If James Franklin is as gone as he appears to be, Maryland will be needing a new playcaller and offensive coordinator. I'm expecting one of the position coaches - probably John Donovan, though Lee Hull and Tom Brattan are conceivable - to be named OC for two weeks, running the show through Maryland's bowl game against ECU much the way Al Seamonson did against Nevada two years ago as a DC.
But a hire would hopefully be made soon after the bowl season is finished. After all, Maryland will need to reassure its commitments and make some late runs at a few big-time prospects, as well as get the groundwork laid for next year, which looks like it has the potential to be Maryland's best since that magical three-year run earlier in the decade.
The perfect candidate, if one is out there: has playcalling experience, some kind of tie to Maryland or Maryland's coaching staff, and has recruiting experience (hopefully with ties to DMV). That does describe one person; unfortunately, that person has some...complications. Anyway, we'll get to him later: here are the first names that came to mind - not definite, actual candidates, mind you - when I thought of potential OC replacements (for the record, the most likely hire is going to be completely unheard of, ala Don Brown two years ago):
Latest Position: OC at Miami
Past Gigs: HC at New Haven, Brown, and UMass, 1988-2003; QB coach for Pittsburgh Steelers, 2004-06; QB coach for Philadelphia Eagles, 2007-08; OC at Miami, 2009-10
Recruiting Mojo Present in: South Florida, presumably, as well as New England, and also Neverland. He missed out on recruiting for about five years before ending up at Miami, where he played a pretty small role on a staff with both Randy Shannon and a bunch of recruiting-centric position coaches. He isn't going to be the James Franklin Recruiting Answer, even if he should hold his own
Coaching Chops: Presently undecided. He developed the "Whiplash" offense, which is basically a variant of the West Coast, back in the 90s. NFL experience (and success) is rare in college coordinators, as is getting the guy who developed Ben Roethlisberger. At his two years at the helm at the U, Miami was 45th and 31st in total offense and 30th and 58th in scoring offense, all respectable. But there's a talent difference, especially on the OL, between Miami and Maryland. His playcalling was weird and few fans liked him in the second season (few fans liked anyone in Miami).
Believability: He's very good friends with Don Brown from his days coaching in New England. He'd have at least one guy on the staff fighting hard for him and I imagine he'd enjoy working with Brown. That said, would he want to take a job like this, with minimal job security, over any other high-profile choice he'd have?
Latest Job: RB coach at Maryland
Past Gigs: Graduate Assistant at Georgia Tech, 1998-2001; Assistant Recruiting Coordinator at Maryland, 2002-2004; QB/RB coach at Maryland, 2005-
Recruiting Mojo Present in: the New Jersey area. It's Donovan's designated area and he's had moderate success there, landing a few medium-level three-stars and not a whole lot more. He's not a big time recruiter and never has been. That alone makes me a little afraid.
Coaching Chops: Unknown. Ask yourself: has Da'Rel Scott, Davin Meggett, Lance Ball, Keon Lattimore or anyone else at RB since 2005 improved significantly over the course of their career? That makes me worrisome, but ultimately, that's not the job of the offensive coordinator: it's to call plays. Donovan has never done that at the pro level, and that's a little scary, too. If he's the guy during the bowl game, he'll get his chance to show if he deserves the job.
Believability: Well, he's the "frontrunner" to be the OC during the bowl game, which makes him a viable candidate right off the bat. He's a Fridge guy who followed him from Georgia Tech and is probably considered a protege of sorts, at least moreso than Hull or Brattan. I'm not sure he's a great candidate, but he'll more than likely get a tryout during the bowl game.
Frank Cignetti, Jr.
Latest Position: OC at Pitt, current interim head coach
Past Gigs: OC at Fresno St., 2002-2005; OC at UNC, 2006; QB coach for San Francisco 49ers, 2007; OC at Cal, 2008; OC at Pitt, 2009
Recruiting Mojo Present in: Pennsylvania and Ohio. He likely has some West Coast ties, but he's been at home in the Pittsburgh-Ohio area for the past two years. He's targeted a few dozen players, per Rivals; he's yet to land anyone higher than a three-star. He isn't seen as a particularly great recruiter, but he probably won't be a liability and should help open up Western Pa. even more.
Coaching Chops: He's been at the helm of some awesome offenses: Pitt was average this year, but Tino Sunseri isn't Danny O'Brien. His first team at Pitt was in the top 25 in scoring offense; his year at Cal gave him another top 30 scoring O. He runs a pro-style offense at Pitt, similar to Friedgen, and was the architect of a few outstanding offenses at Fresno. Is only 45.
