Maryland's football program has a lot of good things going for them this offseason. The players made improvements academically after the program lost three scholarships the year before to poor academics. New uniforms were debuted Monday, adding to the collection of the much hyped and debated Under Armour uniforms from last season. A new revolution fiber field was installed in Byrd Stadium, and a recent recruiting trend has the Terps keeping much of the Maryland talent in-state.
Some changes have also been made these past few months. New coordinators Mike Locksley and Brian Stewart were brought in. The spread offense under former offensive coordinator Gary Crowton is now a pro-style offense with a spread option. The 4-3 base defense from last season is now a 3-4 scheme. The 2010 ACC Rookie of the Year, quarterback Danny O'Brien, has left for Wisconsin and junior quarterback C.J. Brown now firmly holds the reins of the team.
Edsall said that throughout the changes in personnel and in the upgrades to their facilities and accessories, the team's philosophy of making the Terps better students, better athletes and better people never wavered. There were tough changes that had to be made, but making those changes were necessary for the betterment of the football program as a whole, Edsall said.
On Sunday night, 102 players reported to the Maryland coaching staff in College Park for their last stretch of practices before the regular season. The players were put through a conditioning test on Monday morning and held their first practice Monday evening. While a few players did not pass the conditioning test and may be unable to practice, Edsall was pleased with the return of his players.
It's great, Edsall said. All the guys came back. I thought they came back in good shape.
Edsall understands that this team is very young, with 68 percent of the players being freshmen, redshirt freshmen or sophomores, according to Edsall. He is, however, confident in the senior leadership of the team in bringing along the younger players.
The thing I feel really good about is our 17 seniors, Edsall said. I told them yesterday that we'll go as far as they take us. I really like those seniors. I like the leadership I've seen out of them and I've told them their leadership has to continue, has to even been stronger as we continue to go forward, because of the number of young players we have here in our program. I know they're ready to step up to the challenge.
Edsall has roomed the upperclassmen with the younger players to allow the veterans to take the new additions under their wings and show them how the Terps go about their business. Edsall expects the older players to teach the younger ones about hard work and not cutting corners while keeping them accountable. He trusts the seniors to take care of things in the locker room, allowing the coaching staff to focus solely on putting the team in the best position to succeed on the field, Edsall said.
After going 2-10 last season, Edsall wants his team to know that while it is a whole new season, they will need to play with a chip on their shoulder. He wants his players to be able to enjoy the feeling of winning on Saturdays and believes that all the changes in personnel, the upgrades in facilities and uniforms and the strong recruiting classes will be factors in helping the program get stronger.
During the summer, the coaches were not able to have much interaction with their players, leading many of the players to hold their own practices and to schedule seven-on-sevens against each other. Edsall said he is proud of the players taking ownership of the team and living up to his expectation that everybody is prepared to start the preseason training right from where they left off in spring training.
With regards to the shift to the 3-4 base defense, Edsall believes the transition was necessary given the caliber of his defensive players. With a very strong front seven that includes a solid linebacker corps, Edsall believes his personnel is better suited for the 3-4 scheme and said that the players have picked up the changes very well and will hopefully make a large impact once everyone is back to full strength.
Edsall also spoke very highly of starting quarterback C.J. Brown and gave him his vote of confidence for the season. He praised Brown's leadership and his work ethic and also talked about Brown's improvement as a passer.
He knows that he's the quarterback, he's the leader, said Edsall. I think he's done a tremendous job working to make himself better fundamentally as a quarterback, but also, he's taken a leadership role to another level. The players really respect him. He's somebody that understands exactly what needs to be done in order to get to where we need to get to. He's just a guy that just works. He commands respect from his teammates.
With only two other freshmen at the quarterback positions in Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe, Brown's health could concern some, given his scrambling style of play. Edsall said that he and the other coaches discussed the potential problem of losing Brown to injury, but prioritized winning over playing conservatively.
I told the coaches that we have to do whatever we have to do to win, Edsall said. Some games, it might predicate that we use C.J. a little bit more in the run game and then there's games where we might not do that. But you know what, we can't sit here and play cautiously or be afraid or do the things that C.J. can do to make us better.
With the knowledge that Brown's style of play may make it more likely for him to suffer an injury, Edsall also stressed the importance of figuring out who the backup quarterback will be and getting him as much experience as possible under center in game day situations so the Terps will be more prepared if anything does happen to Brown.
Edsall's next biggest task is to figure out the depth chart for the regular season. But as Edsall said, making the depth chart really is not a coach's job.
People think we as coaches make the depth chart, said Edsall. We don't make the depth chart. The players make the depth chart based on what they do in practice and how they perform. They'll be given every opportunity and the guys who can help us win will be the guys who are going to be playing.
The freshmen coming in are all listed at the bottom of the depth chart, regardless of how highly they were ranked as prospects. The preseason depth chart was put together based on players' performances in the spring, and thus, the freshmen have not shown anything to the coaching staff since becoming a Terp and sit at the bottom for now, Edsall said. He said this also takes off some pressure from freshmen to perform and allows the coaching staff to find out who the best players are.
Our philosophy here, and you can ask the kids and they'll tell you, the best guy plays, Edsall said. It doesn't matter if you're a freshman, a sophomore, a junior or a senior. The best guy plays.
Edsall has some other position battles that he will need to sort out in camp, including the third, fourth and fifth wide receiver spots, the tailback position and the depth on the offensive line. Edsall said he is most comfortable with the tight end position with seniors Matt Furstenburg, Devonte Campbell and Ryan Schlothauer, who was recently accepted into the MBA program at the University of Maryland. Edsall also said he feels good about the strength of the front seven on defense, though the Mike linebacker position is still up in the air.
With the returning veterans and the wealth of young talent on the team, it is hard not to be excited for the upcoming season. Edsall hopes this preseason will get the team ready for greater success in the fall as he begins to see his vision for the football program coming together.
o TE Daniel Adams fractured his foot. He is a transfer and has to sit out the season regardless.
o PK Michael Tart suffered an injury during a summer job and is undergoing tests
o WR Kevin Dorsey, LB Kenny Tate and DE Joe Vellano will only practice once during two-a-days. They will still be fully ready for the season and their absence will allow younger players to get more reps at practice.
o WR Nigel King has