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COLLEGE PARK – With three players transferring from the Maryland football program, two players graduating and two players declared ineligible by the N.C.A.A., depth will not be a safeguard for head coach Randy Edsall to depend on during his season with the team.
Edsall announced in April senior Taylor Watson would graduate during the summer semester and not playing for the team in the fall. Last week he said senior Haroon Brown, the likely candidate to seize the starting fullback position in Watson's absence, would graduate, too.
Watson and Brown combined for six starts at fullback last season. With both players set to complete their education, Rahsaan Moore is penciled in at the starter. Moore is a redshirt freshman.
Last week Edsall also revealed juniors Ryan Donohue and Gary Douglas will transfer from Maryland to pursue their football careers elsewhere, just days after back-up signal-caller Tyler Smith opted to take his talents to Elon.
As a reserve linebacker and contributor on special teams, Donohue played in 20 career games, posting 12 tackles, a fumble recovery and an interception returned for a touchdown.
Douglas played in 12 career games. He tallied18 career rushes for 89 yards and six catches for 78 yards as a back-up running back. Douglas missed all but two contests in 2010 due to injury.
Yet as the depth chart diminishes, Edsall remains staunch in his expectations and confident with the current roster.
"The depth is what it is. Guys will have to – if they're counted upon – have to step up and move in there," Edsall said in a press conference Tuesday. "You put your plan in place and if something happens you have plans in case you have to move somebody. We'll just go with the people we have there.
The quarterback and linebacker positions were pinpointed as areas of concern, as the team is down from five quarterbacks to three following the transfer of Smith and position change of Devin Burns to wide receiver. The three starting linebackers – Kenny Tate, Demetrius Hartsfield and Darin Drakeford – have a combined zero starts at their current positions.
Edsall said he has considered bringing in a walk-on quarterback if there is a right fit. In the most recent recruiting class, the team chose not to sign one for the first time since 2007 when Jamarr Robinson transferred to the university.
"We felt there were some really, really good quarterbacks we were recruiting for 2012 that could have been more beneficial to us than trying to get a guy in here now. And all that means we'll probably take two [quarterbacks] this [recruiting] class," Edsall said.
The team received a verbal commitment from Pittsburgh (PA) Central Catholic High School quarterback Perry Hills this week.
Edsall will bring at least one walk-on to address the linebacker depth, and would consider signing another. Three walk-ons are expected to be with the team – a linebacker, a wide receiver and a defensive back – when summer practices commence August 9.
Freshman wide receiver Nigel King will be in attendance for those practices but not on Saturday's. King will be ineligible to compete and will therefore be redshirted after failing in his appeal to the N.C.A.A. filed this spring.
"Its' just really like a redshirt year for Nigel. He'll just redshirt. He can practice but he just can't compete. He's going to be part of the team; he's just going to be redshirted," Edsall said.
Defensive tackle Zachariah Kerr will also be ineligible to play in the fall due to a failure to reach academic standards during the previous semester. Kerr will meet with Edsall about his future with the team, a season removed from a promising sophomore campaign.
"It's unfortunate whenever a young man doesn't fulfill their obligations in the classroom or in other areas," Edsall said, noting he had yet to see Kerr in action on the field. "We did what we could do in terms of trying to help him – keeping him out of Spring Practice. We've got some depth there at tackle and that's what we'll go with."
Inserted into the starting tackle spot opposite of incumbent second team All-Atlantic Coast Conference performer Joe Vellano is Andre Monroe. A redshirt freshman, Monroe also gets the nod over nose tackle A.J. Francis. After drawing freshman All-American honors, Francis started nine games in 2010, registering seven tackles for loss (tied for third on the team) and 2.5 sacks (tied for fourth on the team).
Monroe and defensive end Clarence Murphy are two redshirt freshmen who currently hold starting jobs along the defensive line, and with Moore constitute three starting redshirt freshmen on the depth chart.
"You're going to get some of these young guys who are going to come in at some of these positions and they're going to have a better opportunity to get on the field than maybe they did a month ago," Edsall said in response to being asked if he was contemplating anymore position changes given the recent string of transfers and ineligible players.
"There's really nothing there from a standpoint of making any other moves that we've already made."
Since taking over the program in January, Edsall has moved All-ACC safety Tate to a STAR position. He also moved Hartsfield, the team's starting outside linebacker, inside to the MIKE position and reserve linebacker David Mackall to defensive end.
Although Kerr will not be academically eligible for the fall semester, Edsall's newly implemented program has already helped to change the direction of the football program.
According to the head coach, 65 percent of the student-athletes earned a 2.5 G.P.A. or higher during the spring semester, Edsall's first with the team.
"Our young people did a pretty good job," Edsall said. "They understand what we want from them from an academic standpoint."
In April, Edsall told the media that not only will education be a point of emphasis during the recruitment of players, but the current scholarship athletes will be subject to new standards. Mondays are reserved for sit-downs with the coaching staff to discuss progress in the classroom, as well as a day off to use for class, lab, meetings with professors or community service.
The football team lost three scholarships in April for falling below the N.C.A.A. standard on the annual Academic Progress Reports released.
"I like the direction we're going. We still have a lot of work to do, but we got the program in place to make sure that these young men can be successful," Edsall added.
At the beginning of the 2012-13 football season, Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium is expected to have a different look and feel for the first time in almost 62 years.
Edsall said there are discussions in place to institute an artificial surface for the football stadium, which also plays host to a number of other sports including lacrosse.
Currently there are ongoing renovations taking place in the team's weight room, training room and other areas of the Gossett Football Team House. The estimated time of completion is set for August 8 when players report for summer practices.
In addition, a blueprint is in place to construct a new indoor practice facility by next year, which Edsall believes is necessary to improve the conditions for the current players and attract future recruits.
"When you look at the big picture of everything and you talk about a program, it's not just what goes on on the field. It's out in the community, it's fundraising, it's developing your players, it's getting things academically, its' getting the facilities you need," Edsall said. "We've done a lot but, but boy do we have a lot more to continues to go to where we want to go and be who we want to be. But I don't think it will take us that long to do that."
- Offensive linemen Pete DeSouza, who was struck by a vehicle while riding a scooter a season ago, underwent surgery again to replace to rods in his legs. Although he is recovering, Edsall said he still has a long way to go before he can play.
- Left tackle Justin Gilbert, the starter at the beginning of the 2010 season before tearing his ACL against West Virginia, is on track to return to the team in October. Gilbert re-injured that same knee during the first week of Spring Practice and had surgery on his ACL again in April.
- Both right guard Justin Lewis and cornerback Avery Graham on schedule to return from injury for summer practices.
- Three-star defensive back Michael Williams, who recently asked for his release from the Maryland football program, has opted to pursue a future in track. Williams is a local star from DeMatha Catholic High School and the brother of former Terp and Minnesota Vikings safety Madieu Williams. On Williams, Edsall said: "The only people that I want here is the people I w ant to be here. If people make decisions to move on, that's fine. The ones you worry about are the ones you have in your program."
- Former Terrapins swingman Cliff Tucker will not remain with the program going further. Tucker participated in Spring Practice as a wide receiver.