Maryland football needs a new offensive coordinator after losing Walt Bell to Florida State. Bell became the third member of Maryland’s coaching staff to leave for greener pastures this offseason, and his departure leaves the biggest void.
Here are some options to fill the spot. This obviously isn’t the full list—DJ Durkin’s actual hire might not be mentioned in this piece—but it’s a starter set. Feel free to add your two cents in the comments.
In-house candidates: Chris Beatty, Pete Lembo, Bryan Stinespring
Thomas: This is the extent of Maryland’s offensive staff right now, as both running backs coach and Bell’s OC/QB coach spot are still vacant. Stinespring, who was hired earlier this month has by far the most experience as an offensive coordinator, holding the title at Virginia Tech from 2002-12. But Hokies fans don’t speak fondly of the vanilla offense he ran. It’d be rather impractical to try anything vanilla with Maryland’s stable of talented running backs, let alone the two young, mobile quarterbacks.
Beatty and Lembo were hired by Durkin two years ago. Beatty, the wide receivers coach and ace Virginia recruiter, was OC at Hampton in 2006 (left for a bigger school) and Illinois in 2012 (didn’t return the next year). Lembo has spent 15 years as a Division I head coach at three different schools, but his only coordinator gig was special teams at Mayland from 2016-17; those duties have been handed to Matt Barnes, although Lembo remains the Terps’ tight ends coach and associate head coach. If Maryland promotes from within, there’s no obvious choice.
Durkin Connections, Part I: Jedd Fisch
Jared: If there’s been one common thread with almost all of Durkin’s hires to this point, it’s been that he’s been on a staff with them somewhere before. Fisch was the quarterbacks coach, receivers coach and passing game coordinator during the 2015 (and ‘16) season at Michigan while Durkin was the Wolverines’ defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. Michigan led the Big Ten in scoring and red zone offense during his tenure, though his offense is more pro-style than what Bell ran at Maryland.
With a veteran offensive line and explosive backfield returning, a move to a more power-running spread-type offense could be just what the doctor ordered for the Terps, especially with Tyrrell Pigrome and Kasim Hill returning from ACL injuries. Fisch was named interim head coach at UCLA this past season, but is back on the market and was rumored to be one of Durkin’s favorites to fill the position the first time around.
Durkin Connections, Part II: Zach Azzanni
Jared: Azzanni is another member of the Urban Meyer coaching tree, and was at Bowling Green and Florida at the same time as Durkin. He was recently named the Denver Broncos’ receivers coach, but was a great recruiter in his college days, which would be of greater use to Durkin at Maryland than to Vance Joseph in Denver. Azzanni knows his Xs and Os, no doubt, but would also bring a solid recruiting presence to the staff; he specializes in the Miami and Ft. Lauderdale areas, which have proven fruitful for Maryland since Durkin took over.
Big-name pariah: Hugh Freeze
Thomas: Freeze is currently unemployed for a handful of reasons, but he’ll be back in coaching before long. His last OC gig was at Arkansas State (sound familiar?) in 2010; he was promoted to head coach the next season and hired by Ole Miss one year later. Freeze is most likely not a long-term solution, and bringing him in would generate mixed reactions. But as long as he spends more time legally calling recruits than escorts, he’s an option worth considering.
Rising Group of 5 coordinator: Brian Wright
Jared: Bell was a young, bright football mind most of us hadn’t heard of when he was hired before the 2016 season. Similarly, most of us probably haven’t heard of Wright, Toledo’s offensive coordinator. He led the Rockets’ 20th-ranked offense this past season; the passing attack was particularly potent, ranking 19th in passing S&P+. Senior quarterback Logan Woodside threw for nearly 3,900 yards and 28 touchdowns to only 8 interceptions. The running game, at least statistically, left a bit to be desired, but an experienced and only-getting-more-explosive Terrapin backfield could help offset that in College Park.
Alum in the pros: Scott Milanovich
Jared: Hiring alumni can be risky because if things don’t go well, moving on to the next option can be awkward. But the Jacksonville Jaguars quarterbacks coach is a fun name to throw into the mix given his Maryland ties and professional playing and coaching careers. He was the head coach of the 2012 Grey Cup champion Toronto Argonauts, so he’s got more experience than “just a position coach.”
“Want U Back”: Tyler Bowen
Thomas: I’m not exactly sure what the football coaching equivalent of texting your ex is, but this would be pretty close. Bowen was hired as Maryland’s offensive line coach less than 11 months ago. After one season with the Terps, he left his alma mater to become Penn State’s tight ends coach. He’ll work under James Franklin, who was the Terps’ OC during Bowen’s playing days.
A few rumors swirled during the fall that Bowen was next in line at offensive coordinator if Bell left anytime soon. If that was actually the plan, there’s no reason not to slide into those DMs. For Bowen, it would be a promotion. For Maryland, it would bring a convoluted form of continuity. And for Hollywood execs seeking a football coach romantic comedy, it would be the perfect script.