Until this season, Andre Powell had been in the ACC since 1997. The former Maryland running backs coach and special teams coordinator is returning to the conference, reportedly joining Pat Narduzzi's staff at Pitt as their new special teams coordinator.
Powell was hired by Randy Edsall in 2011, moving to College Park from Clemson, where he coached the dynamite running back duo of James Davis and C.J. Spiller. His first season on the job saw Maryland's highest rusher during his tenure -- Davin Meggett, who ran for 896 yards on 171 carries in 2011. He was named the Terrapins' special team coordinator prior to the 2012 season, and only one rusher has topped 600 yards since (Brandon Ross, 776 in 2013).
Maryland's special teams unit improved drastically under Powell, however. The Terps ranked 97th in special teams F/+ in the year before his promotion, when Lyndon Johnson ran the unit, and dipped to 101st in his first year on the job. In 2013, that rose to 58th, and the unit ranked 7th this year thanks in large part to Brad Craddock, the best dang kicker in the country.
On the recruiting trail, Powell was largely a non-factor. He helped draw Will Likely out of Florida (thank you, Andre!) and Caleb Rowe out of South Carolina, but was unable to make significant inroads in his more important recruiting zone, Baltimore City. Besides Likely and Rowe, three-star Baltimore linebacker Nnamdi Egbuaba, three-star Baltimore defensive end Malik Jones and three-star Baltimore running back Kenneth Goins are the only other commits credited to Powell by Rivals. Shane Cockerille, a more highly-touted Baltimore recruit, is credited as a Mike Locksley commitment. A new hire could help kickstart that pipeline, if Maryland can make the right call.
The move leaves Maryland with a few options, presented in order of likelihood (and in reverse order of my preference).
Option 1: Give Lyndon Johnson the special teams unit again
This is not really an appealing option, as Johnson's unit was not good at all in 2011. However, Powell's first year was even worse, so improvement is possible. Johnson's been with Edsall since his very first Connecticut staff in 1999, and was the Huskies' special teams coordinator from 2006-10. Johnson's still on the staff as an assistant head coach and outside linebackers coach, and helped oversee the development of Yannick Ngakoue and Jesse Aniebonam this season. This option would of course require Maryland to hire a running backs coach, as well.
Option 2: Give the special teams unit to a different assistant
Maryland has two defensive assistants who have previously been special teams coordinators: Keith Dudzinski and Chad Wilt. Dudzinski, the Terps' inside linebackers coach, was in charge of UMass's special teams from 1999-2001. Wilt, Maryland's defensive line coach, was the special teams coordinator at Central Connecticut State from 2001-03 and at Liberty from 2006-08. During his time with the Flames, they won two Big South titles. Again, this option would require Maryland to hire a separate running backs coach.
Option 3: Hire one person to coach the running backs and special teams
A direct replacement for Powell may be hard to find, as not many coaches have experience in both fields. Along with the first three options, it's one of the more cost-effective options, and the right hire could do the job well.
Option 4: Hire separate coaches for the running backs and special teams
Here's the most appealing option, but financial feasibility might be a question. Powell reportedly made $222,000 with the Terps, so it's not as if a large portion of the assistants' pool has been made available again. If Maryland goes this route, they'd probably have to pick some up-and-coming coaches from smaller schools (like Chad Wilt, who came to the Terps from Ball State). Most schools have their special teams coordinator also coach a positional unit, but some coaches (like Nebraska's Mike Riley) have elected to dedicate a staff member entirely to special teams.
What follows is my best guess as to names you might hear in the search. None of this comes from inside info -- just lots and lots of research in an attempt to connect the dots for coaches Maryland might pursue. All salaries from USA Today's database.
The potential candidates:
Running backs coach/special teams coordinator:
Tyree Foreman, Temple. A Maryland native who went to Sherwood High School (and UVA), Foreman is a former pro player that started his coaching career at Army. He's been Temple's running backs coach since 2007, and their special teams coordinator since 2013. He's coached dominant Owl backs Bernard Pierce, Matt Brown and Montel Harris, and was previously the team's recruiting coordinator. Foreman helped lead a tremendous turnaround for Temple's special teams this year -- the unit ranked No. 100 in 2013 and a staggering No. 26 in 2014. His salary is not reported, but it's probably within Maryland's range.