Believability: Makes a lot of sense from a coaching standpoint, but not from a recruiting one. He would certainly be attainable and is one of the big name OC hires available.
Latest Position: OC at Central Florida
Past Gigs: HC at the Citadel, 1987-1996; OC for Montreal Alouettes, 1997-98; HC for Alouettes, 1999-2000; OC at Maryland, 2001-2005; OC at Pitt, 2006; HC for Hamilton Tiger-Cats, 2007-08; OC at UCF, 2009-10
Recruiting Mojo Present in: Florida, upstate NY, and, presumably, the DMV area. Taaffe wasn't a big recruiter in his time at Maryland, what with Mike Locksley on the staff and all, and that hasn't radically changed at Central Florida. He still should have some relationships around the area and at some Jacksonville/Orlando area schools.
Coaching Chops: Taaffe was the OC during Maryland's great run and the Terrapins have never really come close to that success since he left. Sure, toward the end of his tenure things looked shaky, but he's done a very respectable job at UCF over the past two seasons and I imagine that his offense would be pretty similar the one that Maryland runs already.
Believability: Taaffe resigned, remember, without a set job (he ended up as OC at Pitt). I imagine there was some acrimony between him and Ralph, and that was certainly one of the rumors at the time. I have no idea if time will have healed that wound or if it's still hanging around, but it's something to keep in mind.
Latest Position: HC at New Mexico
Past Gigs: RB coach at Maryland, 1997-2002; RB coach at Florida, 2003-04; OC/QB coach at Illinois, 2005-08
Recruiting Mojo Present in: DC, and it's otherworldly. Locksley is a superhero recruiter, the Ed Orgeron (or maybe World Wide Wes) of DC-area schools. He grew up in DC and went to Ballou. He landed Arrelious Benn to Illinois and has Cyrus Koundjio visiting New Mexico. Maryland wasn't even in Cyrus' top 5. If he ended up back home at Maryland, you could expect a whitewash of DC area commitments and Maryland's re-emergence in the Cyrus K sweepstakes. He's James Franklin on crack.
Coaching Chops: Meh. Aside from being a little confrontational and a terrible HC, Locks has been heading some pretty decent offenses, especially at Illinois. His first few years were up-and-down, but his teams were in the top 50 in both scoring and total offense in his final two years in Champaign, including two very impressive totals in his final year: 40th in scoring offense and 19th in total offense. He was the one that developed Lamont Jordan and Lamont swears by him. He's not a HC of the future, at least for now, but his numbers are better than Franklin's and his development track record is similar. That said, he's...well, he's had his fair share of transgressions.
Believability: Locksley's a dream candidate for a few of reasons (recruiting!), but he also has a few blemishes that will be tough to look past. I don't believe he and Friedgen got along all too well (though I'm pretty sure Locks' bigger problem was with Yow) and Kevin Anderson might not be okay with hiring someone this controversial. Then comes the whole thing about getting Locksley to come back to Maryland and give up a HC job. That HC job is a dead end and I imagine Maryland would be able to throw money at him, but he's a longshot for a lot of reasons.
Others to Know:
Bill O'Brien (QB coach for the New England Patriots)
The former Maryland RB coach and a Friedgen protege has been working with Tom Brady for the past few years and has been calling New England's plays for the past two (they didn't hire an OC after Josh McDaniels left). Before that, he was a college coach for about 15 years, several of which were spent OC-ing. Unless he loves Friedgen and feels he's going to lose his job despite his crazy good numbers (fans don't like him), he's a mega-longshot.
Frank Reich (QB coach for Indianapolis Colts)
The famous former MD QB has been with the Colts for the past few years, though he's just about as inexperienced as you could get. He has no college coaching experience and I imagine that one would do little coaching of Peyton Manning (heck, Manning might be coaching Reich). He's also never called a game. He has a lot to sell in recruiting and he's probably going to be a good teacher, but he's a gamble.
Lee Hull (WR coach at Maryland)
If anyone on the staff is deserving of a bump, it's probably Hull, assuming he doesn't follow Franklin. Besides following Testudo Times on Twitter, he has the best résumé of anyone on the staff. He's been an assistant for awhile now, with several years at Oregon State and the past three at Maryland. He's coached both Darrius Heyward-Bey and Torrey Smith, crafting Smith from a QB into one of the best WRs in the country. He's still young and is the best-recruiting position coach on the staff. Only downside is that he's never called a game.
Learn them, know them, love them. James Franklin was out of nowhere. So was Don Brown. Ultimately, this is the most likely hire: someone with an obscure tie to Maryland and was never really thought of as a candidate. That's just the way it is.