Randy Edsall is in charge of a team already stretched painfully thin by injuries.
Even after losing 10 scholarship players for the entire season, Maryland can still make something of this year. Note that “overcome injury woes” doesn’t necessarily mean “win games,” but positive outlooks have been hard to come by around Byrd Stadium.
Randy Edsall hasn’t exactly shined since taking the head coach job at Maryland, but the injuries that have struck this team are not making his job any easier. Not that it was easy to begin with.
The simple fact that Edsall isn’t Ralph Friedgen is often enough for people to despise him, and he hasn't made things better by refusing to change his brusque manner and disciplinarian values.
As Les Carpenter wrote for Yahoo! Sports, Edsall is a student of Tom Coughlin, who is renowned for standing strong in the face of intense criticism. Regardless of your opinion of Edsall, he is the Maryland coach for this season.
There has been a lot of denouncement of both Edsall and the Maryland team already this year, but it’s way too early to give up on either. What follows amounts to three reasons to keep watching the Terps this year.
Demetrius Hartsfield (right) has started the season well.
Saturday’s game against William & Mary wasn’t intended to be a tough test, but it turned out that way anyway. However, as the offense struggled to move the chains—turning the ball over four times—the defense remained strong.
Due to the team's injury woes, the Terps started four players on defense who hadn’t ever played a college game. Sophomore linebacker Cole Farrand had six tackles, including two for a loss in his first start, but it was the senior players who really led the way.
Senior linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield was the star of the game, recording 13 tackles and recovering a fumble that ensured the Terps’ victory. He was aggressive in his blitzing and looked comfortable within the new-look 3-4 defense.
Defensive coordinator Brian Stewart arrived in the offseason and has brought a forceful approach with him. Corner blitzes were integral to the team’s success yesterday and provided an uneven matchup that the William and Mary line couldn’t predict.
The Terrapins defense surrendered large chunks of yardage through the air, which will need to be addressed. Despite this, Hartsfield is already proving that the defense is going to improve under Stewart, giving him big praise after the game:
Coach Stewart does a great job of calling great plays. One of the things about the 3-4, you don’t really know who’s gonna come. There so much disguising. You can trick everybody with your alignment. (Via Kevin Dunleavy, Washington Examiner)
Stefon Diggs turned down offers from Florida State and West Virginia in order to remain in his home state, and his presence on the team is a huge plus for the Terps.
He showed a glimpse of this value on Saturday, with three catches for 30 yards and three punt returns for 50 yards. William & Mary was obviously reluctant to kick to him, and although he didn’t have the breakout game that was expected of him, his versatility will be of great use to the depleted Terrapins.
Diggs has played cornerback, wide receiver and running back, so he will see plenty of action in 2012. He’s a natural slot receiver, with excellent route-running and safe hands. As a corner, he was the All-Met Defensive Player of the Year in his senior year of high school.
He has incredible pace and is very elusive with the ball in his hands, a trait that immediately draws comparisons to DeSean Jackson. This ability is obviously essential to his return game and will give vital field position to the young Maryland offense.
Diggs will consistently gain yards for Maryland this year, which will be invaluable to their freshman quarterback. Despite his deficiency in size, he is physical and capable of battling through tackles.
Diggs is the most developed prospect we have seen in a Maryland uniform for some time. The team will struggle this year, but Diggs alone will make them worth watching.
Seniors like Joe Vellano must lead by example.
In many ways, the fact that Maryland is universally expected to fail is actually a good thing. Many are predicting a 1-11 season, which says a lot about morale in the state of Maryland right now.
While the fact remains that 1-11 is a very real possibility, the Terps are a better team than that—even with the injuries.
Despite the poor showing from the offense on Saturday, they improved as the game went on. Freshman quarterback Perry Hills relaxed in the pocket and made better decisions as a result. Diggs made plays like the ones described earlier and was ably assisted by Kevin Dorsey.
Dorsey is going to be a big presence on the team this year, as he will need to play the role of elder statesman and set an example for the other receivers.
As Patrick Stevens wrote for the Washington Times, Dorsey has more career yards than the rest of the receiving corps put together. His commitment and work ethic will be a great influence on his teammates.
Tight end Devonte Campbell told Stevens that Dorsey’s influence has already been felt:
He’s been a big influence. A lot of people have seen him at a really high point and they’ve seen him at low points when he was injured and couldn’t play and had to miss games. The thing people can respect is his consistency. His consistency is what people try to emulate.
Joe Vellano is another guy who needs to be a significant factor for Maryland this season. He was a huge bright spot in an otherwise disappointing 2011 for the Terps and has continued this into the first game of this year. Vellano recorded 11 tackles and an interception in a dominant performance.
A final positive note should go out to freshman punter Nathan Renfro. He averaged 53 yards punting against the Tribe, finally giving Maryland the breathing space it needed to secure the win with a 57-yarder in the final minutes.
Renfro had some trouble in practice but raised his game when it mattered, which is something that all the Terps will need to do this year.
It’s unreasonable to expect huge success from Maryland in 2012, but it’s equally unreasonable to write them off entirely.
Success is relative to expectation, and on that basis there’s absolutely no reason why the Terrapins can’t be successful in 2012.