Well, it's official: UConn has introduced former Maryland defensive coordinator Don Brown as their new DC. And there's no shortage of less-than-fun stuff to sift through in his wake.
First off, most people are wondering why he made the move, which seems a downgrade if anything. Ostensibly, he did this to be closer to his family. Take that however you want. I wouldn't be shocked if it had something to do with his relationship with Edsall.
In a related note, if Edsall's telling the truth about the matter, Brown comes off looking terribly. Edsall says he found out this morning and that UConn made their first contact just yesterday. Part of me thinks that's not quite true, but if it is, there's not a ton for Edsall to do.
There's been much made about the timing of it, as it came just two days after signing day, when players sign their lives away to their colleges. If they've signed their LOI, they can't decommitt; unless, they're released, the only option they have is to sit out a year and transfer.
Because it's difficult to imagine that the decision and process moved that quickly, it seems likely that he knew about the move - or, at the very least, was in discussions - prior to signing day. Considering that he was the lead recruiter for at least seven commitments (and was crucial in the recruitment of many others) and, based on the multiple reactions seen around the 'net, informed none of them that he was going to leave, it looks pretty fishy. Friend of the Blog Pete Volk says that the recruits got played, and it's tough to argue otherwise. It's almost fraudulent to tell a recruit you'll be there, have him sign away most of his rights in the process, and then leave posthaste.
As far as reactions go, they varied from "disappointed" to "shocked." A few choice quotes:
- From Matt Bracken, Makinton Dorleant says: "He was the biggest reason I was going to go and play there. If he made the decision a week before Signing Day, I definitely wouldn't be going to Maryland. And I mean, there's nothing I can really do now."
- Also Bracken, from Lukas Foreman: "I'm shocked right now. I don't even know what to do. ... He was one of the main reasons why I signed there. ... This sucks. I don't know. He's been recruiting me since I was a sophomore. He's real good friends with our coach. So I don't know."
- And from the WaPo, QO coach Dave Mencarini on Alex Twine: "He signed his national letter-of-intent. There really are no options. I don't believe kids have much flexibility. Alex really wants to be a Terp. He wants to play at Maryland. That's always been his goal. We went through a transition with the coaching change. This is just another transition that we will have to make."
Mencarini's right: they don't have many options. They can transfer, of course, but they'll have to sit out a year to do it. It would be a nice gesture for Edsall to release anyone Brown recruited from their LOI if they want out, and it would probably raise his profile a little, but I have trouble imagining it happening.
The recruits are the ones that got the most screwed over, but Maryland and Randy Edsall is in a bit of a bind, too. Brown's impact has been overstated slightly, but Maryland won most of their games last year (albeit against a weak schedule) thanks to their defense. Brown led a unit that was in the top 40 in scoring defense, rushing defense, and total defense, all of which were huge improvements over his first season and the Cosh Era. On top of all that, his players loved him. He was a good coach, probably Maryland's best, and the unit figured to only get better as his players got even more used to the system.
To make matters worse, he was also a great recruiter. He was responsible for the recommitment of A.J. Hendy and nearly single-handedly gave Maryland a foothold in Florida. With James Franklin going to Vandy and then Brown going to UConn, Maryland has lost both of their top 2 recruiters, and in response has built a relatively recruiter-less staff.
To calm people down a tad, Brown isn't irreplaceable. The continuity he offered for next year is irreplaceable, and the fact that Maryland lost a good coach and now has to roll the dice on another is a bummer. But those are the two big negatives: Brown, for as good as he was in both recruiting and coaching, wasn't the best of the best in either. He can be replaced; it just won't be easy.
This would seem like the perfect time to make a splash hire. After going low-key in their final few hires, including poaching a graduate assistant to coach TEs and be the recruiting coordinator, they should have a little extra cash floating around. A good way to make use of that would be to go after a big name with both potential and track record. The first few candidates that came to mind:
- Larry Johnson, Sr., current Penn State DL: L.J. Sr. isn't the dominant recruiter that people used to think he was, but ignoring his recruiting track record is a terrible idea. Remember the 2006 class, when he raided all of Maryland's top recruits? He hasn't returned to that level of demolition since then, but it's proof of what he's capable of. Remember that Maryland has no local recruiters on the staff currently; bringing in L.J. and letting him tag-team the area with Lee Hull would bring instant credibility to the staff. Only downside: he's never been a coordinator before.
- Randy Shannon, formerly Miami HC: At first, I thought this would be a pipe dream. But after being mentioned in connection to Texas, he's started to market himself more aggressively, including becoming a top candidate for the UCLA job. Shannon's ultra-experienced and has seven years of defensive coordinating under his belt, so he'd be fine from the playcalling side. And he always seemed relatively well-liked by his players. He'd be able to re-establish recruiting in Florida, and don't forget that he put together some stellar classes at UM.
- Chris Cosh? Ha, just kidding. But he was a great recruiter in the WCAC and is probably open to return. Nah, just kidding.
- Todd Bradford, current ILB coach: He was the DC at Southern Miss when he took this job, which was kind of questionable due to the big step down he was taking. But then again, his defenses were awful at USM, so maybe that was to be expected. Anyway, he had DC experience, which is a plus, but it was failed DC experience. If this is the hire, I'll be more than a little upset.
- Greg Gattuso, current DL coach: Gattuso is a well-liked guy and has HC experience at the FCS level. It's a small leap, but he seems prepared to make it.