COLLEGE PARK, Md. — When Randy Edsall was hired as Ralph Friedgen’s successor at the University of Maryland in January, he knew he was inheriting a talented team.
The challenge wasn’t necessarily in developing those players, but in getting them to buy into his philosophy and teaching them his schemes.
Edsall, primarily seen as a defensive guy, has seen more promising work out of his offensive unit rather than his defense over the first eight days of preseason camp.
“Defensively, I’m not as happy or pleased or as far along in that assessment and that evaluation of the people we’re going to need,” Edsall said Tuesday at Maryland’s media day. “There’s a lot of unanswered questions from a defensive standpoint.”
Maryland’s defense lost its leading tackler from the past three seasons — linebacker Alex Wujciak — as well as linebacker Adrian Moten and defensive coordinator Don Brown, among others, after last season.
The Terps return junior defensive lineman Joe Vellano and senior Kenny Tate, who was moved from safety to the “star” position, a hybrid between linebacker and safety.
Todd Bradford took the reins as defensive coordinator after spending the past three seasons at Southern Mississippi.
The defense still has talent despite the losses of its previous coordinator and a few seniors, but living up to Edsall’s lofty goals is the real test.
“I have a level of expectation that is very, very high,” Edsall said. “I don’t know if we’ll ever get to that level, but we’re going to keep shooting for it, because no matter where we get to, that level of expectation will always go higher.”
Offensively, Maryland is spearheaded by quarterback Danny O’Brien, who earned ACC Rookie of the Year honors last season after throwing for 2,438 yards, 22 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. Davin Meggett, last year’s leading rusher (658 yards, four touchdowns), returns along with D.J. Adams, who led the Terps with 11 touchdown runs.
O’Brien lost his top target from last season, Torrey Smith, to the NFL draft, but Edsall has seen improvements in O’Brien’s game over the eight days of camp so far.
“I’ve seen him make some really big strides here the last couple of days,” Edsall said. “You show him things and say, ‘This will make you better,’ and he goes right to it and makes those corrections.”
The Terps had severe offensive-line problems during the 2009 season, but improved on them last season. This year, Edsall is satisfied with the top five linemen who will be protecting Maryland’s most important asset, but he still is unsure about who the backups will be.
“We’ll look at these guys playing left guard, left tackle and right guard, right tackle so we can determine if we can go with a true backup at guard or have one of the guards as a swing guy,” Edsall said. “Those are the things we’re going to find out.”
Despite the offense being ahead of the defense after the first part of camp, Edsall knows what his defense is capable of and made that point abundantly clear.
“I know, right now, as I sit here today, I know what we can do defensively,” Edsall said. “I know the skill set that we have and what we need and how we need to use our people to be successful.”
Maryland also lost offensive coordinator James Franklin to the head coaching job at Vanderbilt. That opened to the door for Gary Crowton, who spent the last four seasons as Louisiana State’s offensive coordinator and was part of the 2007 BCS championship.
There is a bevy of new coaching faces at Maryland — seven of the 11 assistant coaches will make their Terrapins debut Sept. 5, when Maryland hosts Miami in its season and Atlantic Coast Conference opener.
The depth chart is bound to change in some form or fashion. Eight days is hardly enough time for Edsall to evaluate all his new players.
“There will be some changes on the depth chart, but I’m not going to give those out right yet because we still have time to go through things,” Edsall said.