- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 1, 2011

Randy Edsall stood far from the line of scrimmage. A visor was perched snugly on his head. A whistle on a lanyard dangled from his fingers. And Maryland continued the latest in a string of preseason practices.

Somewhere, at some point, that run-of-the-mill moment probably was etched into Edsall’s plan for his new program.

Perhaps the most evident development of Edsall’s first eight months with the Terrapins is the presence of a formula, however difficult it might be to completely define it. Much has changed in College Park since Edsall was hired away from Connecticut on Jan. 2. There are new systems on offense and defense, and a dozen players with eligibility have left the program for a variety of reasons since the hire.

There was other offseason turbulence, with the loss of three scholarships and 2 1/2 hours of practice time each week during the season. But did it lead to changes in the plan? Not so much, largely because fastidious preparation is a vital part of who Edsall is.

“Any good coach is always going to have a plan,” said Towson coach Rob Ambrose, an assistant to Edsall at Connecticut from 2002 to 2008. “You use chess as an analogy. The best chess player is the one who can see all the variables as far ahead as possible. There’s very few guys who sit back after they did that and went back and looked at the move they’re about to make again. That’s him. He puts the details in details.”

As the Terps have learned. Never, as wide receiver and punt returner Tony Logan observed, is there any doubt as to where someone needs to be or what they should be doing at a given moment.

That goes for assistant coaches, too. Outside linebackers coach and special teams coordinator Lyndon Johnson, who worked with Edsall for 12 years at Connecticut, said some assistants were surprised when Edsall handed out calendars with everything mapped out through next August.

Johnson is accustomed to such precision. After more than a decade, he knows it is inherent to the way Edsall conducts business.

“When you think about it, who really thinks like that?” Johnson said. “I guess that why he’s in the office he’s in and I’m in the one I’m in. It’s scary, but in a good way because now as an assistant coach, you can be totally organized, be ahead of the game so you’re not scrambling at the last minute. You already knew weeks and weeks ahead of time what you need to get done.”

What could prompt such an adherence to an unusually regimented approach? Working for Tom Coughlin, a noted stickler for details, during stints with Boston College and the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars probably played a role.

So, too, did methodically shepherding Connecticut into the sport’s highest level. Edsall was 74-70 with the Huskies, including four straight bowl appearances and the Big East’s BCS berth last season. For Edsall, the formula worked before and he expects it will again.

“If you’re going to do something the right way, you’ve got to make sure it’s done right from the very beginning,” Edsall said. “It’s hard to go back and correct the flaws. It’s hard to go back and put the caulking into the foundation if the foundation is cracked. There’s going to be issues. That’s why you express what the expectations are, what you want and then you’ve got to stay firm with that because if you don’t, that’s when you have problems.”

What stands out to Johnson is Edsall’s ability behind closed doors to lay out exactly where he intends to take a program three or four years in the future. It’s a wide-ranging vision, covering every minute detail imaginable.

Such an all-encompassing approach isn’t always easy to grow accustomed to, to which the attrition in the program since the start of the year attests. The Terps, however, believe any adjustment to a new coach already is complete.

“I think initially, we really didn’t know what to expect with whoever this new coach was going to be,” quarterback Danny O’Brien said. “Then being Edsall and being someone who is so detail-oriented and so meticulous about everything, it did shock some people - especially some people who aren’t used to that. But the whole newness factor and everything, the dust has kind of settled.”

In some ways, anyway. As much as Monday’s opener against Miami at Byrd Stadium is Edsall’s first major impression on a fan base that grew increasingly apathetic in recent years, the new coach is uninterested in letting one game - or one month or even one season - define the program’s success when there are several more variables in play.

“This isn’t just about what happens on the field,” Edsall said. “This is everything you have to do. That’s why I say it’s a program, not a team. Yes, we’re getting a team ready to play the 2011 season, but what we’ve got to do is we have to make sure the program is going to be on sound footing.”

It is, after all, a substantial underpinning of Edsall’s vision for Maryland - one notable in its thoroughness and scope for both longer-range aims and day-to-day minutiae.

“How many human beings do you know that are like that, that are that detail-oriented and are that consistent in it?” Towson’s Ambrose asked. “Everyone has some degree of detail orientation. How many people do you know do it all day, every day like breathing? It’s an adaptation for everyone. But once they get on the same page, it is a blueprint for tremendous success.”

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