In a lot of ways, 2010 was a dream season for Randy Edsall. But 2011 was a nightmare.
In 2010, Edsall was coach at Connecticut, and he led the Huskies to a Fiesta Bowl appearance. A BCS bowl for UConn? Unbelievable.
He left UConn for Maryland shortly after the Fiesta Bowl, taking over a Terps team that went 9-4 in 2010. But things went horribly wrong in College Park last season, with the Terps sliding to a 2-10 mark and players leaving in droves.
Randy Edsall's second season at Maryland begins with a lot of holes to fill.
Coach: Randy Edsall (2nd season)
Edsall's tenure with the Terps got off to an excellent start, as they rallied to beat Miami on Labor Day night on national TV. But not much went right after that. The only other win came against FCS program Towson (albeit a FCS program that made the playoffs), and there were gut-wrenching losses to Clemson and North Carolina State.
Against the Tigers, Maryland blew a 35-17 lead and lost 56-45, giving up 21 points in the fourth quarter. But that was nothing compared to the loss to the Wolfpack in the regular-season finale. With NCSU needing a win to become bowl-eligible, the Terps roared out to a 34-14 halftime lead, added a third-quarter TD to make it 41-14 and led 41-21 going into the fourth quarter. Then came an epic meltdown, with the Wolfpack scoring five TDs in the final period for a 56-41 victory.
Edsall has made numerous staff changes, bringing in new coordinators on both sides of the ball. Mike Locksley, a former Terps offensive coordinator under Ralph Friedgen, was brought in to oversee the offense. While Locksley's head-coaching reign at New Mexico was a three-season disaster, he had success in his previous run at Maryland and is an excellent recruiter. Houston's Brian Stewart was hired to run the defense. Stewart, a former Dallas Cowboys coordinator, did a solid job in helping the Cougars' defense improve in his three seasons there, and he will install a 3-4 look with the Terps.
The revamped staff has a lot of work to do this spring, on both sides of the ball. Locksley has to find a starting quarterback, a starting tailback, rebuild the line and ramp up the passing attack.
Stewart has to hope the move to the 3-4 helps Maryland against the run. The Terps were 111th nationally in rush defense last season, and Stewart's hope is that the new scheme will get more speed on the field in the front seven. The secondary needs some retooling, as well, and it's vital that some defensive playmakers in the back end emerge.
Biggest problem: Quarterback. Clearly, Maryland's biggest issue going into the spring, with Locksley installing a pro-style attack, is that there is just one quarterback on campus. That is junior C.J. Brown after the recent transfer of returning starter Danny O'Brien. Brown seems well-suited to run Locksley's offense, which will have spread elements that will showcase Brown's zone-read running ability. Still, having just one quarterback is problematic. Rebuilding the line, which lost both starting tackles prematurely, also is important.
On the spot: DT A.J. Francis. Francis, a senior, has started before, but he was a backup last season. Now, he has a final chance to climb back up the depth chart in Maryland's new 3-4 scheme. Senior Joe Vellano is quick and strong enough to play all three line spots, so Francis is hoping to slide back into the starting rotation at nose tackle. With numbers and experience limited on the defensive interior, coaches need Francis to come through.
[ACC spring preview: Clemson among those with work ahead]
On the verge: K/P Nate Renfro. Junior Nick Ferrara, who had an uneven season in 2011 serving as the kicker and punter, recently had hip surgery and will miss spring camp. That leaves Renfro, a redshirt freshman, and walk-on Michael Tart as the only healthy specialists on campus. Renfro likely needs to win one of the starting jobs; he may have to do both, depending on Ferarra's rehab. Special teams were a huge problem last season.
General overview: The key this spring is introducing and installing three new systems/coordinators, with Locksley taking over the offense, Stewart installing a 3-4 defense and running backs coach Andre Powell replacing Lyndon Johnson as special teams coordinator. Gone are OC Gary Crowton and DC Todd Bradford; Johnson remains as Maryland's outside linebacker coach. Edsall had a busy offseason reshaping his staff after last season, and there is a lot of work to be done in all three areas in the next month.
For in-depth coverage of Maryland athletics, go to TerrapinTimes.com
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