Maryland's Edsall Under Pressure in First Big Ten Season

By Mike Young on July 14, 2014 at 11:00 am

While Brady Hoke, Bo Pelini and Tim Beckman's collective failure to meet expectations are familiar to Big Ten fans, Randy Edsall is a new addition to the conference "hot seat." His path to Maryland and standards there differ but, by the end of the season, their fates may be the same.

Before becoming the Terrapins' head coach, Edsall led Connecticut to unforeseen heights. UConn had no history at the Division-IA (FBS) level prior to Edsall, as he took over the program in 1999 and helped transition them from 1-AA to the highest level of competition at the collegiate level. 

In his fifth season, the program moved to a new stadium, with a capacity increase of 23,800. Edsall took the Huskies to their first bowl game in 2004, also their first season in the Big East Conference. The 2007 UConn squad split the Big East title, a huge accomplishment in, albeit, a watered-down conference. He spent the next three seasons in Storrs (playing in Hartford) and went to a bowl game in each of them. 

Edsall earned the reputation as a "program builder," which Maryland didn't necessarily need after coming off a 9-4 season. Still, they made a controversial decision to fire Ralph Friedgen in 2010. Through all of his faults, the former Terps coach had an eye for building a solid staff (see: Bill O'Brien, James Franklin and ace-recruiter Mike Locksley).

Friedgen's firing created enough acrimony between the two that "The Fridge" said he burned his diploma from the university and started rooting for Georgia Tech. Still, Maryland felt like it was worth bringing Edsall, who just led his team to the Fiesta Bowl.

Fairly or unfairly, Edsall wasn't fully embraced when he took over. He departed UConn on poor terms, something which he still regrets. Also, though Maryland was inconsistent since Friedgen's three, 10-win seasons to at the beginning of his tenure, he rebounded well while surrounded by years of speculation around his job security. 

Edsall arrived in 2011 and didn't win anyone over. He didn't win much at all, going 2-10 overall, and 1-7 in the ACC. Despite not having a rich, winning tradition, it was only the second time in school history Maryland's lost 10 games. Their lone conference victory that year came in the season opener against Miami and the other win was against Towson. 

The Terps ended the season on an eight-game losing streak, but that didn't kill the momentum on the recruiting trail. In his first positive development as head coach, stud five-star wideout Stefon Diggs spurned Ohio State and others to stay at home. 

Unfortunately, that was all the good news Maryland received in 2012. The Terrapins, rather infamously, cycled through five different quarterbacks due to injuries. Shawn Petty – who has since transferred – was a scout-team linebacker forced to step in at QB, as one of the few, healthy players with quarterback experience on the roster. For that, in a 4-8 (2-6) season, Edsall earned a pass – even though he ran out of players who could complete one.

Last season marked a turnaround of sorts, as he led Maryland to a 7-6 (3-5) record, which included a berth in the Military Bowl. That came in spite of season-ending injuries to Diggs and fellow five-star receiver Deon Long.

Still, the recruiting momentum continued, with commitments from five-star offensive lineman Damian Prince and a trio of four-star talents. At this point, Edsall has out-recruited his predecessor and his players are out-performing Friedgen's in the classroom. 

As the program enters the Big Ten – yet another transition for Edsall to oversee – it's time for those recruiting stars to translate into victories. He's had time to build depth, so injuries cannot continue to be used as an excuse. 

Just as Maryland fans may think they're turning the proverbial corner, a daunting schedule awaits. Their most difficult games are at home – Ohio State, Iowa and Michigan State – with one road test against budding rival Penn State. Nittany Lions coach James Franklin has made inroads in the Mid-Atlantic area, increasing the pressure on Edsall.

If he rounds out the the 2015 recruiting class as well as he has in the past, and can couple that with another bowl appearance, Edsall's job should be safe. Anything less, which is certainly possible, and Maryland can put their newfound Big Ten money towards paying off the rest of his contract. 

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