COLLEGE PARK ——There was a lectern waiting for Randy Edsall as he walked briskly to the front of the Gossett Football Team House auditorium to open a session with the media Tuesday.
But the Maryland football coach sidestepped the lectern and chose instead to lean up against a set of wooden cabinets as he fielded reporters' questions — a less formal posture.
Avoiding the lectern was part of the strategy of making the coach — entering his second Maryland season — appear more accessible.
The idea is to enable him to conduct media sessions that are chattier and less stiff. He was sometimes portrayed as strident or rigid in media reports and commentary last season — accounts he says were often written by people who don't know him.
Edsall and other Maryland athletic officials are working this year with Maroon PR on a number of initiatives, including branding and coaches' media training. Maroon — which helped promote Tuesday's media availability featuring Edsall, select players and assistant coaches — is a full-service public relations and marketing company based in Columbia.
Maryland is also making players and coordinators more accessible this season than last. Unlike last season, the offensive and defensive coordinators will be available each week to discuss the Terps and their opponents.
Edsall said he anticipates having a number of key injured players — the long list includes defensive tackle Joe Vellano and wide receiver Kevin Dorsey — back in time for training camp.
"We don't expect anybody to be out when we start practice on the sixth" of August, the coach said.
Among those eager to return is fifth-year linebacker Kenny Tate, who missed all but four games last year with a knee injury.
Tate was recruited to Maryland as a wide receiver. He switched to safety, then to "Star," the equivalent of a strong-side linebacker.
Now he's playing "Sam," another strong-side linebacker spot. But this season, Maryland will be playing a 3-4 defense under new coordinator Brian Stewart.
"It's a different defense," Tate said Tuesday. "Yes, I'm on the strong side so in that aspect, yeah, it's the same thing. But there's also different stuff."
So how different will Tate's role be?
"I can't answer that question until I get an opportunity to get him out there," Stewart said.
New field, better kicking?
Maryland's switch this season from natural grass to FieldTurf is particularly important for kicker Nick Ferrara, who says the upgrade gives him peace of mind. Or least as much peace of mind as field-goal kickers ever can have.
Kickers often worry about the footing underneath their plant foot.
The grass field had drainage issues and could sometimes become muddy. More than that, Ferrara said there was often sand on the portion of the field where he would set up for extra points. He said the sand was used to fill in where a lacrosse net had been. "And the crown on that field was terrible," the kicker said.
Ferrara, who showed up for the media availability with newly pierced ears, had hip surgery in February. "I feel mentally a lot tougher and better," he said.
The senior said he would like to handle field goals, kickoffs and punts this season. But it's uncertain if coaches will let him perform all three tasks.