Archives for posts with tag: Randy Edsall
PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM-
“Don’t let it be forgot
That once there was a spot
For one brief shining moment that was known
As Camelot.”

Have you ever tried to re-heat a souffle?  It can’t be done.  And along those lines while it’s easy to go home again for visits it’s nearly impossible to recreate the magic of what once was.  For one brief shining moment last decade, the University of Connecticut was a player in big-time football.  Look it up.  A 33-19 record over a four-year span from 2007 to 2010.  Sharing the Big East Conference championship twice within a four year stretch.  A trip to the Fiesta Bowl.  Even with the qualifier “Big East Football” in the mix,  the Huskies had come a long way from competing in the Yankee Conference and being the decidedly fourth rung on the school’s sports ladder (behind men’s and women’s basketball as well as men’s soccer).

Randy Edsall had created a BCS conference contender out of a I-AA program (yes, it was classified as that during the pre-FCS days) before answering the siren call of the University of Maryland;  a position that he said was his “dream job”.  Only the reality was less ideal than the dream, and Edsall was gone after four and a half seasons with a 22-34 record.

As disappointing as his tenure in College Park may have been, things got worse in Storrs. Paul Pasqualoni was flushed out after going 10-18 and his eventual replacement, Bob Diaco, departed after an 11-26 mark that may have included a bowl berth but will forever be known for creating the infamous “Civil ConFLiCT” trophy.

So after the dust cleared it only seemed natural to bring back the man to rebuild what was once built-if anyone can make UConn work, it’s Randy Edsall.  Only things haven’t been that easy in round two:  the Huskies are 6-26 and this year have drawn fewer than 20,000 fans in three of their four home games thus far.  He addressed the challenge during one of his weekly press conferences last year.  “We did it before, and we’re working to do it again,” Edsall said. “And it’s hard. And it’s harder now than what it was then because our generation has changed, society has changed.”

Yes, society has changed. It does every year and the kids of 2019 are nothing like the kids from 2000 when he began his first run with the Huskies, but the winning coaches adapt instead of pointing fingers.  “It’s today’s generation. It’s frustrating because there’s been no accountability in a lot of households and there’s been no accountability with these kids growing up,” Edsall said at a press conference last month. “They’ve never had it tough. They’ve never known how to work. They’ve never known how to sacrifice and be disciplined. And that’s the tough thing. And we’re trying to change all those things.”

Meanwhile, in the bad optics department, Edsall gets bonuses not just for victories but for statistical achievements.  The Hartford Courant published an article last November detailing his bonus structure, one that includes $2,000 payouts for scoring first and leading at the half.  Earlier this year when the Huskies lost 56-21 to UCF (no trophy was in play), Edsall collected $2,000 because UConn had a “better red zone scoring percentage” than the Knights.  Scoring two grand in a 35-point loss.  Now that’s accountability of a different sort.

College football is a long game when one is building a program; just look at how long it took Edsall to get things going at UConn in his previous tenure.  And recruiting classes can help things turn on a dime sometimes.  But the Huskies re-joining the Big East in their other sports places this program at a crossroads-not unlike the crossroads they were at when the school elected to make a play for the big time and hired Edsall in 1999.  Will the rain hold off until after sundown this time?

 

Alma Mater Update- the Orange are actually favored this week against Boston College, and unless they beat the Eagles this will likely be the last time they’ll be favored in 2019.  SU’s currently 0-4 in the ACC, and their most recent conference win came at BC last November. That victory was a fun one for yours truly as I got to hang out with my roommate from freshman year Bob Goeldner and also run into a friend from high school Lynn Morganstern LeVeille. Her daughter now cheers for Syracuse.  The wins and losses fade but the smiles and good times endure.  Except for the excruciating losses–those stick with me forever.

 

Friday’s Game-

Navy (6-1, 4-1 AAC) at Connecticut (2-6, 0-4), 8 p.m. (ESPN).

Another aspect of Edsall’s bonus structure is a $10,000 payout if the Huskies at the end of the season rank in the top half of the AAC in major offensive categories;  there is little threat of him collecting as UConn is currently 10th in rushing and passing efficiency, 11th in scoring and 12th in yards gained and third down conversions (I know what you’re thinking-they’re too focused on pass protection that ranks 9th in the conference).  Despite a second half defensive fade against Tulane, the Midshipmen clinched bowl eligibility for the 15th time in 17 seasons with last week’s win over the Green Wave.  It’s a good thing for the academy that head coach Ken Niumatalolo doesn’t collect on similar bonuses:  the Mids are tops in the AAC in rushing offense and defense, as well as total and scoring defense.

