The Maryland Terrapins just put a bow on a 2-10 season with an epic collapse at North Carolina State, blowing a 27-point lead and falling, 56-41. Before the season began, it would have been unheard of for the team to fall apart that much over the course of about 20 minutes, but having seen the way the Terps have played this year, I'm not sure anyone was particularly surprised about the outcome of that one.
We could talk about how the offense fell apart or that the defense couldn't seem to stop anyone in the last quarter in a half, but now that the season is over, it doesn't seem that productive to dredge things up like that. We'll choose instead to look forward. Where can the Maryland Terrapins football program go from here, and what changes do they need to make so that the 2012 season does not resemble the last few months?
Randy Edsall has too much money on his contract to be let go, and he deserves more than one year to show what he can do with this team. This year's disaster aside, I honestly expect things to get better when he has more time with his players and is able to get some more of "his guys" in the system. But after the head coach, I expect everyone on the coaching staff to be eligible to go.
This has to start with defensive coordinator Todd Bradford. In 2010, the Terps' defense was the strength of the team. In 2011, they seemed to have no organization and very little idea what they were trying to accomplish. It seemed like one of their opponents was setting a career high in something every week.
The same goes for special teams, which was a problem all year, This is probably the most difficult pill to swallow because special teams has less to do with the talent on the field than any other phase of the game. The Terps had very few, if any, significant returns on the year and their coverage team was always putting their defense in difficult spots. Special teams is all about effort, and that has to be on coordinator Lyndon Johnson.
There will be a lot of fans asking for Edsall to release Gary Crowton, and I can't say they are without reason. But he is the biggest name on the staff besides Edsall, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him stick around for just that reason.
Losing The Team
The biggest problem with the Terps this year is that they didn't seem to show up for every game. There are a couple of reasons why this could be, but from the outside looking in, it looks like they didn't play that hard for Edsall. The quotes from defensive end David Mackall on his way out of the program, via Jeff Barker by way of Testudo Times, seem to back that up.
"After the Florida State game, he said that we didn't have enough talent, that we didn't have enough players to compete with teams like Florida State and Clemson," Mackall said. [Ed's note: he did indeed.] "He pretty much lost me because any coach is expected to stick with their soldiers in the middle of battle. I felt like he really wasn't focused on us or the task at hand by that comment." [snip]
Some issues are to be expected whenever there is a coaching change, but it seems like Edsall's disciplinary style didn't mesh with this current team at all. That could change in the next few years as he continues to get more of his guys in the system, but he still has to play for a couple seasons with the majority of his contributions coming from players from the previous regime. If he can't win the players who decide to stay back, it could be an equally long season next year.
One of the biggest things that will aid the team next year will also be the most difficult to make happen. When Maryland took on Miami, it had an enormous and extremely vocal crowd that helped cheer the team to a win. As the losses piled up, the crowd just continued to disappear.
I don't blame them for that at all, since it's hard to come and see your team get blown out week after week. But the fans need to separate the 2012 team from the 2011 squad next year. It wouldn't be unheard of for Edsall to organize a big turnaround in his second year as head coach, but it will be very difficult for the team to win, and for Edsall to to recruit effectively for that matter, if the fans don't come out and support the team. This team was extremely disappointing, yes, but next fall will bring new hope and the expectation that Edsall can turn things around. Without support from the fans who hopefully have a short memory, that might not be able to happen.
It's hard to swallow, but the Terps won just two games this year, and neither of them were against a full strength FBS opponent. But it's easier to look forward than it is to look back. Edsall and the coaching staff has a lot of improvements they need to make, but with a long offseason ahead of them, they just might be able to get it done.
For more on the Terps, visit Testudo Times.