COLLEGE PARK — Randy Edsall smiled. He laughed. He answered questions from reporters patiently, honestly, happily.
Is this the coach of a Maryland team seemingly in free fall after Saturday's 20-3 loss to Syracuse at Byrd Stadium? Taking a three-game losing streak and a ton of criticism into Saturday's game at Virginia Tech, Edsall was surprisingly upbeat Tuesday at his weekly press conference.
And quietly defiant.
"I'm not going to panic," he said. "If I panic, the whole team will panic, then I'm not being the leader that I need to be for our young team here. All I'm going to do is continue to go about the business of building this program and building it the right way so it can end up achieving the long-term success that we're going to have here."
Edsall said Maryland (5-4, 1-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) has made "significant progress" in the three seasons since he arrived, despite only one ACC road win. The Terps will have three chances to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2010, with a Nov. 23 home game against Boston College and their season finale Nov. 30 at North Carolina State.
"Again, we have one more win right now than we did a year ago, we have talented players. It's unfortunate that some of those guys got hurt that happened to be playmakers for you that you were trying to build an offense around," Edsall said. "We do have more depth, but we're not where we need to be from a depth standpoint.
"We're improved, we're better, we don't like some of the results we've had, and we're not going to use excuses, but we have talent here. We're bringing in more talent in terms of what we're recruiting and the excitement that they have. Again, it's a process. We're not going to cheat the process. We can't. Because if we cheat the process, we're never going to get where to we want to go."
Toward that goal, Edsall said he doesn't plan on playing any freshmen who haven't already burned their redshirt, including quarterback Shane Cockerillle (Gilman) and wide receiver Taivon Jacobs.
Using Jacobs as an example, Edsall said: "I've got to look at what we're doing long term; this isn't the short term. To put him out there with three games left, that wouldn't be right for him or our program in terms of what we're trying to establish and what we're trying to develop with the program."
Nor does Edsall plan on benching senior quarterback C.J. Brown if he struggles against a Virginia Tech defense ranked third overall in the country in yards allowed, one spot ahead of Florida State.
Edsall said that after Brown watched tape of his performance against Syracuse, which included two interceptions and a lost fumble, "he saw some of the things he didn't do well, but he also did a lot of things really well. … We were doing things right to move the ball to the [Syracuse side] of the field. What we didn't do is finish any of those drives off. … C.J. has to be consistent."
Brown, who has looked hesitant since coming back from a concussion he suffered last month against Florida State, acknowledged that he has tried hard "to make a spark and rejuvenate the offense" in the absence of injured wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long.
"I try to not think that way, I try to just go out there and play, coaches tell me to go out and execute and do the best that I can, but if guys go down, you try to step up and sometimes I try to do more than I should or I need to," Brown, who is winless in ACC play as a starter, said Tuesday. "With that being said, you can't make silly mistakes, and I can't put the team in jeopardy like that."
Because backup Caleb Rowe is more of a drop-back passer, and given Maryland's lack of playmakers at receiver and inexperience along the offensive line, Brown still is considered a better option at quarterback because of his running ability.
Edsall has moved Ricardo Young from quarterback to wide receiver. Cockerille is currently running the scout team. Sophomore Perry Hills, who started the first six games last year (4-2) before sustaining a season-ending knee injury, isn't as good a runner as Brown or as good a passer as Rowe.
"Every week, what we do is we evaluate every position, and the quarterback position is no different," Edsall said. "If guys don't play well, we have the ability to [make a change].
"We have confidence in Caleb, in what he can do. To me, C.J. gives us the best opportunity as we go into the Virginia Tech game to win."
Edsall met with members of his team's leadership council Monday to get a sense of how the team reacted to the Syracuse loss, and said he has tried to get his team to ignore what is being said or written about the Terps, good or bad.
His message was simple.
"Don't read anything," Edsall said. 'Some of our young guys, when we were 4-1, 5-1, it's the first time they've been through it. And we talked about it. Don't believe anything. All of a sudden, you lose a few, all those people who were writing all that good stuff, now they're not writing any good stuff anymore.
"People don't like to be patient, but we're going to continue to work the way we're going, continue to recruit and develop, and we're going to get where we want to go. It might not be as fast as some people, but we'll get there are fast as we can go without cheating the process. And hopefully, at some point in time, hopefully we can stay injury-free. We have to give it our all, regardless of the adversity, and we've got to overcome that."