated that by the end of the semester he hopes to corrected this problem.

News and Notes

  • The changing of the positions continues as senior defensive back Desmond Haynes and junior defensive back Kwabena Ofori switch to running back with the depth thin at that position.
  • On a lighter note, Edsall picks Connecticut to beat Butler in tonight's NCAA Championship Game. Edsall spent 12 years at Connecticut before becoming the Terrapins head coach, and said he used to joke with Huskies standout point guard Kemba Walker about playing defensive back.

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