Not often does the hiring of a new head coach leave a portion of the fan base longing for the services of the previous one.
That’s what seems to be happening in College Park, Md., however, as the hiring of the University of Connecticut’s Randy Edsall has left a part of Terp Nation wishing Ralph Friedgen was still roaming the sidelines of Byrd Stadium.
Many criticisms have been levied against the hire, and many fans question Edsall’s pedigree. Many more still say they would rather see Friedgen or former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach leading the Terrapin football team next season.
But like it or not, Edsall will be the Terps’ head coach next season, and even though some fans may not see it, Edsall has all the tools to succeed in Maryland. In fact, many of the common criticisms levied against him can be easily disproven.
For starters, many people believe that Edsall is no different than the departed Friedgen, meaning they think Edsall is not a significant improvement to the program. But some of the main problems surrounding Friedgen were his coaching inconsistencies and his lack of recruiting prowess.
Freidgen’s major issues as a head coach may be Edsall’s greatest strengths. Edsall took a program that was a D-IAA team in 1999 and was able to move it up to D-IA in just two seasons, making it the fastest team in NCAA history to move from the FCS to the FBS.
On top of the rapid progression into FBS football, Edsall has proven to be a consistent force for the Huskies. Edsall’s teams finished with at least eight wins in six of 10 seasons in D-IA, including each of the past four seasons. The Huskies have also appeared in five bowl games in that span, culminating in a Big East Championship and a Fiesta Bowl appearance in 2010.
As for recruiting, Edsall is a tireless recruiter, even in a program that lacks many of the resources that Maryland has to offer. The recruiting pipeline in Maryland is much more talent-rich than in Connecticut, giving Edsall a much better chance of landing four and five-star recruits that don’t want to play their college ball in a small program such as UConn.
Another criticism of Edsall is from the business aspect of football. Many critics question Edsall’s ability to fill up Byrd Stadium, one of the main reasons Friedgen was ultimately fired. But, even at a stadium that was a 20-minute bus ride from the UConn campus, the Huskies attendance this season was 38,248 in the 40,000-seat Rentschler Field. Meanwhile, the Terps only brought in 39,168 in the 54,000 Byrd Stadium.
In his time with the Huskies, Edsall has produced a consistent winner, usually without adequate talent at quarterback. Even with the likes of Dan Orlovsky, Tyler Lorenzen and Zach Frazer under center, Edsall’s Huskies produced one of the top rushing attacks in the FBS, having two running backs, Donald Brown and Jordan Todman, finish in the top three in rushing in the past three seasons.
Given the talent that the Terps have at the position with DJ Adams and Davin Megget, plus the ACC Rookie of the Year at quarterback in Danny O’Brien, there is little reason to believe that Edsall won’t find even more success in College Park than he did in Storrs.
So, even in a smaller, off-campus stadium at a basketball-crazy university with limited resources and support, Edsall has shown the ability to put a football team on the field that wins games, sells tickets and finds continued success on and off the football field.