Two Terrapins football players defended head coach DJ Durkin, who is currently on paid leave, and addressed reports of the program's "toxic culture," in an interview with Maryland TV station WUSA9 Friday.
Punter Wade Lees said he hopes Durkin returns because he's "laid the foundation" for the team's success this season.
"These accusations are false, so I really hope that Coach Durkin does come back and coach us because he deserves too," Lees said.
Defensive lineman Oseh Saine addressed allegations in ESPN's report last week on a "toxic" coaching culture within the Terrapins football program. In the report, sources cited an environment based on fear and intimidation, extreme verbal abuse and the endorsement of unhealthy eating habits.
The report, which follows the aftermath of offensive lineman Jordan McNair's death, alleges that coaches forced a player to eat candy bars while watching teammates work out because they wanted the individual to lose weight. When asked if that was true, Saine confirmed the story.
"That did happen," Saine said.
"It is what it is. I believe in their minds it was their way of motivating him to work towards the right direction," Saine added. "Maybe they were a little excessive in that area."
When also asked if he ever saw coaches "verbally belittling" players, Saine also said "that happens."
However, Lees said players who contributed to ESPN's report do not hold the same views as most of the team, and he does not see the program as "toxic."
"I think they could be disgruntled," Lees said. "They could have reasons to not be happy with the program whether it's – I got no idea – it could be playing time, it could be because they've had beef with coaches."
"Just because there's two or three current players and there's past players, there's probably seven total out of 150 pretty much speaking for the whole consensus of the program, which is absolutely fabricated and false," Lees added.
On Aug. 10, ESPN reported that McNair died of a heatstroke and published their explosive in-depth report on the "toxic" culture within the program. McNair collapsed while running 110-yard sprints at a team workout on May 29. He died two weeks later on June 13.
The university placed Durkin on paid leave the following day.
"I like the guy, I think he's a great coach, but I understand there's a process to be taken," Saine said. "I just hope his name and reputation doesn't get tarnished out of all this because he doesn't deserve any of the things people are saying about him."