You don’t have to be a reporter at the Glen Rock (Pa.) Topic to see that the Maryland football team is struggling on the field in most areas. I’m not going to waste space or your time in trying to make a case how the Terrapins (2-6, 1-4 ACC) can win their final four games to reach either the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La., or the familiar Military Bowl at RFK Stadium. We have all seen very little to suggest that four-for-four feat is possible.
But I would like to turn your attention to a pointed column written by Mike Wise. And with the crux of that column in mind, I would like to raise six of the most important questions hovering over Maryland’s struggling program the next few months. Few answers are evident now, but these issues will help shape the program as it looks to rebuild from its current location, which as I described after Saturday’s loss, can be best characterized as “rock bottom.”
1. Will prominent underclassmen transfer?
There have been rumblings suggesting that at least some will strongly consider transferring. Understandably, individuals in and around the program are reluctant to speak on the subject in part because of fear of retaliation by Coach Randy Edsall. It remains a fluid situation, and nothing will be decided until after the season. Circumstances could still change for players because four regular season games remain. The prospect of sitting out a year, for some, must be seriously weighed. Others would not have to sit out a season if they choose to play for a FCS school or graduate early and jump to a FBS school.
2. Will Maryland win another game this season?
The notion that the Terrapins would be staring at 2009 revisited would have been preposterous to raise before the season. Now it’s a possibility, though perhaps not a probability. Somewhat surprisingly, Maryland is favored by 2.5 points in Saturday’s game against improved but erratic Virginia. The Terrapins will not be favored in the following two games against Notre Dame at FedEx Field and at Wake Forest. The season finale at North Carolina State is a total wild card because State may or may not be playing for a bowl berth — it needs seven wins — as well as possibly Coach Tom O’Brien’s job. My hunch is that Maryland gets one of the next four.
3. How widespread is the level of discontent among Maryland players?
There is a feeling of discontent among some players, according to several sources familiar with the players. Having not spoken to every player on the team, it would be unfair and unwise for me to attempt to characterize exactly how widespread that feeling is inside the locker room. The first indications of an apparent disconnect between some players and Edsall were apparent a few weeks ago when, on the same day, The Post and the Baltimore Sun quoted unnamed veteran players who spoke privately on the issue so they could speak openly about feelings toward Edsall’s approach. After Saturday’s 28-17 loss to Boston College, Edsall was asked how concerned he is with how engaged the players are at this point. “I know this team will go out and will practice hard this week,” Edsall said. “They will give everything they have . . . This team will come back to work tomorrow, learn from what we did, go out and practice this week, work to get better and give great effort in everything that we do.”
4. Will Edsall shake up his coaching staff after the season?
Again, we still have four weeks remaining, so some on-field circumstances could get better or worse. The offense has been inconsistent at best, largely ineffective early in games regardless of which quarterback is on the field. Dropped passes have derailed hopes. The defense, which has been injury-depleted, has in some respects been nearly as poor as Kansas’ defense, which speaks volumes. Special teams play may be the biggest disappointment. Last week, Edsall gave offensive coordinator Gary Crowton a ringing endorsement, saying that he has done a “good job” and will continue to do a good job. Defensive coordinator Todd Bradford was hired as a linebackers coach before last season’s DC Don Brown, who had been retained, left the school, leading to Bradford’s promotion.
5. How much of Saturday’s attendance can be attributed to the foul weather?
Maryland had an announced crowd of 29,945. But the consensus among several writers in the press box was that the high water mark Saturday was between 7,000 and 11,000 fans actually inside Byrd Stadium. The actual attendance late in the fourth quarter was understandably much lower that that. The weather was as abominable as the on-field performance. One could make the case that the loss to previously hapless Boston College was the lowest point in Maryland’s program since the pre-Ralph Friedgen days. The attendance at Saturday’s final home game of the season against Virginia will better reflect the current enthusiasm of the fan base — or the lack of enthusiasm.
6. Can Edsall secure a strong recruiting class?
This is worth watching closely. Recruiting rankings are extremely subjective, but Rivals.com currently ranks Maryland’s class at 11th in the 12-team ACC. There is still plenty of time to bolster the class before February’s national signing day. Doing it as the team continues to struggle, as fan apathy and frustration persist and as discontent among some players continues to simmer remains a considerable challenge. Edsall said Sunday that he has been pleased with recruiting thus far and that part of his focus is to address issues on the offensive and defensive lines in recruiting.