Edsall emphasizes team as preseason nears

Changes in the program, position battles continue.

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. – A new sign sits in front of the Gossett Team Football House that reads "Beat Miami."

It's not the only nuance around the team house – there's a new weight room, new logos, new training room, new uniforms, even a new football.

The changes represent a new era in Maryland football, one beginning with first-year head coach Randy Edsall stamping the program with his imprint – hard work, discipline and a team first mentality, the latter being the central theme as the team prepares for the preseason.

"The biggest thing we got to do is continue to get the guys to understand it's all about the team, it's all about Maryland and really just coming together here with the 29 practice opportunities we have to prepare for probably one of the toughest openers that this program has had in quite some time," Edsall said during an afternoon press conference Thursday.

Goals, said Edsall, include developing chemistry between quarterbacks and wideouts and developing consistency in both the aerial and ground attacks. Defensively, limiting the number of big play, a problem that plagued the team all of last season, was a concern. During the annual Red-White Spring Game, Danny O'Brien rifled a 65-yard strike to Ronnie Tyler on the opening play.

The mission to improve is just days away.

The players begin practicing Tuesday after a summer of a weight lifting and training regimen, led by team captains Davin Meggett, Kenny Tate, Andrew Gonnella and Joe Vellano.

Firstly, though, the team will report Monday, and will receive a message from their head coach about the position battles about to ensue. Offensively, there is no clear-cut starter at wide receiver or fullback, and there are plenty of chances for the younger plays to seize back-up roles.

Currently juniors Kevin Dorsey and Kerry Boykins and seniors Tyler and Quintin McCree sit atop the depth chart. Edsall, though, has consistently praised freshman Tyrek Cheeseboro throughout the offseason.

"I know a lot of people questioned wide receivers because maybe they don't have a lot of playing time, haven't garnered a lot of minutes out there or catches, but I really feel good about the guys where have," Edsall began. "There's guys there who have the ability. We have to make sure we do a great job as coaches to getting them to perform at the highest level they can.

"Is there going to be somebody to really separate themselves," he then asked.

With the graduation of Haroon Brown and Taylor Watson, redshirt freshman Rahsaan Moore, transfer Jeff Hernandez and first-year player Tyler Cierski, Scout.com's No. 7-rated fullback, are competing in what Edsall calls a "wide open" competition.

Edsall expects a fierce competition between right guard Josh Cary, the current starter, and Pete White, who saw action at both guard spots last season. He is also trying to iron out the rotation to the point in which the team has a true "two deep," a situation Edsall labels every coach's dream.

"What you're trying to do you try to find those eight guys that you can work in there as a third tackle or a second guard, third guard, back-up center," calling the competition a great opportunity for Cody Blue and Jake Wheeler, who will get reps early on, despite their inexperience.

Questions remain on who will round out the depth chart at running back. Meggett, expected to be a workhorse in his first year as the Terps' featured back, and D.J. Adams, who spent last season as a short-yardage specialist, currently stand No. 1 and 2, and Edsall envisions one of the three freshmen – Jeremiah Wilson, Justus Pickett or Brandon Ross – as the third option.

On the defensive side of the ball, Edsall stated the defensive backfield and linebacking corps were set in stone, though the starters along the defensive line at the conclusion of the spring were merely written in pencil.

"Some of these guys that might have played a year ago – do they have the fire in their belly to go out there and say, ‘I got to prove it again,'" Edsall said. "Some of them maybe didn't do as much as they needed to in the spring so that's why they're No. 2 on the depth chart instead of being a starter. Do they have that hunger and that fire in the summer to beat somebody out?"

Among the defensive line starters are redshirt freshmen Clarence Murphy and Andre Monroe. Noticeable second-stringers: A.J. Francis, who started nine games at nose tackle in 2010 and finished with seven tackles for loss, and Justin Anderson, who started every game last season.

While Demetrius Hartsfield, Darin Drakeford and Tate comprise the three linebacker spots, finding plausible back-ups remains a concern. Walk-ons Cole Ferrand, Garrett Lederman, Lamonte Gaddis, transfer Ray Lynn and Shaquan Virgil are candidates at the MIKE (middle) and WILL (weak side) slots.

Still, so many questions hovering of the program – depth a lingering concern, issues of who will step up to in spite of the 10 offensive and defensive starters lost, how the Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Year will fare in season two.

During ACC media day last month, Maryland was projected to finish fifth in the conference, despite finishing third last year and finishing 24th in the AP Top 25 Poll, which will only fuel the Terps heading into August.

"Every year is a new year. It will just give us a little bit more incentive, a little bit more sense of urgency to just go out and prove people wrong," Edsall said. "I know what we have. I know what we can do. The only way we can prove people wrong is going out on the field and taking care of business.

Under Armour

It's well known that Kevin Plank, a Maryland alum, heads Baltimore-based sporting apparel titan Under Armour. His ties to his alma mater are no secret. And as a new era begins in College Park, a new image is only appropriate.

On Aug. 22, the Terps will unveil a new uniform without any names stitched on their backs to correspond to their team-first manta.

Their jerseys and shoes, as they have been, will be Under Armour-created, and now so will their most important piece of equipment.

The new 695 football, representing the Beltway in Baltimore, will be used by the team.

"We feel really good, and Danny [O'Brien] feels really good about using the ball this year," Edsall said. "Now we can be head toe, in terms of shoes, uniforms and now even footballs. We'll be the first team to use the ball as well.

News and Notes

  • The team added a fourth quarterback to the roster. Former Bishop McNamara and Bowie State signal-caller James Joseph will serve as the team's scout quarterback, allowing O'Brien, C.J. Brown and Troy Jones work on the game plan.
  • Justin Gilbert, who began 2010 as the starting left tackle before suffering a season-ending knee surgery, will be limited to individual drills during preseason practices. He is expected to be game-ready in October.
  • Freshman offensive guard Stephen Grommer will not be ready for preseason practice next week, as he continues to deal with a fracture in his foot.
  • Pete DeSouza, almost a year removed from a motor scooter accident that resulted in multiple breaks in both of the offensive tackle's legs, has been cleared for full contact drills. DeSouza will participate in individual drills to begin the preseason, and after gauging his progress a decision will be made to determine whether if he is ready for team work.
  • Maryland was able to offer scholarships to wide receiver Webb Dulin (senior), longsnapper Tim Downs (senior), defensive back Anthony Green (senior) and tight end Ryan Schlothauer (junior), all of whom were walk-ons.

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