Edsall wants Dunbar practice to be springboard for Terps brand

Football coach says aim in Baltimore is to 'carve our niche ... by going door to door'

March 27, 2013|Kevin Cowherd

Randy Edsall is a football coach, not a marketing guy, but he's got the lingo down.

Ask him why the Maryland football team is practicing Saturday at Dunbar, and he says it's all about growing the Terps brand in this area and throughout the rest of the state, too.

"What we need to do is make sure we're going out and meeting the people and being visible in the Baltimore community, rather than expecting people to come to us," he says. "The market we're in ... you have the Ravens, you have the Orioles and everything else.

"So what we're trying to do is carve our niche. And the best way to do that is go out and be front and center. We're trying to grow our brand by going door to door, so to speak, and reaching out."

Translation: We're hoping to build the fan base with some paying customers from up here. And if we can make this a Baltimore-College Park pipeline for stud high school prospects, that would be great, too.

So the Terps are hoping for nice weather and a good crowd at Dunbar's brand-new field, which is sponsored by Under Armour — which happens to be Maryland's most high-profile corporate sponsor, too.

Edsall says the Terps plan to do special teams work, individual work on fundamentals and a seven-on-seven passing drill before ending with a scrimmage.

And he says they'll do the same thing the following Saturday at Middletown High out in football-mad Frederick County.

Edsall was in an upbeat mood when I talked to him Wednesday. Even though the Terps are coming off a 4-8 season (2-6 in the Atlantic Coast Conference), he said there are plenty of reasons for optimism.

For one thing, Maryland landed another top 35 recruiting class for the second year in a row. And he says the program has generated plenty of buzz among recruits with its planned move to the Big Ten Conference in 2014, where the Terps will play traditional football powers like Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State.

(Speaking of generating buzz, Edsall said the Terps' wild Maryland Pride uniforms continue to be a huge hit with recruits. The team will unveil another new uni this season, probably when Maryland plays West Virginia at M&T Bank Stadium. But he said he couldn't reveal any details about the unis, because then he'd have to kill me. No, he didn't really say that.)

Edsall didn't say this, either, but maybe the best reason for the Terps to be optimistic in 2013 is this: It ain't 2012 anymore.

What a nightmare last season was for Maryland. Four quarterbacks — C.J. Brown (torn anterior cruciate ligament), Perry Hills (torn ACL), Devin Burns (Lisfranc) and Caleb Rowe (torn ACL) — went down with season-ending injuries, effectively derailing what appeared to be a bowl-bound team.

"Was that unbelievable or what?" Edsall was asked Wednesday.

He winced like a man feeling a kidney stone.

"It was," Edsall said. "And after the season is over and you go to your coaches' convention and ... you have your colleagues coming up to you and saying, 'How did you even keep your sanity through all that?' "

But somehow Edsall did. And he managed to keep the team together, too. In many ways, it might have been his finest coaching job at Maryland.

When linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield also went down with a season-ending ACL tear, fans and alumni blamed the rash of injuries on everything from the new synthetic surface at Byrd Stadium and the Terps' strength and conditioning program to overly long practices and the team's new cleats.

It got so crazy Edsall was forced to address it at his weekly news conference, where he came armed with enough evidence to silence all but the most unhinged doubter.

Brown got hurt making a cut in a preseason noncontact drill, he said. Hills went down on an illegal block in the back against North Carolina State. Burns broke his foot in that game. Rowe was hit trying to get out of bounds against Boston College. Hartsfield had his legs cut out from him on a block by a Georgia Tech player.

Blame the injuries on horrendous bad luck, sure. But it wasn't anything the football program was doing wrong.

"In life and sports, there are going to be things that come your way that you have no way to prepare for," Edsall said of the injuries. "And to me, the best way you handle it is not panicking, not showing despair and just keep working and believing in the people you put in there that have to take over for somebody."

Now he gets ready for the new season and brings his team 30 miles up Interstate 95 to Baltimore, where he breaks out the marketing lingo and talks of growing Maryland's brand at the same time.

But Edsall is no dummy.

He knows the best way to grow the brand is by winning football games. And this brand-growing business has to start somewhere.

Dunbar on a fine spring afternoon is not a bad place at all.



Listen to Kevin Cowherd at 7:20 a.m. Tuesdays on 105.7 The Fan's "The Norris and Davis Show."

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