Uniform changes will make Maryland a truly new-look football team

When Maryland's new football uniforms are unveiled later this month, they will be as conspicuous for what doesn't appear on the jerseys as what does.

Gone will be the players' names — an equipment decision that figures prominently in what might be called the "Maryland Makeover." It's part of an offseason updating of the football program's uniforms and field markings that are being redesigned to more prominently display "Maryland." The team will still be the "Terrapins" or "Terps," but the school and state name will receive more emphasis.

"Our uniforms are going to be much, much different," new coach Randy Edsall told about 70 supporters Monday night during a Sports Legends Museum appearance in which he discussed recruiting and previewed the season that begins Sept. 5 against Miami on ESPN.

Preseason practices start next Tuesday, and Edsall — hired from Connecticut — said he will be required to sing the Maryland fight song at the opening along with the other rookies. "Everybody who is new to Maryland must sing the Maryland song," said senior running back Davin Meggett, who accompanied Edsall on Monday. "It's just a rite of passage."

Edsall said the uniform changes are more than cosmetic. When a supporter asked whether dropping players' names could hurt recruiting, the coach offered his philosophy. He said the changes were part of a broad plan to keep more top high school recruits in Maryland by instilling home-state pride.

"I'm just a firm believer that you play for what's on the front of the jersey. When we're long gone, Maryland is still going to be here, and that's what it's all about," said Edsall, who grew up in Glen Rock, Pa., near the Maryland border.

Following the Baltimore Colts as a kid, Edsall said, he could identify quarterback Johnny Unitas merely by his number — 19. "You can't see [current players' names] from the stands for the most part anyhow," the coach said.

Edsall, who wore khakis and a Maryland polo shirt, was easygoing and chatty as he answered fans' questions. He acknowledged that not everybody agrees with dropping names from the jerseys. He then nudged Meggett, who was sitting next to him. Meggett is one of four captains for the coming season, although Edsall said playfully, "When I first got here, he never agreed with anything that I said or that I did."

Edsall was hired in December to replace Ralph Friedgen, whose final contract year was bought out. Edsall said recruiting is "going great," and that the program has 16 oral commitments for 2012 and has been looking particularly to add defensive depth. "We were light on defense. We were really deficient in linebackers," he said. Signing Day is in February.

On offense, Maryland lost starting wide receivers Torrey Smith (Ravens) and Adrian Cannon (San Diego Chargers). "I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised with our wide receivers," the coach said, mentioning, among others, returning players Ronnie Tyler, Kevin Dorsey and Quintin McCree.

But Edsall expressed disappointment that freshman receiver Nigel King, who graduated high school early and enrolled at Maryland in January, was ruled ineligible for this season by an NCAA clearinghouse that studied his academic record.

"If there was an issue, we would have told him to not come in January," Edsall said of King, ranked as one of the top receivers in North Carolina by various rating services. "We went through an appeal system. He's got an attorney looking into it."

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

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