Randy Edsall said on Sept. 21 in his Sunday beat reporters' teleconference that he has 70 players on his travel team, and if he has to he will play every one of them.
Edsall is drawing closer each week to possibly having to live up to that, as the injuries/surgeries continue to pile up for the Terps.
On Sept. 20 at Syracuse, the Terps lost sophomore starting tight end Andrew Isaacs to a knee injury, just as he was coming on as a blocker. Add to that the week prior when, as it turns out, Maryland lost starting defensive end Quinton Jefferson (knee) and key reserve linebacker Cavon Walker (foot) to season-ending surgeries. Also, starting linebacker Matt Robinson missed the SU game after getting injured also in the West Virginia game, and he is day-to-day this week. Terps starting corner Alvin Hill hurt his foot/ankle at SU, and is also day-to-day.
Meanwhile, the Terps had already lost for the season receivers Levern Jacobs (suspension) and Taivon Jacobs (knee), safety A.J. Hendy (suspension), freshman offensive lineman Sean Christie (knee) and they have linebacker Abner Logan (suspension) set to go to an appeal in two weeks.
Also nicked up heading into the SU game last week were starters linebacker Cole Farrand, linebacker Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil and linebacker Avery Thompson, all of whom played, Farrand late when Maryland's run defense proved sieve-like.
With all the injuries piling up, the Terps moved co-starter nose tackle Keith Bowers to starting defensive end versus the Orange, while Jalen Brooks started in Robinson's place and Alex Twine in Farrand's. It also forced Edsall to burn two more redshirts four games in, with receiver Juwann Winfree and nose tackle David Shaw making their Terrapin debuts. Shaw is now backing up nose tackle Darius Kilgo and got 10 plays Sept. 20, Edsall said. Maryland's receiver corps, as a whole, has been hot and cold, so Edsall inserted the talented, former four-star New Jersey native in the lineup against SU.
Edsall kept a chipper attitude through it all on Sept. 21 during his call, noting the Terps have "a system in place" where they are now to the point they have developed enough talent and depth to fill the spots, something which was not the case the last few years.
And if Hill is limited this week, well next in the cue, at least at corner, are players like sophomore Jarrett Ross, but also as camp broke talented rookies Daniel Ezeagwu, in particular, and Josh Woods were impressing as rookies and turned some heads.
Hopefully for the Terps it won't come to that (the only other freshman to burn his 'shirt this season is outside linebacker Jesse Aniebonam), but Maryland has to be prepared as the injury bug continues to dog them. Last year it was the receiver corps and defensive secondary, the year before quarterback. This year it has hit the linebacker corps especially, with 3-4 stringers now taking the field and fingers crossed that starter L.A. Goree's sore back can improve; Farrand gets healthier; and Cudjoe-Virgil's bum wheel gets better and better, to provide more edge pressure for the Big Ten wars to come.
The thin offensive line has dodged the injury bug thus far, knock on wood, but waiting in the wings, if need be, is promising freshman tackle Derwin Gray, who would be the first rookie elevated there.
"We got a system in place where guys work hard each and every day, and guys know they have to be ready to get the call from the bullpen to come in and play," Edsall said. "And I have been very proud of our guys for being engaged and working hard and stepping in when they have to step in and continuing to allow us to have an opportunity to win. Our guys understand that, all those guys that could have to step in for people, their role, what they have to do to be prepared if something comes up. Whoever is in there playing, we have the utmost confidence in them that they will go in and do a good job."
The Terps must lick their wounds and regroup for their first Big Ten opponent, Indiana, this week in Bloomington. Jefferson will have surgery on Sept. 26, while Walker had foot surgery last week. As for Isaacs, the Terps will have an MRI performed on his left knee Sept. 22. The others that are nicked are all day-to-day. Edsall said they will also look at possible positional moves this week when they meet as a staff. He said he does not expect to burn any more shirts at this time, but he didn't expect to burn Shaw's this week. He played 51 players at SU.
