COLLEGE PARK, MD
On Saturday, the Maryland football team played their first Spring Game under new head coach Randy Edsall. With their performance on the field, and their demeanor on the sideline, they showed the signs of a team that is starting to come together.
"Very pleased with the Spring, in terms of how we started and how we finished," Edsall said. "We still have a lot of work to do. I thought the overall attitude and intensity was good. They're starting to really understand what we're looking for, how we have to practice, and what we have to do in order to win Championships."
The very first play of the game was a 65-yard touchdown pass down the left sideline from Danny O'Brien to Ronnie Tyler. Those two hooked up for another touchdown (this one far more impressive on Tyler's end) in the second half. O'Brien looked sharp on Saturday, and that is a good sign for the Terps.
Their success this season will likely begin and end with O'Brien's right arm. They have some other impact players on both sides of the ball, but it has been a while since they have had a quarterback who is capable of winning the game with his play as opposed to just being asked not to lose it.
"I think we made some good steps in the right direction, as far as being coachable on offense at least with what we're doing." O'Brien said. "I think we're ahead of schedule. We have to work a lot now with the coaches being out recruiting we have to do a lot of stuff on our own as far as throwing the ball, routes, 7-on-7, things like that. We're going to iron 'em out this Summer. Once we get to the level that we need to get at, I think it's gonna be fun to watch. "
It's hard to get a good gauge on how the defense played in this game because they simplified their packages so much that the actual defense they play against Miami in the first game of the 2011 season will be virtually unrecognizable. They ran their basic sets and just a few coverages, because they assumed that there would be Miami scouts in attendance. But star safety-turned-linebacker Kenny Tate is happy with the progress this team has made during the Spring.
"The team has definitely, grown, I have to say." he said, "I didn't know how really this Spring was going to go. I didn't know much about coach Edsall. We was just trying to embrace it and stick with his program and see where we can go. After now, this wpring ball, I feel like we are very confident going into this summer, going into this camp and thinking that we can really have a successful season."
As a quick side note, Tate is one of the most terrifying people I have ever seen in person. He seems like a nice guy, but at his height and speed, with the weight he's put on to play linebacker, I wouldn't want to be playing quarterback in the ACC this year. I wasn't sure about moving him to linebacker when they first made the move, but now I'm confident he will be more successful in that position than ever.
The atmosphere at the game left a little bit to be desired. It was arguably the most beautiful day of the Spring and there were still only about 5,000 or so fans in attendance. It was a sign of how much work the team and the coaching staff has to do to win the trust of their supporters. But there were some famous faces on the field, such as Vernon Davis, Darrius Heyward-Bey and the recently drafted Torrey Smith.
So where does this team stand now? That's hard to say. They are clearly still a team under construction, but they showed a lot of good signs of coming together on Saturday. We'll have to wait and see what the defense looks like before we can form an accurate opinion, but I know they have the playmakers to be special on that side of the ball as well.
But this is Danny O'Brien's team, and Saturday's spring game only made that more clear.