Edsall's rules on display as Terps open spring practice

Maryland coach plans to run tight ship in College Park

  • Randy Edsall conducts his first spring practice as Maryland's coach.
Randy Edsall conducts his first spring practice as Maryland's… (Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth…)
March 29, 2011|By Jeff Barker, The Baltimore Sun

COLLEGE PARK — — Under a cloudless sky, Maryland football players stretched and sprinted their way through their first practice Tuesday with a new head coach, a new playbook and significantly stricter team rules that have already left their mark.

Randy Edsall, who replaced Ralph Friedgen in January, is not only bringing new plays, but also new criteria for off-the-field behavior.

No wearing ball caps or do-rags inside the Gossett Football Team House. No earrings. Players say they'll be able to have facial hair if it is neatly trimmed.

"What we're trying to do is prepare these kids for life," Edsall said in an 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."

Quarterback Danny O'Brien showed up at the facility Tuesday with a well-manicured goatee that appeared to pass muster. "I don't mind it," O'Brien said of the rules. He said he was less affected than some because he doesn't habitually sport a cap or wear an earring.

Edsall -- who has a precise, almost military bearing -- is also strictly enforcing rules against tardiness at meetings and workouts.

The rules became effective almost immediately after he was hired. Maryland's spring practices began Tuesday with a shorts-and-jerseys workout without pads and end with the April 30 Red-White game inside Byrd Stadium at 3:30 p.m.

"I like that [Edsall] is a down-to-business guy," said Cameron Chism, a starting cornerback. "For some people, it's rough. I guess a couple people got in trouble -- not being on time to meetings and stuff."

A.J. Francis has already felt the sting of the sharper guidelines. "I got punished one time for being late," said Francis, a starting defensive tackle.

Francis said he had a good reason for his lateness -- "it wasn't really my fault" -- but didn't want to explain the reason to reporters. It's uncertain whether he tried to explain it to Edsall.

Francis said his punishment was a lengthy "bear crawl," an exercise that begins by dropping onto all fours.

Fellow tackle Joe Vellano said Francis was not the only one cited. "A couple guys overslept and they were doing the StairMaster thing downstairs" as punishment, Vellano said.

Edsall was hired from Connecticut. His background includes three years on Tom Coughlin's staff with the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars from 1994-97. Coughlin's strict policies about lateness became a media issue after he became coach of the New York Giants and fined several players in 2004 for not being early enough to team meetings.

But Edsall, from Glen Rock, Pa., said he learned discipline from his father.

Edsall led his first Maryland workout Tuesday wearing sunglasses, a hooded Maryland sweat shirt and warmup pants. He surveyed various units' drills, offered instruction and chatted and bumped fists with players.

A tipoff to Edsall's strict policies came when he was introduced as Maryland's coach in January by athletic director Kevin Anderson at the team house.

Anderson presented Edsall, 52, with a red Terps baseball cap. Edsall wore it for a moment, then abruptly removed it. He said he had already started asking his players not to wear hats in the building.

"If I tell them to do it, I gotta do it," he said.

NOTES: Safety-turned-linebacker Kenny Tate went through his first drills Tuesday at his new position. "I'm excited. I embraced it," the All-Atlantic Coast Conference player said. "I'm just closer to the line of scrimmage [but] I'm doing the same things," he said. ... O'Brien said players have been watching video of Oregon's up-tempo offense, which barely pauses between plays. "I like the idea of going fast-paced and keeping the defense on its heels," the quarterback said.

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

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