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There hasn't been much to rave about this football season. At 2-6, bowl eligibility is out of the picture, attendance has dwindled and fans are already calling for Randy Edsall's job.
Inside the Gossett Team Football House, however, there's still an optimistic feel. Edsall still has faith in the program he's developing, and the players are buying in. And the while the record may not reflect too much success, the Terps' first-year head coach said his team is doing plenty of winning.
"What everybody looks at on the outside – they look at how many you win, how many you lose– that's the business that we're in and I understand that," Edsall said during Tuesday's press conference. "I look at the big picture because when you're installing a program there's more than just wins and losses. We're winning in a lot of areas, we're just not winning on the field right now, but that'll happen. I'm confident in that."
Edsall said that the student-athletes are becoming better people, better students and better athletes and that will translate into on-field success.
Saturday, though, is what the team is being judged on, according to quarterback C.J. Brown, and that's not fair. Brown said people fail to recognize the hard work players are putting in the other six days of the week.
"It is frustrating because we put in all this time, 24-7, 365 days a year. To be judged only on the field, it is tough because everybody behind the scenes is doing the right thing. They're doing their jobs academically, socially, with the community," Brown said. "Everything off the field is improving. Guys are growing into their bodies; everybody is becoming more of a man and taking responsibility. Not everybody can see that."
Yet with no chance to reach the postseason, linebacker Darin Drakeford said captains Davin Meggett and Joe Vellano – even Andrew Gonnella who was lost for their season last month – have kept the team motivated.
Drakeford said teams with a lot of losses at this point in the year tend to fall apart, but that's not the case here. Not once has he seen the team give up in any phase of the game, including games or even practice.
On a Thursday practice a few weeks ago, Drakeford recalled a team-wide scuffle while working on their two-minute offense.
"It was a play and one of the defensive linemen felt something should have been called. The next thing you know, you have 22 guys out there wrestling and fighting," he said, adding the whole team was involved. "If no one cared, no one would have been fighting."
That focus, that continual effort is what ensures Edsall that year No. 2 may have a different feel that year No. 1. He said he's spoken with other coaches, like Georgia Tech's Paul Johnson and Virginia's Mike London, about the transition.
In his second year at the helm of the Cavaliers, London has turned around a team that went 4-8 last season into a 6-3 team contending for an ACC Coastal Division crown. Last week, he helped Virginia to their first November win in four years, making them bowl-eligible for first time since 2007.
Similarly, Edsall has first-year woes when he took over at Connecticut. After the Huskies went 10-3 in 1998 and won their first Division 1-AA playoff game, Edsall's team went 4-7, the first of three consecutive losing seasons. Edsall inherited a team with high expectations despite the loss of 25 players.
In 2002, Connecticut went 6-6, then enjoyed six winning seasons until finally reaching the Fiesta Bowl last year. Installing a new system, Edsall said, is not an overnight process, and there's "no question" it will be different in 2012.
"I've been through transitions at every stop along the way, as an assistant and as a head coach. Every one of them, there's been things that you have to adjust to. Not all of them go as smoothly and you would like in the first year," he said. "There are going to be some hiccups along the way. You hope there aren't, but it's almost inevitable."