Maryland announced the hiring Thursday of former New Mexico coach Mike Locksley as offensive coordinator, then switched its focus to the defense where the evaluation of coach Randy Edsall's staff may lead the team to hire a new defensive coordinator, according to multiple sources.
Maryland began a review of the football program after a 2-10 season ending with eight losses in a row. Several sources said the program — after hiring Locksley to replace Gary Crowton — logically turned its attention to defense, and that coordinator Todd Bradford's job was not safe.
Under Bradford, Maryland ranked last in the Atlantic Coast Conference in defense, surrendering an average of 34.2 points and 457.2 yards per game. Maryland's injury-plagued defense suffered its worst moments in the last game. The team's season-ending, 56-41 defeat at North Carolina State was particularly painful because the Terps held a 27-point, third-quarter lead before surrendering 42 consecutive points.
Asked about Bradford, Edsall said Thursday in an interview: "Every day, we're evaluating." The school was not ready to make an announcement or say that a final decision had been made.
The continuing review of the football program by Edsall and athletic director Kevin Anderson caps a first season transition in which Edsall, who has a six-year contract, seeks to locate the pieces — players and coaches — to build his program around after a difficult start.
Change was evident as Edsall answered questions in his office overlooking the covered Byrd Stadium field. The walls of the Gossett Football Team House were being repainted — a fitting image for the program's shifting look. There was no longer a black name plate on the door of Crowton's vacated former office marked "Offensive Coordinator" and "Quarterbacks Coach."
Maryland negotiated the terms of Crowton's departure last week. The quietly intense former BYU and Louisiana Tech head coach never seemed to find a home in College Park for his no-huddle version of the spread offense.
Crowton had never signed his three-year Maryland contract — he got a guaranteed $500,000 per year — as he continued to finalize terms with the school. Earlier this month, he publicly showed interest in the Colorado State head coaching job — an overture not appreciated by a Maryland program eager to demonstrate stability as the media continues to write about player departures.
Since the season ended, eight players with eligibility remaining have left Maryland. The school has said such turnover is expected so soon after a coaching change. Another 13 players left before the season began.
Some of the former players or their parents have complained that Edsall is too rigid. Edsall, a disciplinarian from the Tom Coughlin coaching tree who prohibits ball caps and earrings during team meetings, has said repeatedly that he abides by two broad rules — be on time and do what's right. The coach, who was hired from Connecticut and took over from Ralph Friedgen after last season, said his discipline was overplayed by the media and that he won't apologize for it because it trains his players for life after football.
Incidents during the season included a player cursing at the coach, another player lying about having ducked academic responsibilities, and a third player failing multiple drug tests, according to sources. A fourth player's father complained to Edsall that the coach had embarrassed his son by making critical remarks in front of the team.
Edsall said Thursday that it would serve no useful purpose to rehash each player's situation. "We've moved on from that," he said.
Asked about players leaving, Edsall replied: "If you have people who end up leaving the program, I think there's always one of three things. There could be behavioral issues, the academic issues or that somebody doesn't really like where they're at in the depth chart."
There was a sense during the interview that Edsall felt limited in what he could say about this past season's team. Others close to the program said that fans may have overestimated the talent returning from a 9-4 team in 2010 that lost receiver Torrey Smith (Ravens), running back Da'Rel Scott (New York Giants) and linebacker Adrian Moten (Seattle Seahawks), among others.
Following a loss to Florida State, Edsall told reporters: "We just don't match up with the speed and athleticism of Clemson and Florida State." One departing player, defensive end David Mackall, said he felt alienated by the remark. "He pretty much lost me because any coach is expected to stick with their soldiers in the middle of battle," said Mackall, who has been granted his release.
Edsall said he is optimistic for a 2012 turnaround. Of the 22 offensive players on the season-ending, two-deep depth chart, only three — offensive lineman R.J. Dill, running back Davin Meggett and receiver Quintin McCree – are not due back. Meggett and McCree exhausted their eligibility and Dill, whose 33 career starts led the team, transferred.
On defense, 17 of the 22 players on the two-deep chart are due to return. It's uncertain if they will be led by Bradford or another coordinator.
Bradford, in his first season with the Terps, was a replacement for Don Brown, who had served as defensive coordinator under Friedgen. Edsall had been impressed enough with Brown — who employed multiple blitz packages — that he wanted to retain him.
But Brown left for Connecticut and Bradford — originally hired from Southern Mississippi as Maryland's inside linebackers coach — was swiftly promoted to coordinator in February.
On offense, Edsall said Locksley plans a pro-style offense with multiple sets. "We're going to tailor the offense to the specific needs of the young men who are out there playing," Edsall said. Playing in an offense in which he was occasionally expected to take off on option runs, Maryland quarterback Danny O'Brien — who seems to prefer a pro-style offense — clearly wasn't the same passer under Crowton in 2011 as he was in his first season, in which he was named ACC Rookie of the Year.
At New Mexico in 2009, Locksley had an altercation with a former New Mexico assistant. Locksley served a 10-day suspension and apologized to the assistant and to Lobos fans. Also in 2009, a former administrative assistant filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accusing Locksley of age discrimination and sexual harassment. Locksley countered with a defamation lawsuit. Maryland said it fully vetted Locksley and is comfortable with him.
Locksley, a native of Washington, D.C., was 2-26 at New Mexico but is known as a top recruiter. "If we can find a way to keep the top players in our backyard home — or as many as we can take — the school will be right back where it needs to be," said Locksley, whose experience includes six years (1997-02) as an assistant to former Maryland head coaches Ron Vanderlinden and Friedgen.
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