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Progress this spring comes in small doses for Maryland's Edsall

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In a spring of transition for the Maryland football team, first-year coach Randy Edsall and his staff are working hard to raise the quality of his team's performance on and off the field. While Edsall has seen progress on both fronts, there's a long way to go before the team meets his lofty standards.

"The spring is never going to meet the expectations that I'm looking for because you're not going to be the finished product," Edsall said in a conference call with reporters Monday. "When you only have 15 practices and 12 of them are in pads, it's never going to get to the point where you want. You don't have everybody out there who's going to be part of the team you're going to be playing with during the season."

The lack of his full squad is something Edsall has frequently lamented over the course of the spring. Most of this year's incoming freshmen won't be arriving on campus until August, while academic issues and injuries have thinned the pool of players available to Edsall this spring. The players' absences affect not only their own chances of playing a big role come September, but the entire team's development.

"You have some guys who aren't practicing on Tuesday or Thursday," Edsall said. "They go out on Saturday to practice and guess what? They're not as sharp because they haven't practiced. It helps me to reinforce that if you're not practicing out there, you can't be as good as you want to be. We had some guys who weren't out there in key positions and it hinders the ability to make some of the progress that you'd like to make.

"Collectively, offensively, defensively and on special teams, it's really going to be hard to [make improvements] because you don't have guys out there."

The result has been a spring in which Edsall has seen some things he likes, but still plenty of things to work on. After offering praise for a few players last week only to see their performances dip in the practices that followed, Edsall said he'd refrain from singling players out until spring practices were finished.

Otherwise, despite not always liking what he's seeing on the field, his message has not changed. ESPN college football analyst Bob Davie, who spent five seasons as Notre Dame's coach, said that confidence in what you do is one of the most important things when taking over a new program.

"It takes a lot of confidence to be able to say 'OK, we're going to move forward here with what I think we need to do without any [past] results influencing anyone,'" Davie said.

Edsall came to College Park with good reason to have conviction in his methods. He built Connecticut into a Big East title contender, culminating in the school's first BCS bid last season. Those Connecticut teams had a track record for being fundamentally sound, a tenet Edsall has continually stressed this spring at Maryland.

"Everybody has to understand that they need to execute fundamentally, use good technique and give us the best that you can," Edsall said on April 4.

Two weeks later, his tune remained the same.

"It's all those little things and fundamentals that we have to really be focused on and be able to do," he said Monday.

When asked about the defense's ability to pick up on the new scheme, Edsall instead talks about each player's responsibility within the system, from eye discipline on defense to day-to-day consistency on offense.

"You are starting with new terminologies completely, a new coaching staff and all those things," Davie said. "But the way it is in college football now, there really is no time for transition. It's the expectation for immediate results. There is no more five-year plan, particularly at places like Maryland."

Though he's not able to look at it in terms of win totals and bowl games yet, Edsall is no stranger to the need for instant validation.

"As a coach, you want everything to happen yesterday, but you've got to understand that there's a process that you have to go through," Edsall said. "Spring is a process. It's not the finished product, but what I'm looking for is guys to be consistently good and make that improvement from week to week, and there are guys that are doing that."

xcxjmeoli@baltsun.com

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Baltimore Sun reporter Matt Bracken contributed to this article.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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