When Maryland defensive coordinator Don Brown abruptly left College Park for Connecticut this winter, Todd Bradford was promoted from linebackers coach to defensive coordinator. Bradford, who spent the last three seasons at Southern Mississippi, will also coach the secondary at Maryland.
Bradford took some time during Tuesday’s media day to reflect on the players he has inherited at Maryland. Tuesday was the only time this season that assistants were permitted to speak to the media.
Maryland is thin at linebacker, but the Terrapins return several key players — including safety-turned-linebacker Kenny Tate and linemen Joe Vellano and A.J. Francis — from a defense that was defined by its aggressiveness and almost chaotic style under Brown.
So far, Bradford echoed Coach Randy Edsall’s remarks that the defense has not performed as well as coaches would have hoped at this point.
“We’re eight days in,” Bradford said. “These next eight practices are really going to define where we are talent-wise. Everything is installed. And now we are going to refine.”
Bradford said the staff has put the defense in a variety of situations, from two-minute to goal line, to hurry-up to slow-down. In a meeting with the defense Tuesday, Bradford said, coaches “turned the screws to them a little bit” to put a little more pressure on players. Bradford called the upcoming next few practices “critical” in terms of the unit’s development.
“They are just not playing to the tempo that we want them to play at,” Bradford said. “There are different reasons for almost every guy, from he didn’t know what to do to fatigue to he just doesn’t know. I don’t think we’re playing to the tempo we want to play at. We’re not hopeful to be an average defense. We want to play great defense. For that to happen, you have to play at a high intensity, high tempo, for a sustained amount of time.”
Bradford said he is “concerned” about the lack of depth at linebacker, one of the most pressing issues facing the defense. He said the staff continues to shuffle guys around. Cornerback Avery Graham has moved to the Star position — a hybrid linebacker-defensive end position — to back up Tate.
“It is what it,” Bradford said. “We’re going to play the games no matter what, so we have to get some guys ready.”
Regarding the defensive line, Bradford reflected on the absence of Justin Anderson, a versatile defensive lineman who will be sidelined at least another five weeks after undergoing foot surgery.
“He is a guy who has played a lot and has been in the battles already,” Bradford said. “Now you are talking about putting some guys out there who have not been in the battle. We’re trying to put as much pressure on them as we can in practice. But you can’t completely duplicate what will happen on game day.”
When asked to pinpoint some defining characteristics of his defense, Bradford said he wants his unit to perform well in a variety of situations — third-down, goal line, etc. — and also have players who swarm to the ball. “I hope that when people see us play, they see all 11 guys around the ball, even on the spread stuff that people are doing,” Bradford. “If we are going to be good, we have to have more people than they have blockers out to the ball. We need to run to the ball.”
Toward that end, defensive lineman Francis said last year’s defense was built around linebackers and safety Tate making plays. “This year, if you are there to make the play, you make the play,” Francis said.
Last year, Francis said, the defense blitzed 85 percent of the time. This year, the defense is not quite as blitz-happy.
In terms of coaching approach, Francis said former defensive coordinator Brown would make sure everyone was fired up before practice. “Coach Bradford is more of a calm, mellow guy,” Francis said. “But he will get after your [butt]. If you mess up, he will get after your [butt]. It’s not a question. But he wants to make sure you know the defense and your assignments. He is a great coach.”
Tate, meantime, said he will be doing everything he did last season, meaning he will be unleashed on offenses throughout the season. “Anything you can think of,” he said. “This transition is not hard. You can see me in coverage, you can see me blitzing.”