COLLEGE PARK — Maryland won just two football games in 2011, followed by four victories in 2012. As 2013 training camp begins, there is an internal clock ticking inside many Terps players and coaches saying it's time to collect at least two more wins — they hope for much more — and return to a bowl game for the first time since 2010.
"Oh, expectations are high — absolutely," running backs and special teams coach Andre Powell said as the Terps gathered Monday for Media Day at the Gossett Football Team House before their first practice of the preseason. "We expect to win. The fans expect to win. We're finally to the point where we've got good [player] leadership."
The team's core goals remain the same. The goals are posted in and around an illustration of a black and red pyramid that players see as they walk between the locker room and meeting rooms. Among the goals in block letters at the top are "ACC Champion," "Graduate" and "Bowl Game."
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There is a new slogan this season: "Hold the Rope." It is printed on the cover of all the players' training camp notebooks.
The meaning? Imagine you're dangling from a cliff and relying on a teammate to reel you in.
"It's about you being there for your brother," quarterback C.J. Brown said.
Last year, the Terps attracted attention for putting 235-pound linebacker Shawn Petty at quarterback in the last four games because Brown and the three other regular quarterbacks suffered season-ending injuries. The year before — Edsall's first in College Park — ended with a spate of transfers and the dismissal of the offensive and defensive coordinators.
This season, Petty has returned to linebacker and the team believes it will be better — and more seasoned — for having endured all those calamitous injuries.
"When adversity hits, you get closer," recruiting coordinator John Dunn said. "I think a lesson was learned. We tell our guys, 'Hey look what happened last year.' [Backup] Caleb Rowe never expected to quarterback, and all of a sudden he's going in to a two-minute drill against N.C. State."
Maryland returns six starters on offense and five on defense. Nearly two-thirds of the roster is comprised of underclassmen, making the Terps the 13th youngest team from a Bowl Championship Series conference, according to college football analyst Phil Steele.
But many of those underclassmen have already participated in games. Fifteen freshmen played in 2012.
The roster has largely turned over from when Edsall took over from Ralph Friedgen in January 2011. The holdovers include senior starters Dexter McDougle at cornerback and Brown at quarterback.
Brown tore an anterior cruciate ligament a year ago, leaving him with a three-and-a-half-inch scar on his right knee and months of leg lifts, squats and resistance work. He is healthy now.
"It was good to be able to step back from the game and kind of see things from a different angle, a different perspective, and have a better appreciation for the game as well as developing more knowledge of the offense," Brown said Monday.
As expected, Edsall named Brown as his starter Monday. Ricardo Young, Rowe and Perry Hills will split reps at No. 2. Freshman Shane Cockerille (Gilman) will get any remaining reps.
"I'm coming in at the bottom of the depth chart," Cockerille said. "I've just got to be patient."
But Cockerille, who could be redshirted, conceded with a wan smile: "In my heart, I want to come in and play."
Brown's favorite target is expected to be sophomore Stefon Diggs. The star receiver-returner was surrounded by a thicket of cameras and microphones Monday.
Diggs is among 10 Terps selected during the offseason to a "leadership council" that will act as liaisons between players and coaches.
"The one thing he said is that this was the first time he had ever been in that position," Edsall said. We talked to him a lot about how he has to conduct himself, how he's going to be watched. He's taken a very mature approach to these things."
Diggs looks bulkier than last season. He said he has added 10 pounds and is now up to 195. He said it will help him absorb hits this season and beyond.
"It's a much more physical game at the next level," he said.