GREENSBORO, N.C. — Maryland wide receiver Kevin Dorsey couldn’t avoid all the negativity related to Coach Randy Edsall’s first season in College Park. He read the stories and heard firsthand the rumblings of dissent within the locker room.
But Sunday, Dorsey stood up for his coach. According to the senior, Edsall has turned a corner this offseason by adjusting his approach, and in the process, became something of a tragic figure in a locker room that has gone from divided to united heading into his second year at the helm.
“He’s been like a punching bag in the media lately, and honestly, I kind of feel bad for him,” Dorsey said. “Everyone within the facility now, we want to play for him. He’s a guy you want to play for.”
Dorsey and defensive lineman Joe Vellano, Maryland’s player representatives at the ACC’s annual football kickoff, were peppered with questions about Edsall’s disastrous first season Sunday, but they each described the coach as different than the one portrayed publicly.
Vellano said both the team and Edsall are more comfortable with one another, knowing what to expect after a full year together. He then defended Edsall’s strict rules on players’ appearance and tardiness.
“You miss something, there’s a consequence. It’s not like a ridiculous one. You just got to run the next day, or something that you’ve got to show up,” said Vellano, who believes the criticism of Edsall’s practices would have been more subdued had Maryland been successful on the field.
“I’m the captain. I hear about what’s going on with everybody. He did nothing unheard of. It’s just stuff the way he does it. . . . There’s some guys in the locker room not liking how it’s going . . . but it’s one of those things now that those guys have all kind of moved on.”
Dorsey was adamant Edsall’s strict approach had little to do with the team’s poor record.
“If anything, it was just a lack of focus and being able to pay attention to detail as far as within the plays itself or just pushing that extra mile,” he said
At the core of Maryland’s offseason atmosphere change has been the additions of offensive coordinator Mike Locksley and defensive coordinator Brian Stewart to Edsall’s staff, according to Vellano and Dorsey.
From the moment the team began spring practice, Locksley and Stewart made it a point to connect with players and brought a new attitude to the locker room because of Locksley’s previous head coaching experience and Stewart’s NFL pedigree.
“It’s almost like we have three head coaches,” Vellano said.
Perhaps more importantly, Edsall learned a valuable lesson from his first year on the job and “stepped back a little bit,” Dorsey said.
The new philosophy has Maryland’s players singing a different tune than this time last year. They hope the worst is now behind them.
Edsall “let the coordinators step up and do their thing,” Dorsey said. “They tell us what they expect, what they’re gonna do, what their offense is, what their defense is. But they’re both fun-loving guys. They’re coaches you want to be around.
“They’re like a magnet. You’re kind of drawn to them.”