Previously: Don Brown
This one hurts to do, because I liked Don Brown, and unlike Franklin, I think he will be VERY good. He was hired by the Terps in 2009 out of UMass, with the reputation of using blitzes as his base defense, and that reputation was dead on correct. All things considered, the first year was ugly. The blitzes were late, the timing was off, and there were enough blown coverages that it looked like they were drawn up.
But then there was last year, which was really where it all came together. Joe Vellano emerged out of nowhere as a stud defensive tackle, the linebacking corps had been together for full year, and the secondary had Kenny Tate dismembering anyone coming over the middle. The jumps were noticeable in some cases (97th to 77th in passing defense), and monumental in others (66th to 21st in running defense).
If you buy that Brown’s defenses are predicated on creating havoc, then the passing defense was better than the surface numbers have you believe. The Terps had more interceptions on defense (19), than passing TD’s allowed (17). Those 19 picks were tied for 11th in the country, and Maryland only allowed a 54.1 completion percentage by opposing QB’s (16th in the country).
After Edsall was hired, it was assumed that he would want to bring in his own people (true). But the thought was if he would retain anyone, it would be Brown. After a few weeks of hoping that Brown would stay, he ended up taking Edsall’s return flight to Storrs.
It’s hard to believe that a 55 year old is a hot up and coming name at defensive coordinator, but Brown is. It may take a year to implement his system, but the players raved about how fun it was to constantly be attacking, and the results spoke for themselves in his second year.
At first, Anderson tried to grab the front page with a potentially explosive hire (Randy Shannon, who was overqualified and rightfully wanted a large chunk of change). But instead, Maryland made their big splash on the offensive side of the ball by hiring big name Crowton. Well, if the Crowton hiring was a cannonball, then the actual defensive coordinator hiring was like using those stupid pool steps with the railing.
Now: Todd Bradford
I’ve looked at the numbers for Bradford before. I’m not going to try to spin them, because similar to spinning your tires in sh*t, it’ll just send sh*t flying outwards at everyone. Bradford was the defensive coordinator for Brett Favre University (Southern Miss) last year, in the C-USA where such a position shouldn’t really exist.
I’ll start with the one positive I see: Southern Miss was 13th in the country in rushing yards allowed per game. However, after working to prepare for C-USA football season for the past 2 years and learning a lot about the teams, I can also tell you that it’s an unwritten rule to start in the shotgun for a lot of those teams, and the stats reflect that idea. Southern Miss only was run on 31.15 times per game (5th least in the country), and allowed a higher yards per rush than Maryland did last year.
Now, time to get down to the ugly stuff. The real tell-all stat is that Southern Miss allowed 30 + points in 7 of their 13 games last year, including 50 + points in two of their last three games. They were 75th in the country in passer rating allowed last year (if you’re keeping score, Maryland was 9th). The Golden Eagles haven’t been better than 60th in passer rating allowed under Bradford.
Maryland’s secondary isn’t exactly sterling, which is why it was so smart on Brown’s part to bring pressure up front with blitzes. Once those blitzes started hitting home in 2010, it made opposing quarterbacks get the ball out quicker. That allowed the subpar secondary to cover for a shorter amount of time, and created some bad passes that lead to those 19 interceptions.
Bradford for some reason wants this unit to drop back, even when pressure proved very successful last season. Hughes and Chism both aren’t going to turn into Dre Kirkpatrick overnight. Matt Robinson and Eric Franklin are green enough to blend into the Byrd Stadium turf.
When Crowton was hired, there were snickers amongst LSU and Oregon fans. When Bradford was hired, Maryland fans actually started an online petition to veto the move. With Brown, the defense could have been one of the top units in the ACC this year, with Bradford I’m just happy that the Terps only face a few high octane offenses that could really light up the scoreboard. Bradford will impress me by averting disaster this year.
Point blank, everyone saw what Brown could do for Maryland last year, and by all accounts it was good and getting better. The Terps have taken a step backwards with the Bradford hire, it’s just a matter of whether it’s just one step back or whether the treadmill is on.
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.”