Edsall, O’Brien & Terps at an Early Crossroads

October 18, 2011 | Thyrl Nelson

It seems tough to fathom, but it appears that just 6 games in to his career as head coach of the Terps football team Randy Edsall has already reached a crossroads. After debuting on national television with a new look and an apparently new attitude to the tune of a win over the undermanned Miami Hurricanes, the Terps have dropped 4 of 5 since and appear to be scrambling on a number of fronts.

Edsall was sure to get his fair share of criticism if things didn’t break well for the Terps this season as many are still put off by the manner in which Ralph Friedgen was shown the door (including Friedgen himself). But as things have slowly devolved in this his inaugural season the coach himself has done little to win favor with the fans, as his “no I in team” mentality is somehow lost in the translation as he publicly berates his players and singles them out for their mistakes.


What happened against #8 Clemson on Saturday was encouraging for sure, but may ultimately represent one step forward and two steps back for the Terps if it winds up costing them quarterback Danny O’Brien going forward. It’s worth mentioning as well that encouragement is relative as we are still talking about another loss


There’s no doubt that CJ Brown has given the offense a spark in his limited playing opportunities this year. That Edsall gave him the start against a Clemson team that had proven strong on both sides of the ball seemed a relatively safe proposition in the grand scheme of things, as O’Brien likely didn’t need the beating that he’d be taking from the Tigers and as it didn’t seem likely that Brown would have much success against them either. Instead Brown baffled the Clemson defense with his feet and authored one side of arguably the best offensive showdown in college football this season (my money is still on Baylor & TCU but call this one a close second).


Having performed as well as he did in the loss would certainly seem to position Brown as the starter going forward, and if his improbable success continues would likely position O’Brien to look for the proverbial door at his next opportunity.


Once the dust on the coaching search had settled on Edsall last winter, priority #1 it seemed was making sure that his ACC rookie of the Year winning quarterback would indeed be his. And while O’Brien ultimately did commit himself to Edsall and the Terps it seems that Edsall’s commitment to O’Brien is waning at best.


There’s little or no argument for benching Brown now, but as real quarterbacking skills go however there’s little or no argument that O’Brien isn’t the better commodity. The question now seems to be who is the better fit in Edsall’s offense / program?


For O’Brien supporters, the next question is how much of Brown’s success against Clemson was based on the fact that his feet make his skill set so disparate to O’Brien’s and that in preparing for O’Brien the Tigers were left flat footed in the first half. We’ll see if Brown looks as good going forward as defenses begin to prepare for his running and force him to be a quarterback. If he passes that test that might be all she wrote for O’Brien and the Terps.


As Edsall is embarking on an outright cultural makeover, maybe it stands to reason that he’d have to get more of his own guys in there before expecting to be successful on the field. Lord knows that winning with the previous regime’s players was more of a knock against Friedgen than a feather in his cap. Still, Edsall doesn’t seem to be doing himself many favors in the meantime.