Posted by Chip Patterson
College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice . So we here at the Eye on College Football will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers . Today, we look at Maryland , who started spring practice on Tuesday.
Maryland fell just short of a division crown in 2010, can Randy Edsall and the new coaching staff take the Terps over the top?
2010 was a season of historic turnaround for the Maryland football program. Just a year after going 2-10, the Terps finished the year 8-4 with a Top 25 ranking in the final polls. It was one of the biggest win-differentials in program, and head coach Ralph Friedgen was named the ACC Coach of the Year -- for the second time in his career.
But Friedgen was not the only one to collect hardware for Maryland in 2010. Redshirt freshman quarterback Danny O'Brien took the conference by storm, throwing for 2,438 yards and 22 touchdowns on his way to earning ACC Rookie of the Year honors. O'Brien started the season as the backup quarterback, but took control of the position while replacing injured quarterback Jamarr Robinson (shoulder). He ranked third nationally among freshman in passing efficiency (135.2) and his 8 interceptions was second fewest in the ACC for quarterbacks with at least 10 touchdowns.
But even with an 8-4 finish, Military Bowl victory, and two end of the season ACC award winners, athletic director Kevin Anderson felt there needed to be a change for Maryland football. Before the bowl game, Anderson announced that Maryland would buy out Friedgen's final year of his contract (2011) and begin searching for a new head coach. Many Maryland fans criticized the timing of Friedgen's dismissal, but it hardly compared to the sting Maryland delivered to Connecticut.
Randy Edsall had just finished coaching the Connecticut Huskies against Oklahoma in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. Despite the embarrassing loss, the BCS berth marked a peak in Connecticut's decade-long climb into the the top ranks of college football. When Edsall was named head coach in 1999 the Huskies were not even a Division I program, in 2010 they were Big East champions. Which is why it crushed Connecticut fans to hear that Edsall was accepting the open Maryland position the day after coaching the Huskies in the Fiesta Bowl.
So now Edsall begins another project in College Park. His new challenge from Kevin Anderson will be to guide the Terrapins "from good to great," and become an annual contender in the ACC. As the Terps have gotten spring practice underway, Edsall has instituted some new procedural regulations around the program.
When Anderson presented Edsall with his Maryland baseball cap at January's introductory press conference, the new head coach smiled for a few photos then quickly removed it from his head. Edsall believes in obeying his own team rules, and "no baseball caps" is one of them.
Almost immediately after he was hired, Edsall informed the team there would be no ball caps, do-rags, or earrings inside team facilities. If players do choose to grow facial hair, it is expected to be neatly kept and well-groomed. Players have already been spotted doing extra workouts as punishment for oversleeping or being late to team meetings.
"What we're trying to do is prepare these kids for life," Edsall said in a recent interview. "When you meet people for the first time, you make a lasting impression. We're trying to instill discipline and give them an advantage over other people when they leave college. I know what employers are looking for."
But the changes within the program at Maryland extend far beyond player conduct and appearance. Beginning this spring the 2011 Terps will not only be getting used to playing for Edsall, but also new coordinators on both sides of the ball. Offensive coordinator James Franklin left to take over as the head coach of Vanderbilt's team, and Maryland now welcomes Gary Crowton from LSU. Franklin was given a lot of credit for O'Brien's development and the offense's performance in 2010, now Crowton will be counted on to continue that development in 2011.
Luckily, Crowton welcomes back several pieces to compliment O'Brien. Perhaps most important will be returning four of the five starters from an offensive line that only allowed O'Brien to be sacked 12 times in conference play, good for 3rd in the ACC. With some questions at wide receiver, it will be even more important for the offense to win the battle at the line to give O'Brien enough time to get through his progression.
Additionally Maryland returns leading rusher Davin Meggett, who racked up 720 yards as part of a two-headed rushing attack with Da'Rel Scott. He'll be counted on to be the feature back early, though keep your eye on bruising tailback D.J. Adams. Adams led all rushers in 2010 with 11 touchdowns, padded significantly by a 4 touchdown performance in Maryland's 51-20 rout of East Carolina in the bowl game. With the offensive line and backfield mostly in place, the rushing game should serve as a strong foundation for O'Brien's second season under center.
But perhaps the biggest question mark offensively is the receiver position. There were times last season where it felt like Torrey Smith was the only receiver on the field. After 67 receptions, 1,055 yards, and 12 touchdowns in 2010, Smith is seizing the opportunity to take the one-man show to the NFL. Spring practice will be the time for Crowton to figure out who will take the place of the man responsible for nearly twice as many catches and three times as many yards as any other Maryland receiver last year. The spring depth chart lists Kevin Dorsey, Quintin McCree, and Ronnie Tyler as the top wide receivers, but some have pegged Florida transfer Adrian Coxson as a name to keep an eye on at the wideout position.
After suddenly losing their head coach, Connecticut got some kind of karmic consolation by hiring Maryland defensive coordinator Don Brown to the same position with the Huskies. Now, Edsall and new coordinator Todd Bradford (Southern Mississippi) must spend spring practice figuring out who will fill the holes in a yet-to-be-determined system. Bradford ran a 4-3 base defense last season with the Golden Eagles, but has said the Terps will use multiple formations and "move a lot" next season. Don Brown's multiple-look blitzing scheme highlighted the play of linebackers Alex Wujciak and Adrian Moten in 2010, and Maryland fans are hoping that Kenny Tate can be that playmaker in the fall. Tate recorded 100 tackles in his junior year at safety, and will be making the jump to linebacker this spring
. But in order to put themselves in a position to compete for an ACC Championship in 2011, they'll have to overcome a rapidly improving Atlantic Division. N.C. State is coming off their best season in years, and Clemson just reloaded with a new coaching staff and nationally ranked recruiting class. Not to mention Florida State, who has already been crowned as the team to beat in the conference for 2011. The Seminoles kept Maryland out of the ACC Championship game in 2010 with a 30-16 win in College Park. If the Terps want to move from "good to great" in 2011, the road will have to go through Tallahassee.
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