COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Maryland began spring practices on Tuesday with a new coach, new schemes and enough new terminology that quarterback Danny O'Brien compared it to learning a foreign language.
Many of the players, though, are the same ones who brought the Terps within two wins of clinching the Atlantic Division title last year.
There are plenty of questions surrounding the program as Maryland begins its first week of spring practices under first-year coach Randy Edsall, but the players are confident there is enough talent remaining on the roster to build upon the success of last year’s nine-win season.
“The reality is all of those things are outside the box,” running back Davin Meggett said of the coaching transition. “The box is the white lines and the grass fields. We’re all the same. We lost a few key playmakers, but there’s no doubt in my mind we can’t match up, or replace them, or match up even better in between those lines. That really gives us a good look on how well we’ll play as far as next season.”
There’s reason for confidence in College Park. The Terps return 14 starters, including O’Brien, the 2010 ACC Rookie of the Year. Four offensive linemen return along with Meggett, the team’s leading rusher (720 yards). Defensively, seven of the top 10 tacklers return.
Maryland’s biggest holes to fill are at linebacker, where Alex Wujciak and Adrian Moten have graduated, and at receiver, where standout Torrey Smith left early for the NFL.
The biggest reason for concern, though, isn’t in College Park. It’s in Tallahassee, where Florida State is seemingly on cruise control heading into coach Jimbo Fisher’s second season. The Seminoles eliminated Maryland from the division race last year with a 30-16 win in Byrd Stadium.
Despite Florida State’s success and Maryland’s transition year, the Terps agree there’s no excuse not to be in hunt again.
“As players we feel like we’re contenders for the ACC championship,” said receiver Kerry Boykins. “We’re just buying into what the coaches say and what the coaches believe because we know they want what’s best for us. They’re here to win championships just as well.”
Boykins said the receivers and O’Brien met separately throughout the season and then had seven-on-seven drills every Wednesday, when O’Brien would help them grasp the concepts of what they were studying. They watched film of LSU, where offensive coordinator Gary Crowton was hired from. The biggest change in the offense will be the tempo, and the Terps will run more no-huddle, but how much is yet to be seen by even the players.
O’Brien said the offensive players are “not anywhere close to where we were last year by any means as far as familiarity with the offense,” but that they’re still probably further along than one might expect.
“There’s been a lot of change, but I think we’re really excited because it’s the same team coming back,” O’Brien said. “We might have a new scheme, new terminology, but it’s a lot of the same guys, and we’re a really tight family here at Maryland. We’re excited about what we’re going to put on the field this fall.”