The State of Maryland in Flux

Changes aplenty in College Park as Terps assistant coach James Franklin became the head coach at Vanderbilt and reports point to head coach Ralph Friedgen not coming back for 2011

To echo the great Vince Lombardi, Terp Nation is likely wondering: “What the hell is going on here?”

After offensive coordinator and recruiting specialist James Franklin accepted the head coaching position at Vanderbilt earlier in the week, the same position at Maryland going forward suddenly became a question.

Franklin was expected to succeed Ralph Friedgen when his contract expired at the conclusion of 2011, but Franklin has departed it is being reported that new Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson does not want Friedgen to assume a lame-duck job for one more season.

It was reported by ESPN that Anderson is pushing for Friedgen to retire, or the university will simply buy out his current deal for $2M. Maryland recently saved $1M when Franklin chose to go to Vandy.

With Friedgen likely out after over a decade with the Terps, the three most popular candidates who are linked to replace him are Mike Leach, Tyrone Willingham and Mike Locksley. Here is what each coach brings to Maryland:

From 2000-2009, Leach was at the helm of the most dynamic college football offense in history. The “Air Raid Offense,”Leach’s version of the spread, transformed Texas Tech into a regular power in the Big 12. Leach’s 84-43 record with the Red Raiders puts him atop their school history with wins.

Leach, considered an offensive guru, would be an outstanding mastermind with the Terps talent. After developing some of the best passing attacks in recent memory, Leach could tutor young Danny O’Brien and utilize weapons like Torrey Smith much like he did with current NFL wide-outs Wes Welker and Michael Crabtree.

Absent from the game since his stint as head coach of Washington, Willingham has been in control at major college football powers Stanford and Notre Dame. After coaching the Cardinal to four bowl games, Willingham assumed the most prestigious job in college football in South Bend.

With the Irish, Willingham won the Home Depot Coach of the Year award in 2002, his first season for leading the team to a 10-3 record. Following that season, however, Willingham’s team faltered, going an unprecedented 11-12, paving the way for a Charlie Weis hire.

In Locksley, there is a lot of familiarity with Maryland. In 1992, Locksley worked within the state at nearby Towson. He then had a six-year stint with the Terps where he served as running backs coach and recruiting coordinator.

Since then, Locksley has assumed head coaching duties with New Mexico. In two seasons though, Locksley has just one win on his resume. He is still, however, a prominent recruiter in the state of Maryland.

Leach’s name has surfaced as the most likely fit with the Terps, due in part to his connection with former Terp Kevin Plank, now head of Maryland sponsor Under Armour. His impact on the field is obvious – he had his Red Raiders score in the seventies on the regular. Off the field though, Leach could revamp the Terps’ recruiting.

After speaking with a 2012 Maryland prospect, the idea of Leach at the helm of the Terps is suddenly re-sparking his interest in the team. Months ago, Maryland had slipped on his list. Now he is definitely going to attend the Maryland camp.

A decision on the future of Friedgen and his replacement is expected to be announced in the coming days. After receiving his second Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year award just weeks ago, you have to laugh at how quickly the tides can turn.

Twitter: @samspiegs

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