When Randy Edsall showed up at Maryland before the 2011 season, the Terps were reasonably well positioned for future success. Over the previous five seasons, they'd averaged the No. 29 recruiting class out of more than 120 teams in major college football. The program had serious talent onboard.
Almost immediately, Edsall flopped. The Terps went 2-10 in his first season, with a No. 81 showing in S&P+, the opponent-adjusted statistic from SB Nation's Bill Connelly that parses play-by-play data to measure a team's true performance on the field.
This didn't make much sense. Based on five-year recruiting averages (so, for 2011, including the 2007 through 2011 classes), Maryland's roster was stacked with talent. The recruiting averages, gleaned by Connelly from Rivals and 247Sports player ratings, painted a picture of a talented Maryland roster.
Maryland's talent base slipped incrementally over every year of the Edsall era. Even as that happened, the Terps turned out to play worse than their recruiting pedigree in each of the coach's five seasons at the helm.
In Edsall's first three seasons, Maryland was in pretty good recruiting standing. The Terps won a total of six games in the first two seasons, then won seven in his third.
|Maryland under Randy Edsall|
Context does matter. Maryland saw a mass exodus when Edsall was hired, with scores of players quickly transferring out of the program upon deciding they didn't buy what Edsall sold. Roster attrition is expected when a coaching change happens, but the scale of Edsall's losses was extraordinary.
And in Edsall's second season, 2012, the Terps were nearly 5-2 and on track for a bowl game when they lost a game in the final seconds to N.C. State and then learned, a game later, that they'd have to play their final four contests with a linebacker at quarterback. Even still, finishing 108th in S&P+ with nearly a top-30 roster by metrically evaluated talent is hard to do. It was a shocking failure.
In Edsall's last two years, Maryland continued to underachieve, this time with fewer excuses. The Terps didn't have any debilitating quarterback injuries, and aside from missing receiver Stefon Diggs near the end of the 2014 season, they generally had their best players on the field. The Terps were roughly a top-40 team over the last two seasons by straight-up talent. They played somewhere in the mid-to-high 50s and won five games per season, even worse.
This is a depressing graph. The red line shows Maryland's on-field performance, and the blue line shows the Terps' roster going into each season by five-year recruiting average. You want these lines to be low, because that means they're closer to the No. 1 ranking. Maryland played well below its talent level every single year, and that talent level also declined every single year. So what Edsall left for DJ Durkin is a program that's been getting worse, on the field and on the trail.
Viewed through another lens, Maryland's year-by-year recruiting trended in the wrong direction, too, with the exception of 2012's Diggs- and Wes Brown-bolstered class. But even then, the talent level had declined because of the program's post-Edsall transfers.
|Maryland's 247Sports Composite Class Rankings|
The purpose of this exercise isn't to take potshots at Edsall, but to illustrate a few points about recruiting and Maryland.
First, it confirms analytically that Maryland needs better players than it's been getting. Second, it needs to develop them better to put a superior product on the field, which should correlate closely with improved win-loss records. Edsall (win totals: 2, 4, 7, 7, 3) never found a way to do that.
For Durkin to do better, he'll have to actually coach better than Edsall. And for Maryland to really rise, he'll need to start with a higher baseline of talent. The ability of Maryland's roster has trended downward for five years. National Signing Day is on Wednesday, and the 2016 class is Durkin's first chance to stem that tide.