COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- The Edsall Era is over at Maryland.
On Oct. 11, Randy Edsall was fired five games into his fifth season guiding the Terrapins, a fate that was being whispered a week ago and became inevitable by the time Maryland dropped its third consecutive game Saturday at No. 1 Ohio State. The veteran coach, hired in 2011 to replace the popular Ralph Friedgen, posted a 22-34 record at Maryland, including an 0-12 mark against ranked opponents.
With rumors hounding the program this past week, it was a circumstance the taciturn Edsall might have termed “poor technique,” and one that ultimately forced Maryland Athletics Director Kevin Anderson’s hand. Anderson assured the gathered media in the Glazer Auditorium at Gossett Team House that no decision had actually been made until Oct. 11.
“This morning when I woke up I had made my decision,” Anderson said. “I hadn’t made my decision until this morning. It started back the second game of the season when we looked at how we played…and we did not show progress, and the way we were losing brought this to my attention that this might need to be addressed.”
Maryland lost 48-27 to Bowling Green in that second game, the first of four losses in five games since a season-opening victory over Richmond.
Anderson also announced that offensive coordinator Mike Locksley would take over as interim coach, the timing right with the Terrapins in a bye week before resuming action Oc.t. 24, against Penn State in Baltimore.
In addition to Edsall, assistant head coach/outside linebackers coach Lyndon Johnson was also relieved in a day Anderson termed a “whirlwind.
“I met with Randy, and we had a short period of time before we were going to meet with the team, so I had to walk in and ask Mike if he would be willing to take this over,” said Anderson.
Locksley, a Washington, D.C., native in his second stint coaching at Maryland, has previous head coaching experience, going 2-26 in three seasons at New Mexico State. “Randy opened up the doors at Maryland and gave me the opportunity to come back. I will be forever grateful for him for doing that. I am also appreciative of Kevin and all the athletic staff for their confidence in me at this time to lead the program. I had an opportunity to meet with the (football) staff. I had an opportunity to meet with the team, and I can tell you that we are all committed to finishing the job that we started six weeks ago.
“We have the bye week coming up which gives us an opportunity to go back and take a look at all three phases of our program, as well as recruiting. We’ve made the commitment to give our focus, energy and effort to finishing up this season as strong as we can possibly finish.”
Locksley addressed the team in a short meeting Oct. 11, trying to keep their weekly schedule as normal as possible. “The big thing is change is obviously tough,” said Locksley. “And I told them there are two things we can do with the change: We can dwell on it or we can move forward. As a team and as a program, we made the decision to move forward.”
Locksley said he didn’t anticipate “wholesale changes” but did say he told the team there would be “tweaks” based on his philosophy. One thing came across loud and clear, moving forward, Perry Hills will be the quarterback.
The redshirt junior and dual running and passing threat started the year at QB, but was benched in favor of pure passer Caleb Rowe. Before the Ohio State game, Edsall and Locksley made the decision to go back to Hills and tailor the offense more to his skills. The result was a Maryland QB rushing record 170 yards and the Terrapins hanging with the No. 1 team in the land late into the third quarter.
“Stabilizing the quarterback position first and foremost was the most important thing for us to do,” said Locksley. “What you saw (Saturday) was a byproduct of us stabilizing. The decision was made [Oct. 4] by Coach (Edsall) and I that Perry Hills was our quarterback and he wouldn’t have to look back over his shoulder.”
Locksley said Hills’ skillset necessitated some changes in the offense away from some of the drop-back principles designed to highlight Rowe’s arm. Rowe threw 12 interceptions in four games, though, and Hills moved back in at Ohio State where the Maryland offense at times looked the best it had all season.
Elusive cornerback Will Likely made an offensive appearance on a jet sweep and quarterback-turned-fullback Shane Cockerille lined up in a wildcat formation in just a couple of new outside-the-box looks.
Anderson praised some of the things he saw at Ohio State in the 49-28 loss. “Fans want exciting, wide-open offense and I think part of why we weren’t as successful these last six games is (now) we’re going to open up the offense. There are things we can do that we did yesterday at Ohio State. I think we’re going to continue it and embellish that. You look at some of the better coaches, great coaches, and they bring that kind of enthusiasm to the game. That’s what I’ll be looking for.”
Locksley compared a second shot at being a head coach to being a parent. “It’s like having kids and having the first one and learning by trial. The second one comes and because of those experiences, you’re able to learn from them and not necessarily make some of the same mistakes you made that first go-around. The only expectations I have is to find a way to make these next 6-7 weeks as fun and as productive as I can for these players. There’s still a lot of football to played.”
Anderson also said what he’s looking for from the Maryland players. “The one thing that we asked them to demonstrate from this day forward is that football is a passionate game and you need to have love and passion. And the other thing we want them to do is go out there and have fun. We’ve got six games left and we don’t want it to be for naught. Their legacy could be that ‘We’re going to go out and compete and win these next six games,” and move on from there.’”
Maryland Job More Attractive Now
Edsall had signed a three-year contract extension in June, following back-to-back 7-6 seasons and bowl appearances. He received a $71,000 annual raise, up to $2.1 million a year, and was scheduled to make $2.5 million in 2017. Anderson also addressed that issue vaguely. “There is a short term cost but we feel there will be long-term benefits. Entering the Big Ten and our association with the conference has changed our economic model, and we’ll be able to weather this. “
He also emphasized that no state funds are used in Maryland athletics, and that as a coaching search would begin, the Terrapins were in much better shape than the last time the job was open.
“We have more resources than when Randy came in five years ago,” he said. “In a couple of years we will have an indoor (practice) facility and we have a better revenue stream. I think also playing in the Big Ten will make it an attractive job so I think we are in a better position than we were five years ago.
So what will Anderson be looking for in a coach?
“I know that we want somebody that’s going to come in here and continue the work that we’ve done and be successful on the football field. It’s very important that we have all three aspects of this program: That we have someone committed to the academic mission, to developing good men, and to also win on the field. We want somebody that is going to come in here and excite the fan base.”
Anderson said he would better know what questions to ask and would have more ”data” to use in making the big football hire this time. He also said Locksley would have a chance to be considered a candidate though it’s not something the two have discussed at this point.
Anderson said “We have come up short on the field, but where we were as program five years ago, and where we are now, I’m very proud to say we’ve been able to make vast improvements in many areas. This season has been disappointing because I thought we would have been further along.”
Anderson said he was personally “disappointed” that he had not made a decision until the morning of Oct. 11 in regard to the way “things were portrayed last week. I want to personally apologize to Randy, because that’s not the way things are supposed to happen. I don’t know who decided last Thursday that I had made a decision, but I hadn’t.”
Anderson lauded Edsall, who was not at the press conference, particularly for his work on the academic side with the team. “It’s always difficult when you have change, and today we’re making a change,” he opened the press conference. “I talked with Randy Edsall earlier today and told him we were making a change at the head football coach, and Randy was the ultimate professional. He thanked me for giving me the opportunity and I thanked him for the opportunity of letting me work with him.”
Anderson said the “significant setback” the last six games, including being outscored 122-34 the last three losses, made him make a move and desire “a change in the last six games and one of my expectations is that we will see progress.”
And that’s where Locksley comes in.
“The good thing about this team is I don’t think there was a ‘division,’” he said. “Obviously this is shocking news to all of us, and having been on both sides of it, I think the initial shock, you have to deal with the emotion that comes along with the tough decisions that have been made. I think if you recruit the right kind of guys, and we have the right kind of guys in our program. They’re all competitive. They’re all prideful. I think we’ll rally together. These kids want to go out and win.”