Maryland football coach Randy Edsall stands with a few of his… (Steve Ruark, BALTIMORE…)
COLLEGE PARK — — Everywhere you look at Byrd Stadium there is something new about the Maryland football program.
There is the sparkling new FieldTurf playing surface. There is a new set of more understated Under Armour uniforms. There are new offensive and defensive coordinators. There is even a new sports information staff.
And it's hard not to get the feeling that head coach Randy Edsall looked back at his difficult debut last year and decided to take a mulligan.
The Terrapins have opened training camp this week with a young team, a promising recruiting class and a lot of work ahead to turn things around after a difficult 2011 season that featured just two victories and a clash of coaching cultures that nearly sunk Edsall before he could even get his program installed.
So, Edsall could be forgiven for ripping all the rear-view mirrors off his new bandwagon, but as you might expect from an old-school (but not old) football coach who will accept an extra ounce of motivation wherever he can get it, he doesn't want his returning players to completely forget what happens when everybody is not pulling in the same direction. He wants them to remember how it felt to not be all that they could be as they prepare for their season opener against William and Mary little more than three weeks off.
"I want all of them to have a chip on their shoulders…all the ones that were here," he said. "I know I do."
But that's where last year ends and this year begins. The Terps are a team with a super majority of players who are either redshirt freshman or sophomores. Nearly 70 percent of the roster. There are just 17 seniors, but Edsall met with them over the weekend and told them that this young team will go only as far as the upperclassmen lead them.
"The thing is, I want our guys to understand, as we go into this year, that it's a whole new year," Edsall said. "Take a look at the things that have transpired from an academic standpoint, from the field, from the new uniforms that you see…see it from the standpoint of the young men who are enrolled here now as freshmen and what we've been able to do so far for the coming recruiting season. All the things that I envisioned when I came here, you see it starting to come together."
It probably won't all come together this season. Some of those sophomores had to grow up fast in 2011, but we're still talking about a team that was 2-10 and is in the middle stage of a rebuilding project. That has been hard for some Maryland fans to stomach after athletic director Kevin Anderson made the tough decision to replace popular coach Ralph Friedgen after an uplifting 2010 campaign, but Edsall isn't going waste a lot of time apologizing for whatever missteps he made during his first season at Maryland.
"Now what we've got to do is, we've got to go out on the field and win," he said. "Because all the other things — the academics, the upgrading of the field — you see the Maryland pride. You see the kids here locally and from the surrounding areas who are coming here. So everything is kind of building and, again, one of the things is we didn't stray from what we believed in. We've stayed the course. Now what I want is for these kids to be able to go out and enjoy the success of winning on Saturday afternoon."
The returning players appear to be fully onboard, but it may take awhile for the sting of the dismal 2011 season to completely subside.
"I feel we let ourselves down,'' said senior defensive lineman A.J. Francis. "We let Terp Nation down. We need to redeem ourselves."
Maybe so, but maybe it's time to recognize that last year was a learning experience for everyone and get on with the business of learning from it.
"The biggest thing is, I think everybody is ready to move on," said co-captain Joe Vellano. "We're going out swinging. This year is a new year. Everybody is ready to go. Kind of itching. There are no secrets really, just go out and work hard, do the best we can and everything will come together."
Read Peter Schmuck's blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here" at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog and listen when he hosts "The Week in Review" at noon Fridays on WBAL (1090AM) and at wbal.com.Orioles Insider | Live scores | Photos | Baseball app