COLLEGE PARK—D.J. Adams has abandoned the diamond earring he wore last season and trimmed away most evidence of the blond dye job that he says was just a "training camp thing."
It's not that Maryland's flashy running back has suddenly lost his sense of style. It's just that the season opener is less than three weeks away, and the redshirt sophomore is intent on showing coaches that he's focused single-mindedly on football.
The running game is at the heart of the offense that Maryland intends to use this season, and Adams — who scored 11 touchdowns last season — figures to be a key player as coaches expand his role.
Gary Crowton, Maryland's new offensive coordinator, may be better known for screen passes and variations of the spread offense than for rushing plays. But Crowton and head coach Randy Edsall appreciate the benefit of a potent rushing attack, and they have experienced, grind-it-out backs in Adams and senior Davin Meggett.
"Everything we do starts with the running game. It doesn't start from the passing game," Crowton, a former LSU offensive coordinator, said in an interview during Maryland's Media Day on Tuesday.
"At LSU, we won 40 games in four years and we ran the football. And I know that you have to run the football," Crowton said. "When I was at Boston College with Coach [Tom] Coughlin, we threw the ball well but we ran the football, and we're going to run the ball here. "
Adams, 5 feet 10 and 220 pounds, was primarily a short-yardage specialist last season. But offensive lineman Max Garcia — who played with the tailback at Norcross (Ga.) High School — knows better than most that Adams can be more than that.
"He was playing every down when we played together," Garcia said. "He's got the speed, he's got some moves, he's got some power. "
Plus, Adams has flair.
"He's a real cool guy," said Garcia, a sophomore who said his decision to attend Maryland was influenced by Adams and offensive line coach Tom Brattan, who recruited the pair.
"He definitely always has the latest gear," Garcia said of Adams. "I don't want to give him too much props here, but he has a lot of swagger. That's what we like to say about him."
Adams has toned down his "gear" a bit lately. Edsall, who took over for Ralph Friedgen as head coach in January, does not permit earrings, caps and do-rags during football-related activities. Adams said he'll still sometimes sport the earring — a gift from a friend, he said — away from the field.
The blond hair had given him a distinctive look during training camp. Asked about the look Tuesday, running backs coach Andre Powell quipped, "I like it if it helps him block better."
But Adams said it was time to lose the blond hair. He was left with traces of it Tuesday that he said gave him a "salt-and-pepper look."
Adams said he doesn't take issue with Edsall's rules even they it mean keeping the earring stashed away.
"I definitely understand that, and I respect that," the player said. The new rules "come with a new staff and change is great."
Powell is hoping Adams can undergo a transformation on the field as well as on top of his head.
"D.J. in his mind sees himself as a short-yardage, goal-line guy," Powell said. "And I'm trying to get D.J. to understand we want every-down backs. You've got to be good in the passing game, you've got to be good in the open field. We're trying to break him out of that mold."
Edsall made a point Tuesday of praising freshman running backs Justus Pickett and Brandon Ross. The coach said the two were making a push for playing time. Pickett has notable quickness, and the Terps are looking for speed after losing tailback Da'Rel Scott, a former track and field sprinter now with the NFL's New York Giants.
Among those lobbying for more carries for Adams is Meggett, the starter at tailback.
"I can't wait to see what he can do," Meggett said Tuesday.
Apprised of Meggett's lobbying, Adams smiled and said, "Me and Meggett are close."
"I'm looking forward to us having a one-two punch," Adams said. "The better football teams have that. When I'm watching TV, I like to see a running back come into the game and do better or just as good as the one that just left."
Notes: Edsall said Maryland's offense might be ahead of the defense. "I feel I know who we are offensively," the coach said. But he said there remained "unanswered questions" on defense, where linebacker depth has been a concern.
The Baltimore Sun's Matthew Castello contributed to this article.