Guest Post by Patrick Guthrie

Before I finish up my posts on the Maryland football team, there’s one more obvious aspect to analyze. This year, the Terps join every other football team in the country that doesn’t have a fridge on their sidelines. Instead, the program will have a shot of (relative) youth at head coach with Randy Edsall taking over. Along with Edsall comes a completely new coaching staff that will hopefully be able to pick up where the previous administration left off, and then some. I already alluded to some of my feelings of who was an improvement and who was a step down, but let’s dive in to the stats to back up where Kevin Anderson made a good hire, and where he probably should have gone in a different direction.

Offensive Coordinator

Previously: James Franklin

Ahh, the eternal head coach in waiting. First of all, I think everybody can agree on the fact that we’re happy that that whole mess is over with (although maybe not how it came to its conclusion).

Starting with the positives, Franklin was apparently worked his ass of on the recruiting trail. In college football, I don’t believe recruiting is half the battle like some people say, but it certainly is a major component of building a successful program.

The fact that Franklin was able to compete with other ACC schools, and pick up 4-star local players like Kenny Tate and Tyrek Cheesboro without the aid of major program tradition (VA Tech) or the more frivolous allures of wads of cash, the occasional abortion, and an endless stream of hookers (Da U) is certainly commendable.

When it comes down to looking at the numbers, the positive that you can take with Franklin is that the team was mostly trending upward under his watch. In Franklin’s first year back in 2008, the team ranked 91st in the country in 3rd down conversion percentage; last year they were 60th. In 2008, the team was 92nd nationally in scoring offense; last year? 29th (32.2 PPG, good for 2nd in the ACC). Possibly, most importantly their red zone scoring percentage improved from 72nd to 32nd in three years with Franklin. I think the guy is definitely going to be missed from both of those standpoints.

However, I don’t truly believe that Franklin was, or ever will be an elite coordinator. Maryland was 29th in the country in scoring offense last year, but a lot of that can be attributed to 3 50 + point performances against a D1-AA team (Morgan St.), the worst ranked defense in the ACC (Wake Forest), and the worst ranked defense in the country (East Carolina).
Against tougher defenses, Maryland struggled mightily offensively. They only scored one touchdown against the U (22nd) , and one against Clemson (19th). The team did have a nice half against WVU (3rd), where they should have had another touchdown if not for a Smith drop, but for the most part, Franklin put up big numbers against terrible teams, and average or below average ones against what could be considered decent defenses. His struggle with solid defenses doesn’t bode well for the SEC where he’ll face the best defenses in the country, just ask…
Now: Gary Crowton
It’s tough to know what to think about Gary Crowton, because although he was a an offensive coordinator at one of the best college football teams in the country (LSU), they all but rioted on Bourbon Street to try to get him out of the bayou, and there’s a reason for that.
As opposed to Franklin’s positive trends, Crowton’s offenses have regressed in his time at LSU. In his first year at LSU, they converted 93.33% of their red zone chances, the highest percentage in the country. Last year they were 29th in that category. There was a similar drop with 3rd down conversion percentage (14th – 74th), and scoring offense (11th – 45th). Unfortunately, this trend appears to be consistent with the sun rising in the east in terms of Crowton’s career.
In terms of recruiting, Crowton is about as prevalent on the recruiting trail as he was in LSU’s ESPN commercial. Is it unfortunate that the guy apparently really doesn’t recruit much? Yes, it’s definitely a hit. But considering Randy Edsall’s reputation in that regard, it’s certainly not a death blow. Now, let me tell you why you should be excited about a non-recruiting has been.
The Crowton resume jumps off the page. He was a head coach at BYU, and offensive coordinator at Georgia Tech, Oregon, LSU, and with the Chicago Bears. He is widely credited as one of the pioneers of the spread offense. Now, if you’ve watched any LSU game without a blindfold on for the past 2 years, you should rightfully be asking “what spread offense?”
A quick look at LSU’s QB depth chart should provide a solid answer. Matt Flynn was far and away the best quarterback Crowton coached while at LSU, which was in 2007. Since then, it’s been a platoon of Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson, which is sort of like choosing between sitting on tacks or eating them. Long story short, Danny O’Brien will be the best quarterback Crowton has worked with in at least 5 years.
Where Franklin struggled, Crowton shined. Against some of the best defenses in the SEC, and by therefore the country, the Bayou Bengals put up some numbers. 4 touchdowns and 385 yards against Florida (9th in total defense), and 2 more on the way to a 24-21 win against Alabama (5th).

Regardless of the occasional bad game, what those numbers tell me is that Crowton is capable of creating a game plan against the best defenses in the country, and beating them. That is something Franklin hasn’t shown the ability to do at Maryland, and a status that he may never achieve.

When it comes down to it, the loss of Franklin’s recruiting definitely hurts, especially in the offseason. But this receiving corps is deep, with plenty of speed, and the quarterback is a smart, talented passer; a perfect mix for the spread. If given a choice between the two, give me Crowton all week, and twice on Saturday’s.

 

Patrick Guthrie is a University of Maryland alumnus and contributor to BaltimoreSportsReport.com.  He’s a champion 9 innings Baseball player who blogs about all things sports on his personal weblog, “Two Years Too Late.”