Chris White, Iowa. At $281K per year, this one's probably a reach. On the other hand, things haven't been going well for the Hawkeyes recently, and that can make it hard to hold on to assistants. White is Iowa's D.C. area recruiter, bringing in Maryland targets Omar Truitt, Miles Taylor, Marcel Joly (and five other local prospects during his time with Syracuse). He joined the Hawkeyes staff as their running backs coach and special teams coordinator before the 2013 season. Iowa's special teams ranked 31st in F/+ in 2013 and 104th in 2014, so that's not exactly a positive trend there. They ranked sixth in the Big Ten in rushing in 2013 and seventh in 2014, but his local connections and ability to fill both vacancies makes him a possible target.
Tim Salem, unattached. He was Illinois' running backs coach and special teams coordinator from 2012-13, coaching only the special teams unit this year before being let go Thursday. He has Big Ten experience with the Illini as well as time on the staffs at Ohio State and Purdue, and spent a while in Florida coaching a very good UCF special teams unit. The Illini special teams ranked No. 51 in the nation in F/+ -- their best unit this season -- but he's not a major presence in recruiting (although he does have some Florida connections). During his time with Illini, he worked with former Maryland assistants Tom Brattan (who was on Randy Edsall's first few staffs with the Terps) and Al Seamonson. Salem made $201K this season.
Running backs coach:
Jafar Williams, Purdue. A former wide receiver at Maryland, Williams helped mold Dri Archer into a star at Kent State before moving on to Purdue before the 2013 season. He's an ace recruiter who has picked up three commitments in this year's class (and four-star Gelen Robinson last year), and currently making $150K per year, he's an affordable target. On paper, this would be a home-run hire for Randy Edsall.
Norries Wilson, Rutgers. Wilson was on Edsall's original staff at Connecticut, coaching the offensive line from 1999-2001 and serving as the Huskies' offensive coordinator from 2002-05. He's been Rutgers' running backs coach since the 2012 season, after six years as the head coach at Columbia. He makes about $292K per year at Rutgers, so that could again be out of Maryland's price range. Three of the five commitments he's grabbed with the Scarlet Knights have been in Pennsylvania, with the others in New York and Minnesota.
Terry Richardson, Jacksonville Jaguars. Richardson was Edsall's running backs coach at UConn from 1999 until he left in 2010, moving on to the same position at Miami. He helped turn Jordan Todman into one of the best running backs in the country, and was nominated for the Broyles Award (given to the nation's top assistant coach) in 2010. While at Miami, he recruited five-star running back Duke Johnson to the Hurricanes. Jacksonville is 7-25 under their current coaching staff, so changes would not come as a shock.
Kelton Copeland, Northern Illinois. The top-rated recruiter in the MAC, Copeland has brought in four three-star prospects to Dekalb, including wide receiver Spencer Tears, who held Louisville and Nebraska offers. The Huskies averaged 249.1 rushing yards per game this season, second in the conference, with three different running backs averaging over 5.0 yards per carry. Currently making $78K per year, he's a more affordable option for the spot.
Mike Hart, Western Michigan. A former star running back at Michigan who spent some time in the NFL, Hart is familiar with the Big Ten and has had success on the staffs at Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan. His recruiting prowess is still largely unknown, but after 2,006 rushing yards from Bronson Hill in two years with EMU and 1,551 yards from Jarvion Franklin this year at WMU, his ability to coach running backs is not in question. He's making $80K per year with the Broncos.
Special teams coordinator:
John Papuchis, unattached. Papuchis was Bo Pelini's defensive coordinator at Nebraska from 2012-14 (until Pelini and his staff were let go), but he was the Cornhuskers' special teams coordinator from 2008-11. During that stretch, his special teams units ranked No. 19, 6, 8 and 14 in the country, respectively. From Gaithersburg, Papuchis went to local Quince Orchard High School, so he could be interested in a homecoming -- unless another school comes knocking with a defensive coordinator offer. He was making $318K per year at Nebraska, but now that he's without a job, the Terps may be able to get him at a cheaper price. Papuchis was Nebraska's lead recruiter for top Maryland target Isaiah Prince, as well as a number of other local recruits. He landed five four-star recruits in his time with the Cornhuskers, including two from Quince Orchard (Jason Ankrah and Marcus Newby). This would be an out-of-this-world hire for Randy Edsall and Maryland.
Tom Kaufman, Bowling Green. Kaufman may not want to leave head coach Dino Babers, whom he followed from Eastern Illinois, but he's an up-and-coming special teams coach who could be perfect for the job. His units at Eastern Illinois were routinely among the best in the FCS, and Bowling Green's special teams ranked No. 57 in F/+ this season, by far the team's best unit. He's also brought in five commitments for the Falcons this season, all from Ohio. Kaufman's making $90K per year at Bowling Green.