Jake Bernhardt, the new offensive coordinator for the Maryland men’s lacrosse program, is tasked with keeping the offense among the top units in the country. John Crawley, the new offensive coordinator at Johns Hopkins, is aiming to get his offense into that same echelon.
In both men, the Terps and Blue Jays — who have captured five of six Big Ten Tournament championships since 2015 — are reaching into their pasts to build brighter futures. Bernhardt and Crawley are fully aware of the expectations they face.
“It’s big shoes to fill,” Bernhardt said of succeeding Bobby Benson, who tailored offenses that reached the NCAA Tournament title games in 2021 and 2022 before agreeing to become the head coach at Providence last month. “He’s done a great job, and he was a great coach at Hopkins even before he got to Maryland. He was able to put together a great offense, and there are going to be things where we’re going to try to keep that momentum going.”
Said Crawley, who replaces John Grant Jr. who stepped down in May: “At times, it’s daunting and difficult and hard, but what you sign up for when you go to Hopkins is signing up for those challenges. You sign up for it being hard, and that’s what you want.”
In the 32-year-old Bernhardt and the 27-year-old Crawley, Maryland and Johns Hopkins are tapping former midfielders familiar to their former players and current fans.
From 2010 to 2013, Bernhardt racked up 63 points on 49 goals and 14 assists and contributed to the Terps advancing to the NCAA Tournament finals in 2011 and 2012, where those squads fell to Virginia and Loyola Maryland, respectively.
After one season as director of operations at Maryland and two at Lake Brantley High School in Altamonte Springs, Florida, Bernhardt joined Terps graduate Chris Feifs at Vermont and reshaped that offense into Top 25 units in 2021 (16th at 13.4 goals per game) and 2022 (25th at 13.2).
Maryland coach John Tillman, who coached Bernhardt and his two younger brothers, Jesse and Jared, said he noticed some similarities stylistically between the offensive sets run by the Terps and the Catamounts.
“Kind of watching the way they play, I felt like he did a lot in terms of player development because the players always got better,” Tillman said of Jake Bernhardt’s work. “He developed schemes that always played to what those kids did best and put those guys in a position where they could reach their potential, and to me, that’s a sign of a good coach.
“Even the two years when we played [Vermont in the first round of the 2021 and 2022 NCAA tournaments], there were striking differences year to year that played to their strengths, which showed me that he went into it thinking, ‘What can we do to maximize what these guys have?’ instead of just going, ‘OK, this is what I’m going to do.’”
With the Terps, Bernhardt — who rejoins his brother Jesse, the team’s defensive coordinator — inherits an offense that graduated its top four producers in attackmen Logan Wisnauskas and Keegan Khan and midfielders Anthony DeMaio and Jonathan Donville. But Bernhardt said there is plenty in the cupboard that he can work with.
“I’m also at the same time going to be my own man,” he said. “I’m going to be Jake Bernhardt the coach, and I’m going to interact with the guys who I am. Bobby has created such a great standard, but every team is different, and every year is different. I’m going to do things the Maryland way that I have known for years so that I can hopefully take the program to the next level.”
From 2014 to 2017, Crawley amassed 100 points on 70 goals and 30 assists in 60 games, including 30 starts. After brief coaching stints at Notre Dame in 2018 and Colgate in 2019, he joined Lehigh.
In 2021, his first full season, Crawley helped the Mountain Hawks finish the season tied for ninth in the nation at 14.1 goals per game and earn the No. 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Johns Hopkins coach Peter Milliman said he interviewed Crawley in 2020 when he was hired to succeed Dave Pietramala. When Grant stepped down, Milliman said Crawley was his first — and last — call.
“He has an intense passion for success,” Milliman said. “He has earned the respect of his peers and his colleagues and his opponents because I think he has a very grounded and fundamental understanding of the game and a creative mind and intuitive sense for what he wants to do and how to get there. That connection of implementing and teaching system lacrosse to meet the end that you seek on the field is really a big piece of the process of teaching and building an offense. It’s something he can articulate very well and is impressive to hear him explain.”
The Blue Jays have dropped in the national offensive rankings each year since 2018, slipping from 12th at 11.7 goals per game to 23rd at 12.1 in 2019 to 31st at 11.2 in 2021 and 45th at 10.9 in 2022. They have not finished a season ranked in the top 10 in offense since 2015, when that squad averaged 13.0 goals to rank ninth.
Crawley said he has some ideas, but is eager to meet the players first and identify how he can help them. He said one of his first priorities is helping them deal with some of the expectations associated with Johns Hopkins.
“I remember going to the [Hopkins] Deli and having a random guy ask me why I didn’t score that goal in the last game,” Crawley said with a laugh. “I really feel for our guys because as an alum, I felt it as well. I think when you go to Hopkins though, that is what you sign up for. You sign up for that challenge, and you sign up for all the eyes on you, and I think as a player who has been through it and gone through it pretty recently, I think I’ll be able to help the guys and take that pressure off their backs because I think that’s a really important piece of this thing.”