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Edsall not discouraged by Terps’ free fall

Coach sees hope despite lost season

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Maryland coach Randy Edsall inherited a 9-4 team coming off its first top-25 finish in seven years.

His first season will end just two days after Thanksgiving — potentially with a 10-loss season.

Plenty has gone wrong for the Terrapins over the past 11 months, and their miserable season reaches its conclusion Saturday at N.C. State. Maryland (2-9, 1-6 ACC) would match its school record for losses in a season if it does not snap its seven-game skid in its finale.

"Did we meet the expectations that I had in terms of on the field? No, no we didn't meet those," Edsall said Tuesday during one of his longest news conferences of the season. "Is it surprising that we didn't meet those expectations. Probably not because of all the things that has been documented and has taken place. Am I discouraged? No."

There were plenty of reasons to believe the Terps might not match last year's victory total. Maryland forfeited three scholarships as an NCAA-mandated penalty for poor academic performance. However, the Terps also had enough room under an 82-man cap to give four walk-ons scholarships before the season.

Despite suffering plenty of injuries a season ago, Maryland escaped with minimal damage to its most significant players. Only one opening-week starter — offensive lineman Justin Gilbert — missed extensive time with injuries.

That luck changed this year, with left guard Andrew Gonnella, safety Matt Robinson, defensive end Isaiah Ross and linebacker Kenny Tate missing at least half the season with injuries. Several other starters, notably quarterback Danny O'Brien, wideout Kevin Dorsey and linebackers Darin Drakeford and Demetrius Hartsfield, missed extended time.

"The injuries didn't help us at all and a lot of different depth changes on the defensive side," defensive tackle Joe Vellano said. "I think we have a lot of guys coming back and a lot of stuff for the future."

At least one of the reasons to expect regression proved only a minor factor. The Terps are plus-5 in turnover margin and tied for 28th nationally on a per-game basis in the category, a decline but not a wholesale collapse from the good fortune of last year's plus-15 margin that ranked fourth in the country.

Edsall was specifically asked about the impact of losing 2½ hours of practice time each week, Maryland's self-prescribed penalty for violating practice-time restrictions last season. In July, Edsall dismissed the topic, declaring "it's not going to be an issue at all because we're not going to let it be an issue. I've put together a schedule that is going to allow us to be successful in what we're doing."

The past three months have changed his opinion.

"We've talked about that as a staff," Edsall said. "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're coming into a new situation and you're installing new systems. We've talked about that. That was something that probably had a bigger impact than we anticipated."

That problem disappears next season. So do the scholarship reductions, as does the rationale of adjusting to new systems.

What also won't be in place entering next year is the good feelings of a nine-win season. Instead, there will be a forgettable 12-game trek Edsall hopes will spur the Terps going forward.

"When you invest a lot and don't win, it should rip you apart," Edsall said. "I think we got started in that direction. I don't think we accomplished anywhere close to getting those things, but we started and we laid the foundation."

NOTES: Edsall said suspended defensive end David Mackall is unlikely to return. "I don't think that looks real promising right now," he said. Mackall made 30 tackles (six for loss) and three sacks in eight games, including seven starts. He was suspended indefinitely earlier this month.

• Edsall said wide receiver Ronnie Tyler will not make the trip to N.C. State because of "academic issues." Tyler, who was suspended for two games after a September arrest for second-degree assault, finished the season with 18 receptions, 158 yards and one touchdown.

• Center Bennett Fulper (pulled hamstring) will miss his second straight game. Redshirt freshman Sal Conaboy again will start in his place.

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