The Terps seemed to finally hit a stride with all three units clicking at SU, though they sat on the ball in the second half with a big lead and didn't get much done on either side of the ball.
"We had a good win yesterday, and I thought offensively the first half we played very efficient. We had six drives and we got three touchdowns and a field goal and two punts and only one three-and-out," Edsall said.
Edsall was not as pleased with the second half, with seven possessions on offensive but five ending in punts, one in a field goal, and one a three-and-out. He said they couldn't sustain drives and penalties (8-for-75) hurt as well.
"But overall I thought we had a very productive day offensively," Edsall said, adding that by not turning the ball over and playing good field position football it gave them the opportunity to take advantage of what SU was trying to do.
On the other side of the ball, all the changes resulted in poor run defense and gap control and discipline, which helped net SU 589 yards total offense, this a week after nearly giving up 700 yards to West Virginia. The Orange rushed for 320 yards against Maryland's young and newly-elevated linebackers and taxed defensive line.
"I thought Avery [Thompson] went in and did a good job. I thought Jalen [Brooks] played a little bit tentative," Edsall said. "But I think he will get better as he plays more."
At tight end, Edsall said he has P.J. Gallo and Derrick Hayward next up, and has a lot of confidence in both. At defensive end, Keith Bowers returned to an old spot of his, and rotated with Spencer Myers while also getting more end reps from backup Roman Braglio (and the rookie Shaw at nose as well). Edsall said he likes the rotation they have now.
"And we will continue to run the offense, and do the things that we think are necessary to help us move the ball. We have a lot of confidence in them and they will be getting more work now," Edsall said of the tight ends. Gallo caught the one ball thrown his way, and had a big special teams play.
Meanwhile, Edsall awarded SU game balls to Sal Conaboy on offense, Will Likely on defense, and Anthony Nixon special teams. Edsall said Conaboy played one of his best games as a Terp.
Edsall said that senior quarterback C.J. Brown threw the ball well and "made the checks and got us to where we needed to go" against SU's loaded box and pressures.
"So we got the ball out and threw it pretty well," Edsall said.
He also saw his receivers block better, noting Stefon Diggs took out two defenders on Brandon Ross' 90-yard touchdown catch and run. He said he challenged the receivers to get more physical heading into the game.
Edsall also commended senior corner J.J. Johnson for his disruptive play when Hill went down.
As for the run game, Edsall said the situation was dictated by SU's defense and scout look, as Ross and Wes Brown split time, and what they saw from Syracuse allowed them to put the shiftier Jacquille Veii in for certain situations. It was another meager day on the ground for the backs (starter Ross had 6 yards on three carries after rushing for 0 yards against WVU), while SU also stymied the zone-read look with C.J. Brown, who had just 14 carries for 25 yards on the ground.
The offense remains a bit of "feast or famine," with not many long sustained drives (4-of-13 third downs Saturday) and a lack of a consistent run game. Two of the Sept. 20 touchdowns were provided by defense and a short field after the Anthony Nixon punt block, another big special teams game-changer, something the Terps are producing every week now. C.J. Brown was an improved passer against Syracuse, but still has to find his range in the deep game and stop leaving plays on the field.
"I'm not disappointed in Wes. I am not disappointed in Brandon. And those guys, again, are going to get their reps and go out there and play," Edsall said. "And we decided that we wanted to put a little bit of a different wrinkle in and we used Jacquille. So again, everybody gets too worried about too many things, and we got a lot of guys who can contribute here and we are going to utilize the guys that we see best and we see fit can go and do the things that we want to do to help us win ballgames.
"We are fortunate that we have some of those options available to us. We are going to do things to take advantage of all of our guys, all of our weapons, to be as productive as we can, and understand that we are going to have to use two guys."
Terps Lick Their Wounds, Regroup for Big Ten
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