If Maryland coach Randy Edsall has any emotions whatsoever about playing his former team and players on Saturday, he’s done as good a job of concealing them this week as he did hiding his intentions to leave Connecticut in the first place.
“This week is really no different to me than any other week,” he said. “It’s just Game 3 on our schedule. I haven’t done anything different up until this point and I’m not going to do anything different from here on in. There are some people that I’d like to see after the game to say hello to and wish them well, but I am going to continue to focus on my players, the University of Maryland players all week.”
The truth is, Edsall’s departure from UConn more than a year ago was awkward for just about everyone but Edsall. He conceded as much this week when he told reporters he wished he could have talked to his players in person to tell them about his decision to accept the Maryland job. Now, as he prepares to face the Huskies for the first time since he left Storrs for College Park, he does so downplaying the most obvious storyline of the game -- his connections to Connecticut.
“I follow them, because I got to know them, but you wish them well and everything except if you are going to play them,” he said. “Everyone has their reasons for doing what they want to do in life and to me this is the third game on the schedule and it just happens to be against Connecticut.”
To some Huskies, though, it's more than just Game 3.
Not all of Connecticut's players were so outspoken.
"Really at first I was a bit surprised, but now I’ve come to realize it’s business,” said defensive end Trevardo Williams. “It’s nothing personal. I’m not taking anything to heart because it didn’t affect me personally. I could understand the move he made was for his benefit. It’s not going to bother me."
If there are any underlying emotions in this game, they appear to be geared more towards the importance of this game to Edsall’s career. Maryland (2-0) has already matched last year’s win total, now it’s trying to start out 3-0 for the first time since 2001, when it won the ACC championship.
Edsall wouldn’t say this week if he might have a competitive advantage because of his familiarity with the former players he recruited. It works both ways, though -- Uconn knows how Edsall thinks, too.
Edsall said NCAA rules have prevented him from keeping in touch with his former players, but he left a lasting impact on some. Edsall was the only coach to offer Connecticut linebacker Sio Moore a scholarship out of high school.
"I just want to show him I’m a good player,” Moore said. “He was hard on me while he was here, and he was hard on me because he thought I was going to be a good player. To me, I just want to show him I am a good player, and really, a lot of people are saying we’re licking our chops to get back at Coach Edsall. It’s not that. We’re going out there to play Maryland. Coach Edsall is not out there in pads, where I can play against him. He is the one who saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself.”
Moore said he doesn’t hold anything against Edsall for the way he left.
"It wasn’t the best situation or the best way to handle it, but at the end of the day, he did what he had to do,” Moore said. “I wasn’t angry about the way it happened, I was angry about losing my coach. When you come to college, you don’t plan on being there four or five years and the coach who brought you in not being there anymore. But honestly what he did, why he did it, he did it for himself, his career and for his family. There’s no hard feelings. I still respect him.”