Presto’s Pick: Midshipmen move closer to a division title with a 45-13 win.

 

Saturday’s Games-

Maryland (3-5, 1-4 Big Ten) at No. 14 Michigan (6-2, 3-2), noon (ABC).

Somehow this is Homecoming; excuse me?  Aren’t homecomings reserved for the likes of Indiana/Illinois/Rutgers/Purdue?  Taking the Rutgers win out of the equation, the Terps are allowing 46 points per game in conference play.  The Wolverines come to College Park fresh off of a season-salvaging 45-14 rout of then-top ten Notre Dame.  They also bring a defense that ranks fourth in the Big Ten with 25 sacks and is third best in the conference at getting off of the field on third down.  That’s bad news for a quarterback carousel that includes one player who’s day-to-day with a leg injury, another who’s still recovering from an ankle injury, and a third who’s a true freshman.

Presto’s Pick: Terrapins tumble, 41-17.

 

Virginia Tech (5-2) at No. 15 Notre Dame (5-2), 2:30 p.m. (NBC).

The Hokies are coming off of their bye week; they probably needed more time after the six-overtime triumph over North Carolina.  They probably also could have used an opponent less angry than a Fighting Irish team that saw its playoff hopes go up in smoke when they got manhandled by Michigan last weekend.  It was Ian Book’s worst game statistically since he became a full-time starter;  but something happens when he suits up in South Bend this fall.  The senior is completing 64% of his passes for 317 yards per game at home with an 11-0 touchdown to interception ratio at Notre Dame Stadium.  Good news for the Hokies:  redshirt sophomore quarterback Hendon Hooker is healed up from the leg injury suffered against the Tar Heels.  Bad news for the Hokies:  there’s no way one can heal a defense that allows 33 points per game in regulation to FBS foes.

Presto’s Pick: Hokies can’t handle the Hulk, falling 34-24.

 

Virginia (5-3, 3-2 ACC) at North Carolina (4-4, 3-2), 7:30 p.m. (ACC Network).

The ACC’s Coastal Division is on a collision course where all seven schools could finish 4-4;  while that’s not likely given Georgia Tech’s issues it’s completely conceivable the division winner goes 5-3 in the conference and advances to the Championship Game thanks to a tiebreaker or two.  UVa’s season of possibilities took a major hit last week with a seven-point loss at rebuilding Louisville-their closest game of the season.  This week’s foe is no stranger to tight games:  UNC has seen seven of their eight games decided by a touchdown or less, including a six-overtime extravaganza in Blacksburg.  The Tar Heels have issues getting to the quarterback and stopping the run, good news for a Cavaliers offensive line that remains a work in progress.

Kippy & Buffy know seasons and tailgates are made in November, and thus they enter college football’s “closing month” with a bottle of 2013 Alpha Omega Cabernet Sauvignon.   On the nose: “hints of cherry, earl grey, lavender and dry herbs lingering on black currant, white pepper and saffron.”  On the palate: “big round entrance evolving on dark fruit jam, currant and blackberry lingering on acidity and cherry.”   

Presto’s Pick: on the field- another offensive effort on offense. Cavaliers come up short, 20-16.

 

Georgetown gets by Colgate, Howard falls to North Carolina Central, William & Mary falls to Elon, Richmond beats Stony Brook, Towson tumbles to Delaware, Morgan State slips to Norfolk State.

If it seems like Maryland quarterback CJ Brown has been on the College Park sidelines forever, it’s because he has.  He was recruited by Ralph Friedgen to play on Chevy Chase Bank Field at Byrd Stadium to compete in the ACC.  Those all have gone the way of “Lost” and “The Office”. Brown redshirted the 2009 season that saw Chris Turner become a sacrificial lamb during a 2-10 campaign, broke his collarbone during the 2010 season that saw Danny O’Brien exceed expectations as ACC Rookie of the Year, came from out of nowhere to win the job away from O’Brien in 2011, tore his ACL in August of 2012 (setting the tone for Perry Riley, Devin Burns and Caleb Rowe going down with season-ending injuries as well), and rebounded in 2013 to lead the Terps back to the postseason.  After being granted a medical waiver for a sixth season, Brown concludes his Terps career by leading the team into a new era–the Big Ten Conference.

Brown was the X factor entering camp last year, and had a season to remember:  passing for 2242 yards and 13 touchdowns while running for 576 yards and 12 more scores.  Even after losing two-plus games to concussion, his top two receivers to season-ending injuries all while teams keyed on him, CJ persevered.  His game-winning touchdown at Virginia Tech was the signature highlight of 2013– and helped send the Terps back to a bowl.  Can he lead the program to consecutive winning seasons for the first time since 2002-03?

