COLLEGE PARK — It was Randy Edsall himself who said early in the 2011 season that the job of turning the Maryland football program into a major Atlantic Coast Conference power wasn't going to be easy and it certainly wasn't going to be done overnight.
Still, he couldn't have imagined how hard it would be to compete in his first season after replacing Ralph Friedgen, and no one expected the upheaval that has accompanied the Terps' 2-10 collapse. Edsall has lost or chased away 20 players, replaced offensive coordinator Gary Crowton and might soon do the same with defensive coordinator Todd Bradford.
The 2011 season was so disappointing that it left Terps fans and boosters in a crisis of confidence in both their new football coach and second-year athletic director Kevin Anderson. Edsall remains adamant that he is taking the program in the right direction, but his honeymoon period was over in a hurry.
Players struggled to adapt to his highly structured program, and sophomore quarterback Danny O'Brien all but fell off the map after being named ACC Rookie of the Year during Friedgen's 9-4 final season in 2010.
The postseason backlash was so sharp that Anderson announced that he and Edsall would conduct a thorough review of the program, a re-evaluation process that apparently remains in progress.
Edsall sat down with The Baltimore Sun to talk about his first season and what's ahead for Maryland football.
In a few days, you will have completed your first full year as the head coach of the University of Maryland football team, and by all accounts — including your own — it has been a struggle and a learning experience for everyone involved. Is this still your dream coaching job?
Oh, yeah. I'm not deterred at all from what I want to accomplish and what I want to accomplish for this university and what I want to accomplish with our players here. So, no, I feel good about the direction we're going and what we need to get done. I feel great about everything that's going on.
This isn't your first rodeo, so you knew that a coaching change — especially on the team coming off a winning season — was going to cause some discomfort and shake up the status quo. Do you feel like you've come out on the other side of that yet?
I think that anytime you have a transition, there's going to be change and discomfort for people, but I just feel very, very good about where we're going. I know that the two weeks we had in the weight room, seeing the guys leaving here the last few days, going home from finals, then getting away till Jan. 24, not being involved with the winter session taking classes. Getting back here on the 25th, knowing what we've got in store. Like I said, I feel really good about where we're going.
I'm trying to choose the right word here. In your career, looking back over the last four or five months, is this the most embattled you've ever been?
I would probably say I've had as many challenges as any place I've been either as an assistant coach or a head coach in terms of going in and implementing a program. I think that there's been more coverage on what has taken place than any place that I've ever been. … Here, it's different, and that's part of the learning process because you just don't know the landscape coming in, especially with Kevin Anderson being new, [university president] Dr. [Wallace] Loh being new. With a lot of different faces here, the landscape is totally different. I think that was something I know I learned a lot about in the first year.
So, you had to navigate that. You know how to be a football coach, but you had to navigate this whole new environment, and that factored into it if there were differences in perception.
I think anytime you come in and do something new, there are always going to be lessons learned and mistakes made. I think what happens is, I've always been the type of guy to say, "OK," once we've gone through things, you sit back and say, "OK, there are mistakes that I made." I'm not perfect. I'm never going to be perfect. There are always things you can do better. If you have a lot of pride in what you do, you're going to be more critical of yourself than anybody else could ever be of you. Yeah, there were mistakes made, and, you know what, all the things that go on are my responsibility, so I take full responsibility for not winning enough games, but I take responsibility for getting our kids to perform at a higher academic level, too. That's the part you see. Everybody sees what you do on the field, and that's the big part because when you're coaching, what happens is, you're measured by how many you win and how many you lose. We failed in that regard this year, but we succeeded in many, many other areas that we want to get established.