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ACC Football: Void both on and off field present at Terrapins spring game
IN PLAYERS AND FANS
AT ANNUAL SHOWCASE
IN PLAYERS AND FANS
AT ANNUAL SHOWCASE
BY ZAC BOYER
COLLEGE PARK, Md.—While the focus throughout the spring was on looking forward, not looking back, Maryland’s annual Red–White scrimmage at Byrd Stadium on Saturday provided a constant reminder of the difficulties the Terrapins face.
The sidelines were empty, with only 70 players remaining on the roster through a tumultuous offseason. So, too, were the stands, with approximately 1,000 spread out on the southwest side, the other closed off.
A skeleton-crew band congregated in the closed end zone, looking as though it could have used an additional sousaphone or two. And the quarterbacks? Only two were present, a popular one having left the team in March and two unproven ones not set to arrive until June.
It was, in countless ways, a completely different spring for the Terrapins and head coach Randy Edsall, set to begin his second season this fall. After a 2–10 first year that can’t be aptly described as either a disappointment or a disaster—it was more of a mix of the two, but worse —the five weeks of practice can do wonders for cleansing the palate.
“I think it’s a great first step,” said C.J. Brown, the one scholarship quarterback who remained. “A lot of the guys want to put the past in the past, and the springtime was a way to move forward and move on. You want to forget. You’re not going to completely forget it, but you know, get a better taste in your mouth, because that season and how everything unfolded [was difficult].”
With so few players available—13 transferred since the season ended, and eight more on the roster were out because of injury—the team adopted a complex offense-against-defense format. A modified scoring system accounted for a defense’s inherent inability to score, with the offense earning points for first downs and large gains and the defense rewarded for turnovers, stopping drives and tackles for a loss in addition to touchdowns, conversions and field goals.
That allowed the defense, the red team, to take a 67–53 victory—a come-from-behind effort that players couldn’t follow unless they checked the scoreboard.
Brown, who played in 10 games as a sophomore last year and started five, completed 17 of 33 passes for 199 yards with one interception.
Justus Pickett rushed for 74 yards, Brandon Ross had 46 yards and a touchdown and Ricky Schultz, a senior who walked on to the team just this spring, threw the only touchdown pass of the game to Nigel King in the second quarter.
Linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield had 12 tackles—two for a loss, including a sack—while L.A. Goree had eight and Dexter McDougle had seven and an interception to lead the defense.
Before the game, Edsall introduced Brown, Hartsfield, receiver Kevin Dorsey and defensive end Joe Vellano as captains, and said their selection, the players’ choice, represented the hard-working, responsible character traits he wants the team to exhibit.
“There is a different attitude,” Edsall said. “There is a different mentality. There is a new enthusiasm for what’s taken place, and it’s really fun to be around.”
Edsall was scorned often last season for his strict rules and hard-nosed attitudes, which led to several transfers. None hurt more than the departure of Danny O’Brien, the ACC rookie of the year in 2010, who was the primary quarterback last season and who will head to Wisconsin.
The loss of those players hurt in the spring, before most of a 26-player recruiting class arrives this June.
“I hate saying it, but now that the guys who don’t want to be here are gone, we can really focus on next season,” said Justin Gilbert, a senior expected to start at right tackle. “We don’t have any distractions anymore. Everybody who’s here wants to be here. I really saw that this spring with guys. The chemistry was better. There was no cancers on the team. Everybody was all together.”
Replacing the popular Ralph Friedgen didn’t make things easy for Edsall, and the rough start carried on for some time. The head coach hopes this year, a more proper approach will help the season go smoothly.
“When you go into a situation, you get a chance to really kind of sit back and take some time and say, ‘OK, you know, here’s what I see. Here’s where I want to go. Here’s what I want to do,’” Edsall said. “And I think we were able to do that.”
Zac Boyer: 540/374-5440