Randy Edsall turned 55 Tuesday, and got to spend his birthday with members of the media for Maryland's weekly press conference. Some highlights from the day:
On fan outreach:
"What we're really trying to do this year is engage the new students and all the students at Maryland to come out and celebrate with us and be part of our team and our program. Our players feel like they are a part of them, the general population here and the student body. Through the graciousness of a lot of people here and the groups on campus and also from Under Armour, all the students are going to get an Under Armour t-shirt. There will also be weekly specials as we look forward to really engaging them and having them out here early and supporting their fellow students.
"You can see some of the things that have taken place - the opposite end zone panels there - in terms of some of the things that have advanced the stadium and just under the upper deck there is going to be some things going under there. Again, kudos to the people that were involved to getting that done.
On giving out to scholarships to a select group of walk-ons:
"The other day, I was also able to award four young men scholarships, Michael Dunn, G.T. Harraka, Tony Perry, and Regis Whittington. So that is something that is always very, very special to do and again knowing that those young men have worked extremely hard. Michael has earned himself a starting job, and the others have been in the program a number of years, working out there each and everyday, and to have the opportunity to do that is really special.
On this week's opponent:
"I think as we head into Florida International, one thing that I've been pleased with is the leadership council and what they've done getting ready for the season and for Florida International. I think the leadership has been outstanding, the guys are ready to play, they're tired of hitting one another, and I'm anxious and as a coaching staff we're anxious to see them play because they put in a lot of hard work since last year, after three more days this week I think they will be more than ready and prepared to play.
"We know always with an opener it's tough because you don't know what to expect. With Florida International, we see a team that is going to be a pro-style offense with two backs, two tight ends, and really attack you with a west-coast style offense and a 4-3 defense. With all the different variations they do with that, very talented up front on the defensive line, experience in the secondary, and a bunch of talented athletes who can run, outstanding quarterback who has played and done really well as a starter. They have a bunch of tight ends to contend with, with good speed on the outside with their receivers and good quickness with the running back. We respect them tremendously and we are going to have to play well in order to win."
Evaluating his own squad:
"You take a look at us; we have a very young team, with two senior starters on offense and two senior starters on defense. But with that youthfulness that we have, we have a lot of guys who have played, and who are experienced at playing at such a young age. It's not like were going in totally inexperienced. At most positions we feel pretty good about the depth. We're still developing depth as we go, so there are going to be guys cutting their teeth more being on special teams and backups. And the biggest thing we have been trying to get across to these guys is to do their job and do it to the best of their ability and don't do anybody else's job. So I think they have done a pretty good job of doing that and we're getting more established at the specialists position. I think we're pleased with Nate Renfro and what he's done this season, getting more consistency out of Brad [Craddock] with the field goals. It's a team that's going to get better every time that we practice and every time that we play."
Maryland is one of 18 FBS programs to retain their entire coaching staff. On the importance of that:
"Continuity is always big in your coaching staff. Everybody has been through a season now together, in terms of how I do things, how we ran practice, how the coordinators conduct their meetings, how you do things in terms of the player meetings, it's huge. You know how each other thinks, you know what everybody's doing, you know that everybody is on the same page, there's not as many questions being asked about certain things. So I think that any time you can have that continuity, it's a big bonus. It's a big bonus to us as a staff. It's a bonus to the players because they're not getting used to somebody else, they're not getting used to different techniques, they're not getting used to a different scheme and you can really see as you start to go out there to practice and do things. It just makes the ship sail a lot smoother."
On the return of quarterback C.J. Brown:
"It's more comforting knowing that C.J.'s there and as you watch him perform. I think he has had just an outstanding preseason. He's thrown the ball better than he ever has since I've been here. He's very poised and he's a grad student - he's an MBA student now - and you can just see, in terms of how he carries himself, there is a sense of calmness out there with the whole group as he's out there playing. And again knowing that he can do everything that we need him to do to fit our personnel, it's comforting. You feel very good for him because he was going to have this opportunity a year ago and then when he got the injury he kind of had it taken away from him. But now you can see the effort and how much he put into it and everything else. You see how the guys rally around him and listen to him. It's good to have the veteran presence. He doesn't have a whole lot of snaps or games under his belt, but just being as mature and having the experience having what he has it really does make a difference."
A little on Deon Long, who we'll hear more about injury-wise Thursday:
"Deon is a special talent in my opinion. I think he's got speed, he's got quickness, he's got outstanding hands, he loves the game, he loves to play the game of football and he wants to compete. I just think when you can have a guy like Stefon on one side, then a guy like Deon on the other side, you can create some problems and you can do some things offensively that can be a tremendous advantage that can help you move the football. But I like Deon a lot. I like his personality, he's bubbly, he's enthusiastic, he's a competitor who likes to play and I'm just glad he's here."
A reporter asked about Stefon Diggs, apologizing because of the multitude of questions Edsall fields about his star wide receiver. Edsall responded with "I can talk days and days and weeks and weeks about him." And then he did just that.
"First of all, everybody knows he's a tremendous player. He proved that last year as a true freshman. He proved that by what he did as a receiver, what he did as a punt returner, and by what he did as a kickoff returner speaks for itself. I think the biggest thing with Stefon is he wants to be the best in whatever he does and he works at it. I talked about Deon and some of his traits, but I'm not sure if I've ever been around a guy who is so competitive and wants to win so badly. He's kept a level head and I think he can be, as long as the good lord will allow him to stay healthy and allow him, to just continue to work and stay hungry. The sky's the limit for Stefon.
"The thing I like about it is he's gotten bigger and stronger. He's put on 10 pounds; he's gotten bigger and thicker. The other thing is you don't get a chance to be around him every day like I do. I mean the growth and maturation from last year to this year has just been enormous. You talk about a young man who I put in a leadership position and somebody who's really grabbed it and taken a hold of it and is out there being even more of a leader than what he's been before and doing the things that great players are supposed to do. He's not a prima donna. He's a team guy, not an ‘I' guy. To me you talk about a guy who's got a chance to be unbelievable in whatever he does. He's got the whole package. You know he's not selfish.
"I just love the kid, I love being around him, he's got a smile on his face all the time. He had a great year academically and he's really embracing the role of being a leader and you don't find that with guys with the talent that he has on the field and he wants to hold himself to a higher level to what I would hold him to or anybody else would hold him to. I just hope he can stay healthy because he's as good as I've ever been around. The thing that makes it more impressive is just to see how much he's grown and developed as a person and how much he's relished and cherished this leadership position he's been in and it's good for him."
On the front seven:
"We lost some guys up front and those guys are playing well for their respective teams that are playing in the NFL But the good thing is we got a lot of guys who played up front to replace them. And again, it's going be a thing up front where we have a bunch of guys that are going to play up front. I think when you take a look at the linebackers; they all have experience of playing because we had some injuries a year ago.
"I really like the move of Matt Robinson to the linebacker position, so I feel good about where we are right now, defensively. And the thing is all of those guys are going to get better, and what you really hope for is we have the program, what we want it to be, that when you lose players from year to year all you do is just reload and put another guy in who's just as good or even better than the guy who left. That's what you hope for. But again they have been practicing hard and they have been practicing well. It's a group that communicates very well and I'm anxious to go out there and see them play starting Saturday."