Maryland vs. Notre Dame: Players begin to speak up on Terrapins’ discontent
By Eric Prisbell,
On Aug. 19, Maryland Coach Randy Edsall grew enraged with the lackadaisical effort he saw from his players in practice, so he gathered them in a huddle and pierced the morning air with a tirade that included this command: “Do it my way! Don’t do it your way!”
While some players have embraced Edsall’s way during his first season, others have been frustrated with his approach, according to several people in and around the program. With the team ineligible to play in a bowl game, some players are now beginning to speak publicly about what they saw as a divided locker room and about the potential of prominent underclassmen transferring after the season, which continues Saturday night against Notre Dame at FedEx Field.
“At this point, it’s not like two sides of the cafeteria — this side is buying in, this side is not,” place kicker Nick Ferrara said. “People are keeping it to themselves. No one knows who is going to go [transfer], who is going to stay, who is feeling which way.”
When asked whether the struggles this season illustrate the difficulty of winning when some players do not buy in to a coach’s philosophy, wide receiver Kevin Dorsey said, “Yes, definitely.”
Dorsey, a junior who has pledged to return next season after graduating in December, said he could not accurately gauge how widespread the level of discontent has been, but he added: “You had a group of people who were not all the way in and another group that was. And things change over time. If people change their mind-set now, it just sucks that it has taken this long.”
Edsall recently said unequivocally that he believes he has the trust of the core of his team and told reporters they could see evidence of that in practice. When then asked if reporters could watch practices to see that evidence, Edsall said no because of concerns about reporters revealing strategic “secrets.”
Maryland’s players are motivated to beat Notre Dame (6-3) — one of college football’s most iconic programs — in a game nationally televised on NBC. A victory would stand as one of the few bright spots in a season that has been marred by on-field struggles (the Terrapins are 2-7), fan apathy and frustration, and indications of some player discontent with Edsall.
Earlier this season, a veteran player told The Post that he had grown frustrated with what he viewed as Edsall’s attempt to stifle individuality and create a militaristic atmosphere. The player, who spoke anonymously so he could talk honestly about Edsall, said he was looking forward to leaving the program after the season.
Ferrara said player frustration is not contagious.
“I don’t think they are bringing down the rest of the guys because I don’t feel the other guys are buying into what they are saying,” Ferrara said. “Each individual has his own beliefs, and I feel that’s how it is with our team right now. The guys who are buying in are together, which is good.”
Transitions from one coach to another are rarely smooth. But two factors in the change from Ralph Friedgen to Edsall have been evident: Edsall imposed strict team rules that included no earrings and no hat-wearing in the team’s football headquarters. And many players continue to have positive feelings toward Friedgen, who was fired after 10 mostly successful seasons.
At least a dozen players with eligibility remaining left the program in the offseason for a variety of reasons. And six players this season have been suspended for at least one game because of various undisclosed transgressions. Maurice Hampton, a fifth-year senior defensive lineman, said some players have been upset because of Edsall’s team rules.
“There’s always going to be adjustments when you first start something,” linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield said. “Some people just took longer to get adjusted and to be able to fit well.”
Hartsfield said the transitional issues sometimes manifested themselves on the field, including when Maryland lost to Temple, 38-7, on Sept. 24. Hartsfield said that game was “one game that I think we gave up. Most of all the other games we fought pretty hard, never gave up. Once you get the last couple losses, it is very discouraging and you try to not look at it in a negative way. But when you realize things are not going your way, reality kind of hits you.”
In recent weeks, there have been indications that some underclassmen will strongly consider transferring after the season, people in and around the program said on condition of anonymity. Ferrara has a message for them: good riddance.
“They won’t be a part of what good is going to happen here,” Ferrara said. “Simple as that. They don’t want to be here, then see you later. Honestly, I don’t feel any sadness toward that.”
Regardless of whether they are standouts or walk-ons?
“I don’t care if they are a starter or the worst person on the team,” Ferrara said. “I am agreeing with Edsall. I want the best people here who want to play and want to be here. We don’t need cancers on the team.”