COLLEGE PARK—It was Randy Edsall himself who said early in the 2011 season that the job of turning the Maryland football program into a major Atlantic Coast Conference power wasn't going to be easy and it certainly wasn't going to be done overnight.
Still, he couldn't have imagined how hard it would be to compete in his first season after replacing Ralph Friedgen, and no one expected the upheaval that has accompanied the Terps' 2-10 collapse. Edsall has lost or chased away 20 players, replaced offensive coordinator Gary Crowton and might soon do the same with defensive coordinator Todd Bradford.
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Byrd Stadium Complex, University of Maryland - College Park, College Park, MD 20740, USA
Players struggled to adapt to his highly structured program, and sophomore quarterback Danny O'Brien all but fell off the map after being named ACC Rookie of the Year during Friedgen's 9-4 final season in 2010.
The postseason backlash was so sharp that Anderson announced that he and Edsall would conduct a thorough review of the program, a re-evaluation process that apparently remains in progress.
Edsall sat down with The Baltimore Sun to talk about his first season and what's ahead for Maryland football.
In a few days, you will have completed your first full year as the head coach of the University of Maryland football team, and by all accounts — including your own — it has been a struggle and a learning experience for everyone involved. Is this still your dream coaching job?
Oh, yeah. I'm not deterred at all from what I want to accomplish and what I want to accomplish for this university and what I want to accomplish with our players here. So, no, I feel good about the direction we're going and what we need to get done. I feel great about everything that's going on.
This isn't your first rodeo, so you knew that a coaching change — especially on the team coming off a winning season — was going to cause some discomfort and shake up the status quo. Do you feel like you've come out on the other side of that yet?
I think that anytime you have a transition, there's going to be change and discomfort for people, but I just feel very, very good about where we're going. I know that the two weeks we had in the weight room, seeing the guys leaving here the last few days, going home from finals, then getting away till Jan. 24, not being involved with the winter session taking classes. Getting back here on the 25th, knowing what we've got in store. Like I said, I feel really good about where we're going.
I'm trying to choose the right word here. In your career, looking back over the last four or five months, is this the most embattled you've ever been?
I would probably say I've had as many challenges as any place I've been either as an assistant coach or a head coach in terms of going in and implementing a program. I think that there's been more coverage on what has taken place than any place that I've ever been. … Here, it's different, and that's part of the learning process because you just don't know the landscape coming in, especially with Kevin Anderson being new, [university president] Dr. [Wallace] Loh being new. With a lot of different faces here, the landscape is totally different. I think that was something I know I learned a lot about in the first year.
So, you had to navigate that. You know how to be a football coach, but you had to navigate this whole new environment, and that factored into it if there were differences in perception.
I think anytime you come in and do something new, there are always going to be lessons learned and mistakes made. I think what happens is, I've always been the type of guy to say, "OK," once we've gone through things, you sit back and say, "OK, there are mistakes that I made." I'm not perfect. I'm never going to be perfect. There are always things you can do better. If you have a lot of pride in what you do, you're going to be more critical of yourself than anybody else could ever be of you. Yeah, there were mistakes made, and, you know what, all the things that go on are my responsibility, so I take full responsibility for not winning enough games, but I take responsibility for getting our kids to perform at a higher academic level, too. That's the part you see. Everybody sees what you do on the field, and that's the big part because when you're coaching, what happens is, you're measured by how many you win and how many you lose. We failed in that regard this year, but we succeeded in many, many other areas that we want to get established.
You said early on that what you're trying to accomplish wasn't going to happen right away, but you obviously expected to do better than 2-10 going into the season, also starting with the uplifting Miami game. How hard was that? I know you're a team-first guy, but how hard was that on you?
It's not about me. It's never going to be about me. I got into this line of work, and I understood what it's all about. My thing is, I feel worse for our players, that they weren't able to achieve what we wanted to achieve … what we wanted to accomplish as a team. So, I feel more for them and the assistant coaches than I do for myself. That's what I have to do, and again, when you end up losing 118 games due to injuries by players who we thought were going to be out there, that takes a toll. We had 64 games missed by defensive players that we felt were going to be contributors, starters. Then we had 54 games missed offensively by guys that we felt could be contributors. That's something you don't factor into the equation. I feel more for the players because we didn't go out and accomplish the things I wanted to accomplish [them] for them. That's really what it is. I want to do things so they can accomplish goals that we want to achieve as a team.
But you're a human being. You go home after the Temple game [a 38-7 loss at Byrd Stadium] and how do you feel? That's got to be torturous.
You hate it. You hate it because you sit there and you're saying, "What more could I have done? What should I have done differently to help them?" As a coach, you beat yourself up a lot more than anybody else is ever going to beat you. The things that are written and all that stuff, that doesn't faze me because I beat myself up more than anybody else ever beats me up. When you sit there and think we got beat the way we got beat, that's something you [where] have to accept it, and then you have to move on and you've got to work to change it.
In a nutshell, if you're talking to Terps fans, why is next year going to be different?