COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- New large, opaque glass doors with the 'Maryland' logo etched across each welcome you to Randy Edsall's spruced up head coach's office at the Gossett Football Team House.
And as he sat down to face beat reporters for his first Thursday fireside, mostly off-the-record chat, behind him in Byrd Stadium crews worked to put the finishing touches on several new features at Byrd as Maryland begins Big Ten play with many new bells and whistles.
The large red 'M' in the end zone seating area has been painted, finally, Big Ten league flags hang at each top corner of the upper deck, and this week, for game day, the flags of each league school will be hung along the top deck. Then there's new signage and placards for the Terps all-time Coach of the Year recipients, and their consensus All-American football players, also now hanging on the upper deck side.
There's new food at the concession stands, better wireless connectivity, ribbon board to feature in-game texting, new landscaping and countless other tweaks as the old stadium prepares for its foray into the BIG. There was sound testing going in the stadium as well as Edsall spoke, while his cell phone ring-call song went off a few times on this busy day.
"I think it dresses it up quite a bit," Edsall said of the work at Byrd. "They have made it [the AA's] nicer, it looks a lot better, and the things at the top with the flag....it adds on to what they did years ago with the consensus All-Americans and then all the other things on the first level there."
Edsall said the school flags from each Big school will hang on game days only.
The Terps will use their new red UA game jerseys, with white pants and white helmets, the same ones they wore at Fan Day during their open scrimmage.
"It's more of a traditional....but it's a new red jersey, the one we used [two weeks ago]," Edsall said.
Game captains for Saturday will be C.J. Brown (offense), L.A. Goree (defense) and Brad Craddock (special teams), while the flag bearers will be Matt Robinson (US) and Albert Reid (state). The coaches pick the game captains based on who has practiced the best during the week.
"I thought we had a good week. They are ready to go play, there is no doubt about that," Edsall said. "Now the big thing is, let's see how we play. I think they'll play well. Like I said, they are ready to go play somebody else, and now what we got to do is go out and execute."
The Terps dodged the major injury bullet in August camp with the exception of true freshman offensive lineman Sean Christie, who had knee surgery, while today freshman linebacker Nnamdi Egbuaba out of St. Frances, had labrum surgery on a carry-over injury. He is done for the season and hopes to be back for winter conditioning/spring ball. Christie is also out for the year, but was expected to redshirt.
Edsall said only a small handful of true freshmen will play this fall, after the glut of them the last two seasons in the wake of injuries, but he would not offer up those names on the record. With players like freshman offensive tackle Derwin Gray in the two-deep at right tackle, obviously a few are an injury away.
Edsall praised the improved play of key offensive line backups senior Jake Wheeler at left tackle, and junior center/guard Stephen Grommer, who haven't done much yet in their careers. He cited the role and impact of new O-line Coach Greg Studrawa. Maryland is thin again up front, so it will be key these career reserves step up in case of injury and the like.
"They have gotten better," Edsall said. "I thought Grommer had really done a good job this summer, and probably wasn't sure where he might have been. But he really did, he worked at it quite a bit, in all phases, and put himself in a position where he is today. And same thing with Jake, and I think a lot of that is Stud's approach. I think how he's been able to handle those guys, engage those guys, I think it is a credit to him and a credit to the kids, too. They weren't getting it done, so to speak, but there has been a big change with those two."
He said with the new morning practice format, they did not name Scout Team Players of the Week this week. He has his graduate assistants on offense and defense choose them. He said both the coaches and players like the new morning format, done yesterday by 10:20 a.m.
"They will have classes of course starting next week, but their recovery time that they have, we don't have anything now until 3 PM tomorrow [Friday]," Edsall said.
Edsall said he spoke to coaches in recent years about practicing in the mornings, "and they told me it was a real advantage." He said when he first approached the academics folks at UMD they did not think it could be done, but last year approached Edsall about it and after looking at it believed it "would probably be even better."
So the Terps did it in the spring, three days a week, and "now it's forcing kids to get to bed earlier at night, which is good from a coaches' standpoint."
Edsall said it is key because the players have so much to deal with every day as student-athletes, and by the time he would get them in the afternoon "sometimes they are just shot. This way get them up in the morning....and then we know they are up, and we practice, and I think they are sharper, they are more mentally into things, and now they have the rest of the day to deal with academics."
Morning practices begin with meetings at 7:10 a.m. Most days they are done by 10:30 a.m.
"And they got the rest of the day to do what they need to do," Edsall said, who added study sessions often conflicted with afternoon practices as well.
As for the legal situations with No. 1 receiver Levern Jacobs and backup 'Mo' linebacker Alex Twine, who were involved with an off-campus incident last month, and any pending suspensions, Edsall said:
"I am still just trying to get some more information, and if there is something that comes up we will let you know," Edsall said. "Right now it's still status quo. I am still working to get information, and depending on the information that I get, we'll see what happens, see what happens."
Edsall repeated that he hopes to work in all three running backs, with Brandon Ross the opening day starter, after a good camp battle between Albert Reid and then Wes Brown. Jacquille Veii was moved to slot and is working out well. Kenny Goins is the starter at fullback, and Ty Cierski beat out Drew Stefanelli for the No. 2 spot there.
Edsall said both standout receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long have settled in and are ready to go after some ups and downs in preseason camp amidst heavy expectations and, at times, too much hype from national, Big Ten media polls and the like.
Edsall said the Terps will host several recruits unofficially for Saturday's game. He said they will host a walk-on tryout next week once classes begin. The Terps had to end camp with 105 players total on roster, per NCAA rules, but after classes start they can add to that.
Finally, the Aug. 30 opening tilt, with JMU and its athletic quarterback Vad Lee, he said:
"The biggest thing is as long as we play really good, sound fundamental football, and everybody understands and knows their responsibilities....if guys just execute their assignments and play with good technique, whatever they throw at you you should be able to handle," Edsall said.
"But I am anxious to go see them play," he added. "But that's on paper, now we got to go and actually go and produce, and that's what I am anxious to see. Just to see how much guys have grown and developed and gotten better.
"And again, I thought we had a good week of practice, in terms of the way we do practice, we are going to continue to develop guys throughout the year. And hopefully we don't have injuries, but if we do because of some of the things we are doing it gives the younger kids the chance to be coached in certain areas to get batter.
"But I am excited, it's a very together group, they feel really good about each other, they like being around each other, and I think they understand they are playing for each other, they are not playing for themselves, they are playing for each other. And I think when you have that kind of environment it allows you to go out and be successful."
Edsall said he had various motivational speakers and the like come through to meet with the players this month, including author and motivational speaker John Gordon, and a rep from the House of Ruth in Baltimore to talk about domestic issues.
"So I thought we got a lot done. Now it's time to go play the game and see where we are," Edsall said.
Edsall, Terps Make Final Prep
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