GREENSBORO, N.C. — The familiarity between Maryland football coach Randy Edsall and his players is substantially better as he enters his second season.
The Terrapins can only hope there is a corresponding improvement in their on-field success.
After spending a season as a human pinata for fans and media — and not exactly ingratiating himself with anyone in College Park with a 2-10 debut dud — there at least appears to be less dissonance within the program less than six weeks before the Sept. 1 opener against William & Mary.
“It’s been a lot different,” Edsall said at the ACC’s kickoff event Monday. “I understand the players better. I understand what makes them tick. They understand what my expectations are and what direction we want to go with the program and what our program is all about. When people understand each other a little better, things will always run smoother.”
And bumpy doesn’t begin to account for last year’s unpleasant ride.
Edsall replaced Ralph Friedgen, who was fired in 2010 after a 9-4 season.
A dozen players with eligibility remaining departed before Edsall’s first year, which also featured a loss of 21/2 hours of practice each week and the loss of three scholarships for running afoul of the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate rules.
“I’d pretty much say all of it,” Dorsey said. “When you’re winning, you can have major mistakes and people won’t notice because you’re winning. When you’re losing, it explodes. You see everything. It’s like your team’s been examined under a microscope. He’d done a good job of taking it. He’s been kind of a punching bag in the media. He’s done a good job of keeping a level head.”
More scrutiny developed in the months since Edsall’s first season ended. Another 14 players left with eligibility remaining, including quarterback Danny O’Brien and starting tackles R.J. Dill and Max Garcia. Maryland also replaced both its offensive and defensive coordinators.
Meanwhile, Edsall and players sensed more cohesiveness as they moved into a second year together.
“He did nothing that was unheard of,” senior defensive end Joe Vellano said. “It’s just stuff and the way he deals with it. He says ‘This is the right way. I’ve been around coaching 30 years. This is the right way to do it, and eventually it’s going to come through.’ I’m totally behind him.”
There appears to be no apprehension on Edsall’s part if his long-term aims aren’t the correct ones.
“I never doubted what we wanted to put in place in terms of the program,” Edsall said. “I just think there were things we were doing, and of course 2-10 is not what we want. We were extremely disappointed in that. You have to judge a program on the totality of what a program is to me supposed to be. In football, you might not be able to satisfy everything in one year when you’re trying to do the things you want to do.”
Nonetheless, Maryland supporters — be they angry or merely antsy over last year’s meltdown — would like to see some progress for a team predictably pegged to finish last in the ACC’s Atlantic Division.
That would figure to alleviate some of Edsall’s external headaches this fall.
“We’re definitely going to change around and make his job a little easier,” Dorsey said.
Whether it happens or not in 2012 will soon be determined. Whether Edsall believes the Terps are on the right track is already known, and greater familiarity with his players and his surroundings only strengthens his certainty.
“Sometimes what happens on the field is the last part of the story,” Edsall said. “I hope it isn’t, but sometimes that happens. I’m excited about the direction and where we’re going and what we’re doing, and we’re just going to continue to do it.”