Maryland and Rutgers make their first impression

BY JACOB SHEYKO | JULY 29, 2014 5:00 AM

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CHICAGO — On July 1, Maryland and Rutgers officially joined the Big Ten. League Commissioner Jim Delany visited both teams, unveiling new team apparel and partaking in other welcoming festivities.

But one could make the argument that Maryland and Rutgers didn’t officially become members of the Big Ten until the 2014 Big Ten media days kicked off on Monday, when the arrival of the two teams was one of the hottest topics of the day.

With 30 days left until a Big Ten football team takes the field in a meaningful game, talks of recruiting challenges, expectations, and potential rivalries for the two new teams have begun.

“Over the last year, I’ve gotten this question probably more than any: How do you feel about being in the Big Ten? And my answer to you would be this: It feels right,” Rutgers’ head coach, Kyle Flood, said.

To Rutgers’ players, the realization of being members of the Big Ten occurred when they walked through the front doors of the Hilton, in which the Big Ten media days are being held.

“It’s a sense that it’s finally here,” Rutgers’ defensive lineman Darius Hamilton said.

Rutgers and Maryland reside in the Big Ten’s East Division, along with Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Penn State. As well as sharing a division, both teams also have an expectation that they could struggle to find their footing in their first Big Ten season.

Through it all, players from both sides remained positive.

“A lot of people don’t realize that what we’ve been doing at Rutgers is playing great football,” Rutgers’ defensive back Lorenzo Waters said. “… Now, it’s time to show the rest of the country what we have been doing all along.”

While both Flood and Maryland head coach Randy Edsall noted that they believe the Big Ten is an elite conference, Edsall went a step further, calling the Big Ten the “collegiate model” in terms of academics and athletics.

Both coaches also admitted that adjustments would need to happen.

Having to line up against teams they’ve rarely played against may be the biggest of those obstacles, which explains why Edsall talked with several other coaches about moving to a new league. 

“We have new opponents that we have to prepare for,” he said. “So the spring and the summer has been a whirlwind for us as coaches from the standpoint of getting to know the teams here in the Big Ten that we’re going to be going against and understanding their personnel, understanding their schemes and what they like to do.”

In the past year, most Big Ten fans only heard about Rutgers and Maryland when they were mentioned in off-the-field endeavors. The rumors of their moving to the Big Ten surfaced in November 2012.

Now, only a month separates them from making their first appearance in a meaningful game as members of the Big Ten, where they’ll familiarize themselves with the league in the only way that really matters: on the field.

“I’m just glad that we’re finally to the point now where we can go and play games,” Edsall said. “It has been a long time, it seems, to get to this point. But I’m glad we’re here.”

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