Maryland's Edsall Building To Last
By Ed Sheahin
When Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson made the unpopular decision to fire player- and fan-favorite Ralph Friedgen as football coach following the 2010 season, no one knew what to expect.
Would he go for the home-run and try to land a John Gruden or Mike Leach?
From left field the name Randy Edsall surfaced and soon after, he was offered the position. It shouldn't have been a surprise since Edsall had ties with the program and Anderson, not to mention he had just led the Connecticut football program to a BCS bowl game.
It sounded like a marriage made in heaven: A young, energetic coach with great recruiting ties matched with a football program rich in tradition looking to contend for a BCS bowl annually.
Flash forward two years with a brief recap of Edsall’s tenure at Maryland to this point: He's alienated nearly every media outlet in the Washington Metropolitan area by closing practices and limiting access to players. He ran off many of Friedgen’s recruits, including ACC Freshman of the Year quarterback Danny O’Brien. The team has stumbled through two losing seasons, blowing huge leads and losing a large number of players to injuries (including four quarterbacks last season).
Let’s just say it hasn't been a smooth start for the former Big East Coach of the Year (2010).
Through all this turnover and turmoil, Edsall has stuck to his plan to build a national power at the University of Maryland.
For those old enough to remember, Ford Motors once produced the Edsel (1958-60), a car designed, built and marketed to close the gap between Ford Motors and General Motors. Only, it failed miserably after three years. Maryland's Edsall is thriving in year three, building a football program preparing to compete in the Big Ten in 2014.
The Terps entered the 2013 lame-duck ACC season with minimal expectations from those outside the program. At best, experts projected the Terps to finish with a 6-6 record. But a schedule that includes Florida State, Virginia Tech, Clemson, West Virginia, Syracuse and N.C. State had many projecting four to five wins this season.
The Maryland Terrapins (2-0) are off to an unusually fast start. Still, the competition (Florida International and Old Dominion) doesn't have alumni bragging about the wins around the water cooler. This weekend, Edsall and his Terps visit the school that launched his career when they travel North to Storrs, Conn., to play the Huskies, a team that has stewed for two weeks coming off a humbling opening weekend loss to Towson, 33-18.
Edsall has downplayed his return to Connecticut all week. That said, this game could dictate the Terps' season with a victory over a legitimate FBS football program, resulting in a 3-0 start and leaving the team only three wins from becoming bowl eligible with nine games remaining.
Does Edsall need the Terrapins to secure a bowl bid for him to lead the program into the Big Ten in 2014? Many say yes. But Anderson and three more years on his contract say no.
Edsall has rebuilt this program from the ground up. Now, the word “up” is a loose term. Maryland hasn't made great strides leading into this season.
It has been a process, starting with Edsall recruiting players to fit his systems. When Maryland hired Edsall, he first mentioned the key to his success was keeping homegrown talent in the area.
True to his word, Edsall has spent a great deal of time recruiting in the state of Maryland. Currently, there are 105 players on the Terps' football roster, of which, 48 players (46 percent) are from the state of Maryland.
I’ve personally seen Edsall at several local high school football games, so I know he is putting forth the effort to land Maryland recruits.
Where he’s had success recruiting in the state of Maryland, the opposite can be said for the other DMV (District/Maryland/Northern Virginia) recruiting hotbeds.
Edsall only has seven DC recruits (6 percent) on the current Maryland roster. The District of Columbia has become a huge national recruiting location during the last decade, with players like Coolidge’s NT Marvin Austin (UNC/NY Giants), Dunbar’s WR Arrelious Benn (Illinois/Eagles), Ballou’s DB LeCount Fantroy (UNC), and Ballou’s WR Larry Pinkard (ODU) to name a few.
To compete in the Big Ten, Edsall and his staff must land a majority of the District’s top recruits. These players can no longer slip away.
Additionally, Northern Virginia has always been a strong recruiting area for Maryland. Not anymore. There are only four players (3 percent) on Maryland’s roster from the entire state of Virginia, the same amount they have on their roster from Georgia. The Northern Virginia area is where the best of the best play in the DMV. This has to change for Maryland to even consider competing in the Big Ten.
Maryland’s admissions requirements are not the same as some of the schools they compete with in the ACC. Edsall and his staff can recruit the best of the best in the area, but that does not mean they’re walking through the doors at College Park.
Competing in the Big Ten will mean Maryland will face schools with the same academic standards. To complete his plan, Edsall has to find a way to recruit the upper echelon of the entire DMV.
In Maryland, Edsall’s staff has developed the beginning stages of a pipeline with national high school powers Good Counsel (Olney, Md.) and Gilman (Baltimore). Both are private schools who have the ability to recruit young talent.
Edsall surely will start to build the same relationships with private Virginia and DC schools to complete his plan.
Rome wasn't built in a day, nor will the Maryland football program. It is a process. Those who understand will have patience. The isolated media, though, likely will not.