COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Traditionally, special teams members aren’t called upon to serve as team leaders, but Brad Craddock isn’t your typical “teams” guy. Maryland’s senior kicker has been lauded for two-plus years now, his preparation, work ethic and attitude resonating throughout the locker room. Head coach Randy Edsall has been effusive in his praise -- downright emotional at times – when discussing the defending Lou Groza Award winner, while some of the Terps’ most renowned players, from Will Likely to Yannick Ngakoue, have called out Craddock as well.
Now, more than perhaps any other point during his college career, Craddock must assume his rather unusual position. Maryland (2-2) is coming off a demoralizing 45-6 loss to West Virginia in Morgantown, W.Va., and is about to embark on a Big Ten battlefield filled with landmines, featuring as many as six top-25 teams. It’s quite conceivable the Terps will be an underdog in each of their remaining eight games, suggesting it will be a struggle just to reach four victories.
“The biggest thing is staying positive and encouraging the guys,” Craddock said Sept. 29. “Harp of the stuff they’re doing well and make sure we make the corrections where we need to. Obviously I’m looking after my lot, and each leader has their group they have to look after.
“But I just try and do my job, and that’s the best thing anybody can do. We’re all just trying to do the best we can … and that should filter throughout the whole team.”
Craddock echoed the sentiments of his head coach and several other Maryland players Sept. 29. Basically, the Terps, like any other team that suffers a debacle, are doing their best to purge WVU from their collective memories and focus solely on the Michigan bout Oct. 3.
“We can’t change what’s in the past. What we can do is worry about this week and staying positive,” said Craddock, who mentioned he delivered the same spiel following UMD’s loss to Bowling Green earlier this season. “I think guys are doing a good job of that. No one really likes losing. People are annoyed at that, and you can see it in guys now with how they’re working. Bouncing back is really easier, I think.”
The latter remains to be seen, but that’s the message Craddock and his fellow Leadership Council members are trying to impart. It’s the message Wes Brown, Quinton Jefferson and Caleb Rowe delivered in a players’ only meeting before practice Sept. 29 in an attempt to invigorate a squad that at times looked downtrodden and lifeless against WVU.
“Life is hard,” Edsall said. “Everything is not going to be as Forrest Gump said, ‘A box of chocolates.’ The adversity that comes in life…We’re playing a game, we’re 2-2. We haven’t played as well in a couple of those games, and as a team, collectively -- coaches, players -- we stick with each other. We ‘ll circle the wagons and we’ll go out and prepare and work hard. … We’re a team.
“I think everybody at some point in time n their career, whether it be in high school, college … we’ve all been down this road before. We’ve got eight games left. We’re 2-2, you just take it one game at a time and you just keep working to get better. You keep practicing and fight your way out of it – that’s all you can do. That’s what they’re reminding each other – keep fighting, keep practicing hard to become more consistent.”
So, regardless of what’s behind them -- and what looms later this season with bouts against Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin and Penn State -- the Terps are eager for the Big Ten opener. Performing on a national stage in front of the Byrd Stadium faithful, according to Craddock, has helped energize the troops during practice this week.
“This is a real exciting game for us. We don’t get very many [night games], so we’re looking forward to it. It will be awesome to have our fans, and it’s sold out,” Craddock said. “Last week is done and over with, and now it’s on to the next big challenge. We’re really focusing on Michigan and what they bring to the table.”
But if Maryland continues to stumble, one has to wonder how long Craddock can maintain his “glass half full” mentality. One has to wonder if this particular Leadership Council’s -- the one Edsall called his best since arriving in College Park --words will begin falling on deaf ears.
“You face challenges in everything you do, all the time,” Craddock said. “The best guys can bounce back from that, and I think it’s just showing what we’re made of. It’s a challenge, and it’s another thing we have to push through. I’m looking forward to it.”