He’ll have Stefon Diggs and Deon Long back healthy.  While the junior Diggs is on most preseason watch lists after catching 34 passes for 587 yards and 3 touchdowns, the senior Long was enjoying a breakout campaign of his own (32-489-1) before going down to injury in the same game.  Marcus Leak is also back after missing 2013.  Levern Jacombs and Amba Etta-Tawo showed last fall they can produce if needed.  Brown says he’d like to continue to develop his feel for the deep ball– as this offense has multiple threats that can stretch the field. 

Brown’s roots are in the Big Ten:  his father Clark was a quarterback at Michigan State in the mid-1980’s (post-Kirk Gibson, pre-Lorenzo White) and now the preseason top-10 Spartans come to College Park November 15th.  As CJ prepares for a new league one wonders what sort of “conference play bump” he might experience in 2014:  last year Brown posted a passer rating of 170.62 against non-ACC foes (65% completion rate, 10+ yards per attempt, 9 to 2 TD/INT ratio) while notching a 109.0 rating against league opponents (54%, 6.3, and 4 to 5).  His average gain per carry also declined from 5.0 to 3.4.  Finding a higher ceiling with less dropoff in league play will go a long way to a successful inaugural campaign.

 

Positions of Contention– even though in the first week “every position is potentially up for grabs”…there are three spots on the offensive side of the ball that expect to be contested this month.  There’s a two-way fight at Left Guard, a three-way scramble at Tight End, and a four-way scrum at Tailback

Left Guard:  senior Silvano Altamirano (6-2, 290) played in three games last year after two years at San Diego Mesa…while junior Evan Mulrooney (6-4, 295) saw action in 7 games at center and special teams after starting 5  games at center the previous year.  Whoever emerges will have help…as he’ll be flanked by C Sal Conaboy (named to the Preseason Rimmington Watch list) and LT Michael Dunn (who started 9 games at RG and 4 at RT as a redshirt freshman).

Tight End:  Dave Steinbaugh’s departure leaves the position without any returning receptions from last year.  Sophomores PJ Gallo (6-2, 250) and Andrew Isaacs (6-2, 245) compete with redshirt-freshman Derrick Hayward (6-5, 235).  Last season only 15 of the team’s 230 completions went to the TE (all to Stinebaugh) and the previous year only 20 of the teams 165 catches were made by TE’s (16 to Matt Furstenburg).  Will this be the year that the tight end becomes a major factor in the passing game?

Tailback: Sophomore Wes Brown has potential interrupted by injuries and disciplinary issues, but when healthy he’s the difference-maker a team needs on the ground.  Junior Brandon Ross led the team in rushing (166 carries for 776 yards , a 4.7 AVG and 4TD’s) and the runningbacks in receiving (18 catches for 173 yards).  Junior Albert Reid  (294 yards rushing in 2013) and sophomore Jacquelle Veii (146 yds last year) provide slightly smaller (both are 5-foot-9) options.  The running game was a strength last year (take away the sacks and Maryland averages over 5 yards a carry) and should be again in 2014.

Case for the Defense– NINE starters return from 2014…with Alvin Hill (24 tackles and 2 passes broken up) and William Likely (led the team in punt and kickoff returns) far from green.  They have to replace leading pass rusher Marcus Whitfield (9 of the teams 37 sacks)…will a healthy Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil be the able to improve on his junior season (3 sacks in 6 games)?  After tallying only 21 takeaways in 2013, can the Terps D be just a little luckier this fall?

 

Maryland won more games last fall than they did in coach Randy Edsall’s first two seasons…and while nobody’s expecting a similar jump to 10 wins this fall, there are possibilities.  A non-conference slate features four opponents one can easily imagine the Terps topping (James Madison, South Florida, West Virginia and Syracuse).  They begin Big Ten play with Indiana and end with Rutgers.  Two more wins if this team plays well.  Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin reside in the preseason Coaches’ top 15 and may be too tall a task to sweep, but Penn State, Michigan and Iowa are beatable.  Can the Terps fare just well enough in the “swing games” while taking care of the teams it should beat?

 

Bowl or bust, 2014 will be the final chapter of CJ Brown’s career.  For the first time since setting foot on campus, there are no questions whatsoever the starting job is his.  From redshirt, to injured, to upstart, to cursed, to comeback kid…#16’s time as a Terrapin has been filled with thrills and chills (along with a couple of spills).   While he’s working on trying to make his arm as much of a game-breaking threat as his legs, CJ’s heart will probably wind up making the difference again at least once this fall.  Could there be anybody better fit to lead this program into an unfamiliar and sure to be demanding league?