COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Maryland head coach Randy Edsall seemed at ease in his office on Sept. 25 for his weekly media fireside chat, sporting an Orioles (he's a lifelong fan) pullover, khaki shorts and top-siders. When asked, he said he hopes to maybe sneak in a playoff game, if the O's happen to have one at home during the Terps bye week in two weeks, and it does not conflict with his recruiting schedule.
But he also has plenty to concern himself with these days, as while Edsall would not discuss the growing list of injuries, he obviously lost at least two starters at Syracuse last week. Starting tight end Andrew Isaacs went down to a season-ending left knee injury, while starting corner Alvin Hill, according to his teammates well-wishing tweets two days ago, underwent knee surgery on Thursday. And that was after a week earlier losing starting defensive end Quinton Jefferson (knee) and backup linebacker Cavon Walker (foot) for the season as well.
"Next man up" is the mantra again for yet another football season at College Park, and the list doesn't likely end there. Edsall, now that the Terps are in the Big Ten, does not have to release a weekly injury report any longer as he used to do on Thursdays in the ACC. But the Terps are hobbled again, this time heading into their Big Ten opener Saturday at Indiana.
"I don't worry about injuries. I can't control them," Edsall said. "That's why, to me, we're trying to always develop our full roster and get guys in practice, the way that we practice, to make sure if injuries do occur we got the next-best guy available ready to go.
"But I think I have a "shot" for not being affected by injuries anymore. It just kinda rolls off of, you know. It's just the way it is. You see it on every team, you see it in college, see it in the NFL, baseball, everywhere. So what you have to try to do as a coach is be sure you are developing your roster, and you are getting guys to understand that they can be in there playing at any time."
But from the ashes, Edsall and Co. have seen some revelations, for instance junior reserve linebacker Avery Thompson, who "bided his time" and now has seized the opportunity with all of the linebacker injuries. After playing as a true freshman three years ago, Thompson has reemerged from the depths of obscurity, with both a touchdown off a punt block and a forced fumble this season.
"I think our guys understand, after what we have been through here, that your opportunity is probably going to come at some point in time. And you better go out and prepare the right way, and if you do that you are going to get the opportunity," Edsall said of the Terps' "Sam" linebacker and special teams standout.
Edsall, who had speaker and author John Gordon address the team in camp, used the term "energy vampire" a few times during his fireside chat, a term Gordon coined about guys not getting negative, and being all about the "team."
"And what you have to understand is not everybody is going to be a starter," Edsall said. "There are different levels of ability that people have, and you can still be a great teammate, still be a great contributor to the team in other ways. And that's what has impressed me most about Avery. Avery has never moped around or sulked, all he's done is keep working to improve and get better."
Edsall said Thompson himself is fighting through injury now.
"It's important to him, and that's why I'm really proud of him because he has always been a team player, always given his best effort, he's prepared and done the things you have asked him to do," Edsall said. "Their opportunity will come either on special teams, or they will come based on if somebody gets an injury. He's maintained that positive approach, that team approach, to do whatever he has to get on the field in some capacity, to contribute to the success, and not be what we call an energy vampire.
"You get those guys that are energy vampires, you know they think they should be playing but they really shouldn't be. And we don't have many energy vampires, and if we do, we tell them you're being an energy vampire. But Avery, I just love his approach to everything he is doing."
Meanwhile, Edsall said junior punter Nate Renfro showed some improvement at SU, booting for a 44.7 yard average while putting three inside the 20. He said he is improving, but still needs to get more consistent. He cited "punting to situations" as a key area of work still needed. Special teams has been the Terps calling card so far through four games for 3-1 Maryland.
Edsall said redshirt freshman defensive lineman Kingsley Opara also has to be ready to play at anytime as well, given the injuries, as well as Malik Jones, the other redshirt freshman poised to maybe get on the field this season if injuries persist. Edsall said Opara was slowed by a camp injury and is coming around more now. They are the fifth and sixth options on the defensive line now.
Edsall said some of the young linebackers stepping in the injury breech, like Jalen Brooks, who has had to move inside and then again out so far in his Terps career, is coming along but sometimes "overthinks" situations. Brooks started last week with Matt Robinson down.
"We just need him to play a little bit faster," Edsall said of the redshirt freshman's learning curve and playing and not thinking too much.
Meanwhile, Edsall announced the loss for the season of JuCo corner transfer Denzel Conyers, who has been deemed ineligible by the NCAA, something Maryland had been appealing in recent weeks. Edsall was miffed as Conyers was expected to play this season. He will now have three years to play two seasons, not three years of eligibility. It stems from his JuCo GPA, though he was a full qualifier out of high school.
Scout Team Players of the Week for the week were DeAndre Lane on offense, Malik Jones on defense, and Zac Morton on special teams.
Game captains for Saturday are Ryan Doyle offense, Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil on defense, and Anthony Nixon on special teams.
Flag bearers are Jalen Brooks (U.S.) and Stefon Diggs (state).
The Terps will be in red pants, white jerseys and white helmets.
Edsall would not discuss injuries until after the game Sept. 27 in Bloomington, Ind.
Overall, Edsall said of the depth, that he has a lot of confidence in the guys that will have to go in and play as they "get the philosophy of preparation, even though they may not be getting reps with the first and second team reps," Edsall said.
Edsall said he will have to get more freshmen ready to play, while if there is a silver lining, some of the injured players who never redshirted will now get medicals and gain an extra year, so that is the only one.
With Alvin Hill down, others ready to go include sophomore Jarrett Ross, maybe even promising true freshman Daniel Ezeagwu, if there are more injuries.
Edsall, Terps Push Through Injuries
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