COLLEGE PARK — It wasn’t enough just to trot out all manner of garish uniforms.
Many of the players collected by first-year head coach Randy Edsall chafed under his new policies. Other players held an allegiance to fired coach Ralph Friedgen, whose last team in 2010 went out with a boat load of wins (a 9-4 overall record) and a Maryland bowl victory over East Carolina to boot.
The Terps House was crumbling down on top of the military-style coach brought in by new athletic director Kevin Anderson, himself fresh from the U. S. Military Academy at West Point. Terps Nation had pockets rife with revolt.
Under Armour CEO and University of Maryland graduate Kevin Plank gave Edsall uniforms, shoes, and helmets that drew attention from all angles. But when a team has players leaving in droves and is losing games by the bushel is all the white-hot publicity what a team with a 2-10 record really wants?
Just about everything Edsall did was questioned or even lampooned. His dress code and rules concerning facial hair were not well received. His allusions to the undisciplined players he inherited were also seen by most as excuses for the losses that were piling up on the field.
Edsall’s words and many platitudes were viewed as insincere and self-serving. Calls went out loud and clear for Edsall’s time in Maryland’s Gossett Team Building to be severed after one smelly season.
Edsall is back for a second season.
He has made cosmetic changes to his surroundings.
The playing surface at aged Byrd Stadium is now covered in artificial turf. It has various colors. The uniform jerseys will have each player’s name on the back.
And Edsall fired both his offensive and defensive coordinators from the ashes of the 2-10 season.
Other newly installed assistants have arrived in College Park.
Edsall’s message now is: “All the players now on board want to be here.”
Edsall’s messages will continue to ring hollow until some positive on-field results can be shown.
What means will the coach have to change course and move forward?
He will have a freshman quarterback who was playing at Central Catholic High School in Pittsburgh this time last year. Perry Hills is his name, and he has the starter’s responsibility only because Danny O’Brien transferred to Wisconsin and C. J. Brown torn a knee ligament running in the open field during practice.
Other starters are sure to be receiver Kevin Dorsey and tight end Matt Furtstenburg, both seniors. An asset will be the returning starters in the offensive line.
There is a wealth of experience returning on defense from the two-win season.
Linebacker Darin Drakeford. Linemen A. J. Francis. Linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield. Linebacker Kenny Tate. Lineman Joe Vellano.
Teams without much scoring punch have won before by having a defense that gave them close wins in low-scoring games.
Placekicker Nick Ferrara has been bothered by an injury, but his place in either winning or losing 17-16 games could be a prominent one.
The Atlantic Coast Conference has been a league where teams can get to the front in one season . . . or can fall from favor just as quickly. Maryland saw no favor in 2011 . . . but then conference champion Clemson was destroyed, 70-33, by West Virginia in the OIrange Bowl. And the team Clemson defeated in the conference championship game, Virginia Tech, also lost again in a bowl game.
Maryland won’t win with a multi-color artificial turf field or with the player’s names on the back of their jerseys, but it could win against amiable competition that also has weaknesses they can’t hide.
Maryland’s non-conference schedule began with Division 1-AA William & Mary and ends with a West Virginia team that defeated the Terps, 37-31, in College Park last season.
The other two non-conference opponents are Temple, which beat Maryland in 2011, and Connecticut, the place where Edsall coached as late as 2010.
The William & Mary game this past weekend was scheduled long before Edsall, Anderson, and the colorful artificial turf came to Maryland football. It was to be an opener where season ticket holders might renew acquaintances after a summer on the bay and the new freshmen students could get to know the end zone seats they will occupy for the next four years.
It wasn’t to be a game where Maryland was tested much. But it was now that a freshman is in charge and the offense might not produce many points or much consistency.
There is no Virginia Tech or Miami on the ACC schedule of eight games.
The home games in the league have Wake Forest, North Carolina State, Georgia Tech, and Florida State coming to College Park and the Terps on the road at North Carolina, Clemson, Boston College, and Virginia.
In 2011, Maryland had garish uniforms, a steady grumbling from many players, criticism of his predecessor coming from Edsall . . . and a 2-10 record.
Will the Maryland alumni and friends field Edsall’s excuses again? He’s Anderson’s coach, so his leash extends way beyond the Chesapeake Bay and out into the Atlantic. But another 2-10 record? And a one-point win with one touchdown over William & Mary?
Bring on more cosmetic changes.