COLLEGE PARK, Md. – With his long, flowing shoulder-length hair and a beard on par with the Geico Caveman’s (or Jesus’), Maryland senior inside linebacker Cole Farrand is one of the most recognizable Terps without a helmet on. Typically clean-shaven during the spring, the 6-foot-3, 245-pounder has put the razor to bed before the last couple fall camps, growing his rendition of an NHL playoff beard.
“Oh, you look so pretty, Cole,” quipped fellow linebacker Abner Logan while Farrand was conducting an interview post practice Aug. 7.
“Mind if I cut your hair on camera?” chimed in another Terps passerby.
The mild-mannered Farrand simply smirked and shook his head. He’d heard all the good-natured ribbing so often this summer it barely registered.
“I didn’t really have too much going [in terms of facial hair] in the spring, but now it’s camp time and no one seems too concerned with [grooming], so I just let it grow out,” Farrand said, laughing. “I may end up just letting it go. It seems to be falling out of the helmet quite nice. I don’t know what more length will do to it, but we’ll see.”
True statement: Farrand probably spent more time under water this offseason than in a barber’s chair. In-between conditioning, weight-lifting and film study, the Garden State native took some of his free time to become a certified scuba diver.
That’s right, scuba diving.
“See I grew up on a lake in Green Pond, N.J.,” Farrand explained. “So growing up I was always in the water. I was on the swim team, I did [swimming] at the YMCA, and I’ve always loved the water. So being able to breathe under it sounded pretty fun. And actually the place I got certified was the same place where in [the movie] The Replacements Keanu Reeves was under water throwing the football, so that’s the little football aspect of it (laughs).”
It’s safe to say Farrand has had a much more fruitful football career than Reeves’ Replacements character. Hair or no hair, he’s become a household name among Terps aficionados these last few seasons.
A starter since his sophomore year, the Jersey product is one of those guys whose name has been atop the depth chart so long it seems like he’s been in College Park for a decade. He’s been a steady, consistent performer, who probably won’t earn a spot on the BTN highlight shows, but could end up as one of the conference’s leading tacklers.
Indeed, Farrand has anchored Maryland’s rather stringent defense the last two seasons, leading the team in tackles in 2012 and finishing second in 2013, despite missing two games with a concussion and playing through a hand injury. Last year he racked up 84 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, a forced fumble and half a sack in 11 games.
It would be a mistake to measure Farrand’s impact in mere numbers, however. While not the most physically gifted athlete on the team, his football sense, work ethic and ability to command respect has made him an invaluable piece in the 3-4 cog.
“Cole is a guy who is making all the calls on defense, getting all the plays to everybody else, making all the adjustments, making all the checks. He has to be the guy who holds it together for us,” head coach Randy Edsall said before practice Aug. 7. “After last year, looking at what he played through, and doing the things he did... He’s another guy where you don’t worry about his effort, his intensity."
Edsall, of course, was referencing the various ailments that limited Farrand to eight starts and forced him to miss a pair of contests outright. His signature performance, which perhaps served as a microcosm of his game, came last Oct. 26 in a loss to Clemson.
Unbeknownst to Farrand and the Maryland staff, he had sustained a concussion during the course of play, but he rarely left the field and ended up with a career-high 23 tackles, the most by any UMD defender during a single game since 1990. Farrand missed the next two outings with said concussion, but he returned for the upset at Virginia Tech and played out the string.
“Clemson was just one of those days where I was on my game. Hopefully I can do that again this upcoming season (laughs),” Farrand said. “I don’t think you can play a whole game with a concussion, but I did play a portion of the game with a concussion. But honestly I was just out there, trying to give 110 percent every time, and it turned into 23 tackles. I just try to play my role of MIKE linebacker on the defense.”
That role extends well beyond the gridiron, however. Farrand has oft been lauded for his leadership qualities, and it’s something he doesn’t take lightly.”
“I’m a senior and obviously I have obligations. I have to help the freshmen, and the MIKE’s job on defense is to make the calls, so I’ve got to keep my head on straight,” said Farrand, who specifically mentioned that freshmen inside linebackers Tyler Burke and Matt Gillespie have caught his eye. “And I definitely think it’s important … to have a good mindset going into practice every day. The freshmen, they look up to you and see what you’re doing, because they don’t know how everything is.
“So you have to have a good mentality and mindset showing up to practice every day, and I take pride in doing that. I don’t know how much help [the freshmen] really need since they’re looking pretty good, but [the seniors] do our best to set an example.”
Farrand remembers when he was a rookie linebacker and looked to Maryland’s veterans for guidance. In fact, one of his role models was back on campus Aug. 6 in order to watch practice and give the current Terps a post-workout pep talk.
Maryland great Joe Vellano, who went from undrafted defensive lineman to a sometimes-starter on the New England Patriots last year, gave Farrand an example to follow.
“The main thing with Joe Vellano is he’s not the biggest, the strongest or the fastest, but what he does every time is he goes out and plays with all his heart and he doesn’t leave anything out there. He’s also in there watching film, paying attention to technique, fundamentals – and that’s what makes Joe such a great player,” Farrand said. “And I think if every guy plays like Joe Vellano plays, we’re going to be really tough this year.”
Like Vellano, Farrand has probably reached his physical peak by this point, but he has continued to improve nonetheless. During the first couple padded practices he’s been flying around the middle of the defense, looking a bit faster than before. On one offense-defense drill Farrand had a nifty pass breakup where he anticipated the route, sprinted 10 yards to his right and swatting the ball away, proving he could cover in space.
Edsall, for one, has noticed an uptick in Farrand’s game.
“He should be, and is, playing at a faster level because of his experience and playing in the games,” Edsall said. “Again, it’s good to have a guy who has played as much as he has."
Farrand, who is on several third-team all-Big Ten watch lists, is well aware how much responsibility he has, though it’s not like he’s had to change much in terms of demeanor or preparation. He spent the offseason doing what he’s always done (other than scuba diving): lifting like a fiend, plenty of running, and watching enough film to fill up half an iPad’s RAM. He’s hoping to end his tenure in College Park on a high note, setting the stage for Maryland’s future forays into the Big Ten.
“I want to be injury-free, that’s for sure. I want to hit triple digits [in tackles], I want to get double-digit TFLs [tackles for loss], and most of all I just want us to win, that’s what I want most o f all,” Farrand said. “And I think the team is really coming together, and the defense… with the seniors we have and the returning starters, I think we’re going to be good. I think we’re big, I think we’re strong, I think we’re fast and I definitely think we have a lot of leadership.
“Everyone is holding each other accountable this year, and I think that’s great in a football team how nobody is falling off the wagon…. We’re coming on strong and I’m excited.”
When the season’s finally over, this two-time all-ACC Academic selection plans to continue pursuing his degree in economics, though his ultimate aspiration shouldn’t surprise anyone. Especially given his spot on the leadership council.
“I’d love to be a football coach,” Farrand said. “That’s actually what I wanted to do coming into college. I didn’t know what I wanted my degree to be in, because all I knew is I wanted to be a coach. I ended up choosing economics, and I think that’s a good degree to build a foundation for the future. But what I really want to do is be a head football coach.”
Maybe, one day, he’ll be where his current head coach is -- the leader of a major college football program. In the meantime, though, Randy Edsall is hoping to milk one more standout season out of Farrand, his constant in the middle.
“It’s hard to believe he’s a senior, time has gone by so quick,” Edsall said. “But I’m glad he’s in there … he has the utmost respect of the players and coaches.”
Farrand Diving Right Into His Senior Year
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