Baltimore Sun reporters Jeff Barker and Don Markus and editor Matt Bracken weigh in on the three biggest topics of the past week in Maryland sports.
Is Randy Edsall on the hot seat?
Jeff Barker: I’m going to preface my response by saying that this is not my opinion.
Rather, it's something I’ve spoken to the athletic department about because it’s obviously an important subject and you don’t want to just be guessing.
The best answer right now is that Maryland says he’s not on the hot seat.
Maryland is invested in him -- in more ways than one. He’s in the second year of a six-year contract and what Maryland is looking for -- and urgently hoping for -- is improvement. They want to see that Maryland football -- which went 2-10 and has lost season-ticket holders since last year -- is on an upward arc. They're looking for movement.
The bottom line is that they say they want to give him time to build his program.
Realistically, what are the best- and worst-case scenarios for the Maryland football team in terms of how many games the Terps win in Randy Edsall's second season? And what will keep Terp fans off his and Kevin Anderson's backs?
Don Markus: A lot has changed in recent weeks, given the season-ending injuries to junior quarterback C.J. Brown and defensive tackle Andre Monroe, as well as less serious injuries to several other key defensive players, including linebacker Kenny Tate (knee) and safety Matt Robinson (shoulder). While the forecast wasn't very good before the spate of injuries -- the Terps were picked to finish last in the Atlantic Division of the ACC -- the prospects now seem to range between desperate and disastrous.
I thought going into the preseason that the Terps would win between three and five games with Brown at quarterback. I thought the defense would be much improved with the experience the young players received last year and with Brian Stewart a huge upgrade at defensive coordinator over Todd Bradford. I really thought that a key to Maryland taking advantage of its infusion of young, offensive talent such as Stefon Diggs and Wes Brown was seeing whether one of the true freshmen quarterbacks, Perry Hills or Caleb Rowe, could be to this year's team what Danny O'Brien was to the 2010 team as a redshirt freshman.
I even thought there was an outside chance of Maryland winning six games -- and qualifying for a bowl -- if it could win the first three games (William & Mary on Saturday, at Temple next week and Connecticut on Sept. 15) and somehow manage to squeeze out three others (Boston College, Wake Forest, maybe an upset over North Carolina State for homecoming).
But realistically, I thought 4-8 was about as good as it was going to get. It probably wouldn't have been enough to keep the already unhappy fan base from booing Edsall at home games, deluging Anderson with nasty emails about his coach and turning Byrd Stadium into Camden Yards South in terms of attendance. But at least Edsall supporters could claim progress by doubling the win total from last year's 2-10 debacle.
I can't see any of that happening now.
The Terps had better beat William & Mary this weekend -- at least Mary, if not Wiliam -- because this has all the makings of another two-win disaster. Or worse. Given the number of freshmen on the two-deep (14 at last count and that number will likely go up, not down, as the season wears on) the expectations that the Terps will do much better than a year ago seem to be heading in the wrong direction. As solid as Hills has looked in practice, as dynamic as Diggs was in the last scrimmage, they were playing against one of the worst returning defenses in the country. The news on Tate isn't too promising given that he hurt his heretofore healthy knee. A 2-1 start prior to a trip to Morgantown to play West Virginia would at least give the quickly evaporating fan base some hope.
I also have a feeling that the Terps are not done with this recent spate of injuries on the new FieldTurf surface. There is data to show that it's better in terms of reducing concussions and worse for ankle and knee injuries, and that has certainly been the case so far. With that in mind, I think that Maryland's worst-case scenario might be in play here and there's as good a chance that the Terps finish with fewer wins this year (that means one or zero) as there is for them them to go 4-8. I know Anderson has stated that he is going to stick with Edsall regardless of what happens -- and most Maryland fans know that the $2 million a year price tag and what was a six-year contract make his declaration seem likely -- but few coaches survive that kind of start.