Reporting Brendan Darr
Maryland Football officially kicked off their 2012 season on Monday, welcoming the media in before their first official practice tonight. The team and the coaches want to atone for a rocky 2-10 season, that was followed up with a tumultuous off-season that saw more than a dozen players transfer out of the program. Maryland is making strides to not only win back the fan base, but the players themselves.
Maryland installed a much-discussed new field turf in the off-season (thank god it is green), and tweaked what were the most discussed jerseys in the country last season. One of the big changes was adding names to the back of the jerseys after taking them off the previous year. Edsall’s campaign to make it “about the name on the front of the jersey, not the back” seems to be taking a back seat, as at least two jerseys will have names. We were informed that the Red and White jerseys (pictured below) are the only jerseys that will have names on them — for now.
We’ll have to wait and see if the other jerseys get names added later. When asked about the names being on the back of the jerseys, DL Joe Vellano stepped up to answer for the players saying “We heard about it and we were like ‘oh cool’, but no one was really making a big deal about it. I think the parents will be like ‘oh I can see your name now’, but it’s nothing that we have particularly talked about.”
For information on the field, Maryland brought in former QB Neil O’Donnell, who works with FieldTurf, to discuss the new field. He said the field should be about twenty degrees cooler than other Turf fields, and the field would be a fast track, but also much safer than all other fields due to the scientific formula used by FieldTurf for their new turf fields.
Randy Edsall is never one to give great quotes during his press conferences, but after a highly-rated incoming freshman class, the question had to be asked where he saw some of the Freshmen ending up to start the season.
“All the Freshmen are at the bottom of the depth chart. You just plug then in at the bottom. Don’t want any undue pressure on them” Edsall did continue to say that “The whole philosophy here is – the best guy plays.” Edsall also added “There are going to be guys here that were starters last year that won’t be this year. Coaches don’t make the depth chart, the players do with their play on the field.”
With such a highly-touted freshman class — and one player in particular, WR Stefon Diggs — the question was bound to come up about where he would end up, and he was mentioned among those competing for the third Wide Receiver slot. Another Freshman, LB Abner Logan, was discussed as a potential starter at Linebacker. Freshman Mike Madaras will also be given a shot to win a spot along the Offensive Line.
When asked about his spot on the depth Stefon Diggs responded “I expect to be low on the depth chart, I’m just going to come in and work hard and do my best on the field. If I do my best and I get on the field, so be it.”
The offense will be lead by Quarterback C.J. Brown, and a lot will be expected from the guy replacing Danny O’Brien, who has since transferred to Wisconsin. Brown will have extra pressure as the starter with two Freshmen behind him on the depth chart. However, he and Edsall reiterated that the lack of depth behind Brown will not hinder the offense in what they are able to do. Brown even said in the interview portion that “I won’t play scared and won’t change my style of play.”
One note about C.J. Brown, Offensive Coordinator/QB Coach/Recruiting Guru Mike Locksley talked about changing Brown’s throwing mechanics this year, so that is something I will definitely be keeping an eye on as practices begin this week.
Coach Edsall seemed much more at ease when discussing the defense. Obviously with 11 guys returning who saw extended action on defense it’s easy to see why defense — especially the front seven — was a position of strength for the team. Edsall also made sure to point out that this will be an explosive defense “This isn’t your normal 3-4 defense with just a plain two-gap scheme.”
Defensive Coordinator Brian Stewart is implementing this new 3-4 defense, and sounded confident that he had the personnel to pull of the change to the 3-4. Obviously having guys like Vellano, Tate and Hartsfield helps.
The highlight of media day — and really it should come as no surprise — was DT A.J. Francis. The Senior is widely-known as being a talented individual on and off the field, but in a setting like media day is where his star shines brightest. Francis is fresh off an internship with Congressman Steny Hoyer, the Minority Whip in congress. He and I discussed a litany of topics, including his plans for his post-football career. Francis is obviously hoping to hear his name called in next April’s NFL Draft, but if not he’s hoping to get a call from Vince McMahon and WWE. A wrestling fan of note, said he wants his alter ego to be Mr. Maryland Anthony J. Francis aka The Congressmen and play up that persona.
If the call doesn’t come from McMahon, Francis said he wants to start a non-profit to help those less fortunate in Maryland before eventually starting a career in congress.
The talk did switch to football eventually, and Francis said his new goal for the year was to get Vellano to be the Maryland career tackles leader for a defensive lineman. Vellano said that Francis fits great as the Nose Tackle, and it would be an honor to break the record.
Maryland’s all-in attitude started by Coach Edsall is embodied by Francis. He was asked if he thought about transferring and said “I grew up in Maryland and I’m from here, and I honestly couldn’t see myself playing anywhere else. I love this school. Anybody that tells you they didn’t think about transferring is a liar, I definitely thought about it, but at the end of the day where would I go?”
The team is all-in. The coaching staff is revamped. With practices starting tonight, the only thing left to do is get out there and play.
The New Red Jersey:
The New White Jersey (with names on the back):
AUDIO TO COME.
For more information on the University of Maryland, follow Brendan Darr on twitter: @BrendanDarr