Edsall tries to 'roll with the flow' at Maryland

Terps coach has two assistant coaching spots to fill, 2012 recruiting class to focus on

February 04, 2011|By Jeff Barker, The Baltimore Sun

COLLEGE PARK — — Two DVDs sat Friday on the desk of the roomy but still undecorated office of new Maryland football coach Randy Edsall. Alongside the discs were documents marked "Maryland Football Prospect Rating Form."

In the next few days, Edsall will watch the prospects' videos — both are high-school juniors — read the players' ratings given by his staff, and decide whether to seek oral commitments from them.

Those tasks might have been among Edsall's top priorities, but on this day they were dwarfed by defensive coordinator Don Brown's decision — Edsall said he learned of it in Friday morning — to leave Maryland to assume the same position at the University of Connecticut. Brown's departure means Edsall, who came to Maryland from Connecticut a month ago, must hire his second defensive coordinator. He is already in the process of hiring his second running backs coach. The first, David Walker, left for an assistant's job with the Indianapolis Colts less than four weeks after Maryland announced his arrival.

If multi-tasking all those assignments sounds frenzied, it's about what Edsall, 52, expected. Becoming a head coach at a BCS-conference school is akin to stepping aboard a spinning baggage carousel. Coaches must grow accustomed to 16-hour days, firings, resignations, hirings, and recruiting travel that makes them frequent hotel guests and fast-food diners.

"It never goes how you script it," said Edsall, interviewed in his bare Gossett Football Team House office. After 10 years, ousted coach Ralph Friedgen had previously hung enough items in the office that the wall colors had been barely noticeable. The red-and-white walls were barren Friday, although Edsall had set up some family photos and a Brooks Robinson-autographed bat on shelves.

"You just roll with the flow," said Edsall, wearing khaki pants, a button-down shirt and a black vest with "Terps" on the front. "You always have a list of names of people you're thinking about [hiring]."

Hiring for Walker's spot is tricky because he was also the school's lead recruiter in Baltimore. It would be a plus — although not essential — to replace him with somebody familiar with the city. "If you're a good recruiter, you can recruit anywhere," Edsall said.

Edsall said he hopes to be able to attract more than a handful of recruits next year from the talent-rich Baltimore-Washington-Virginia region. There were five recruits from the region in the 20-member class that Maryland announced Wednesday on National Signing Day.

Edsall said he has no problem playing freshmen — particularly in the "skill" positions — if they are ready. He said offensive and defensive linemen often require a redshirt season to mature.

Under Edsall's system, the area recruiter locates a prospect and passes him on to the position coach. The position coach then refers the player to John Dunn, who is the recruiting coordinator. Finally, Edsall makes his evaluation.

To emphasize keeping top talent close to home, Edsall has assigned each coaching assistant a section of Maryland-Washington-Virginia in addition to their recruiting duties in states farther away.

Walker had been assigned Baltimore City as well as Harford and Cecil Counties. Offensive coordinator Gary Crowton has Howard County, wide receivers coach Lee Hull has Prince George's County, offensive line coach Tom Brattan has Montgomery County, and defensive line coach Greg Gattuso has Frederick, Garrett, Allegany and Washington counties. Tight ends coach Dunn has Anne Arundel and the Eastern Shore. Special teams and outside linebackers coach Lyndon Johnson has the District of Columbia, and inside linebackers coach Todd Bradford has northern Virginia.

Brown had been assigned to Baltimore and Carroll Counties. He was an important recruiter for Maryland, particularly in Florida.

Edsall receives a rating form from his staff containing items such as a recruit's weight, speed, grade-point average, SAT scores, strong points, weak points and a grade ranging from 1 to 9.

All the reviews and scores lead to a final assessment of "a player you can't win with," "a player you can win with," or "a player that can win for you." The latter represents the best possible review.

Edsall knows recruiting from a variety of perspectives. He was frequently on the road as an assistant coach with Syracuse in the 1980s.

A 1988 U.S. News and World Report article described his recruiting style: "After a few minutes of small talk, he launches into a smooth pitch for Syracuse. First come 15 minutes on academics and the value of a Syracuse education. If the prospect is interested in communications, Edsall points out that Ted Koppel is an alumnus. Then comes football talk, how the Orangemen should be strong for years, their redshirt policy, what a practice day is like."

Edsall's life has been a blur since he arrived. He flew directly to Maryland for his interview from his former Connecticut team's Fiesta Bowl game in Glendale, Ariz. He said he returned to Connecticut to pick up "a bag of clothes" before immediately returning to recruit and try to complete his staff.

Maryland's coaching transition has had some delicate moments. Friedgen had wanted to return to say a final goodbye to his players at the annual football banquet at the end of last month.

Edsall could have attended, but said it might have been "awkward," and that he wanted to give Friedgen his moment. So he did not go.

"That was his team," Edsall said of Friedgen.

Baltimore Sun reporter Matt Bracken contributed to this article.

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

twitter.com/mattbracken

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