From the first-year coordinators to updated uniforms with name plates on the back and a new synthetic turf field at Byrd Stadium, the Maryland football program has an unmistakably fresh feel under second-year coach Randy Edsall.
And why not, considering the Terrapins are trying all they can to put last season in their rearview mirror after going 2-10 and absorbing two dozen transfers, including starting quarterback Danny O’Brien to Wisconsin.
“The thing is, everybody understands the process in terms of how we’re going about things,” Edsall said on Tuesday during his address to the media to kick off training camp. “Coming into the meeting last night, it was just a lot different. You could feel it in the air.
“You could see people more comfortable with each other and with what we’re going to do. Things I talked about last night were the same things I talked about a year ago, but they get it now, and they understand it, and they’ve been through it.”
Ensuring quarterback C.J. Brown is proficient with the offense is among the most pressing assignments over the next month leading to the season opener on Sept. 1 against William & Mary. The junior started five games last season but is transitioning to a pro-style offense under offensive coordinator Mike Locksley, who was hired in December for his second go-around in College Park.
Locksley served as an assistant at Maryland from 1997 through 2002, first under Ron Vanderlinden and most recently to Ralph Friedgen. In addition to getting Brown ready for the opener, Locksley must develop a backup quarterback, and his choices are a pair of freshmen, Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe.
“In my mind, based on how we talked about things, one of those guys very well could play some snaps if something were to happen,” Locksley said.
The concern about Brown is his proclivity to run that may leave him exposed to more jarring blows. In 10 games, including five starts, Brown set a Maryland single-season record for rushing yards by a quarterback. He also became the first quarterback in school history with three games of 100 rushing yards in one season.
The defense, meantime, has back 10 starters, although the Terrapins finished 108 out of 120 FBS teams in total defense and 111th against the run.
Those numbers led to Edsall hiring Brian Stewart as the defensive coordinator in January, and the former NFL assistant is installing a 3-4 scheme designed to bring pressure from all directions.
The defensive anchor is senior second-team all-American Joe Vellano, who is moving from tackle to end. The two-time all-ACC selection led all FBS defensive lineman in tackles per game (7.8), and he has been one of the steadiest performers amid upheaval within Maryland’s ranks.
“There’s not a guy in this program who wants to go out like that,” Vellano said of last season. “Coach Edsall, I think, is the number one guy. First guy in here, last one to leave. I mean, he takes that to heart. Obviously nobody wanted to be [2-10], but the thing is, Coach Edsall, he says it, there’s no secret to this. You go out there, and you work as hard as you can. There’s no magic tricks.”