Secrecy has been a hallmark of Maryland’s first season under Coach Randy Edsall, who at one point declined to characterize his level of frustration without first watching film and who refused to specify any areas where he sees progress with the team.
But a different Edsall met a small group of reporters Tuesday for the last of his weekly news conferences. He was spirited, expansive and at times emotional. His eyes appeared to well up twice during a more than 30-minute session in which he spoke at length about his feelings during a disappointing season.
Many Maryland fans are surprised that, following a 9-4 season in 2010, Maryland has been one of the nation’s worst BCS-conference teams and has dropped six consecutive games by double digits. All things considered, Edsall is not necessarily surprised.
“Did we meet the expectations that I had in terms of on the field?” Edsall said. “No, no, we did not meet those. Is it surprising that we didn’t meet those expectations? Probably not because of all the things that have been documented. Am I discouraged? No.”
That is an apparent reference to Maryland losing three scholarships because of a sub-par Academic Progress Rate and the school self-imposing practice time restrictions because of related secondary violations that had occurred under the previous coaching staff.
When asked Tuesday whether being limited to 17.5 practice hours per week instead of the usual 20 hampered the team’s preparation, Edsall said: “We have talked about that as a staff. Going into the season, I don’t think any of us realized how much of an impact that was going to have, especially when you are coming into a new situation. . . . That was something that probably had a bigger impact than what we anticipated.”
On July 25, Edsall told reporters that “it’s not going to be an issue at all because we are not going to let it be an issue . . . it is not going to hinder us.”
Edsall also spent a few minutes painting a picture of working in his office late Monday night watching with interest a television interview of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Kraft was talking about “The Patriots Way” and how he talks to each player they sign and lays out expectations in no uncertain terms.
“So I am sitting there and I am saying, ‘Wow, that’s all I am trying to do here at Maryland,’ ” Edsall said. “And I said, ‘You know what, I must be doing something the right way because here is a guy, one of the most successful franchises in the NFL, basically saying the same things that I am saying and trying to instill here in this program.'”
Edsall said he believes he “unfairly” has been criticized for instilling discipline with team rules in order to create an atmosphere of accountability.
“Here to me is the misconception: I care about these young people,” said Edsall, who later added, “If asking people to be on time and do what’s right is wrong, then I was raised the wrong way and brought up the wrong way.”
In the team house, Edsall said, one of the first things players see every day is a pyramid that emphasizes core values and goals. Called “Gaining Results Through Teamwork,” the pyramid at the top emphasizes wins, bowl games, championships and graduation.
“But you just can’t go from the ground floor to the top floor without doing the process along the way,” Edsall said. “And the process along the way is about team, about trust, belief, buy into. That’s the foundation, the first level of the pyramid.”
The Maryland career of defensive end David Mackall, who started the first seven games this season, appears to be over. Mackall was suspended indefinitely earlier this month because of a violation of team rules, and when asked if there was any chance he’d be back next season, Edsall said, “I don’t think that looks real promising right now.”
Senior wide receiver Ronnie Tyler will not make the trip to N.C. State because of what Edsall termed as “academic issues.” Center Bennett Fulper will not make the trip and will miss his second straight game because of a hamstring injury. Edsall said that Fulper will be sidelined six to eight weeks.