A day after it appeared that Les Miles would be forcing out members of his staff, it turns out that the LSU head coach won’t get the opportunity to do it himself. Maryland football has scored a major coup in prying offensive coordinator Gary Crowton from the SEC to serve in the same role for the Terrapins. Crowton is known for having a flexible, if unspectacular history as an offensive coordinator. He has run wide open passing offenses, option looks for mobile quarterbacks, and has been able to line up with the best of them in the SEC. Granted, in the SEC it is tough to have a necessarily explosive offense, and many LSU fans were not particularly eager to have him back this coming season. In the end, Maryland fans should take this as a sign that Randy Edsall may turn out to be a real upgrade over Ralph Friedgen after all.
He might not have returned to LSU anyway, but I think that could be chalked up as much to Miles’ inability to find a quarterback as anything, in constantly switching between Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson and not committing to any distinct offensive identity. Miles was unable to articulate what exactly he wanted to do, always the meddler but never the coordinator. As a result, they tried everything. LSU’s offense was a grab bag of option, I formation, and passing spread looks, none of which were effective even as they rode an impressive stable of running backs this season.
Terps fans should not be concerned about that with Crowton when he comes to Maryland. Randy Edsall made it clear what he wants from Crowton when he called to offer him the job. “he called and said he wanted a very aggressive, wide open offense, like we did together at Boston College, and like I’d run at Louisiana Tech and Oregon” This should be a perfect fit for quarterback Danny O’Brien and the remaining talent at wide receiver that remains even with the absence of Torrey Smith.
Moreover, Edsall is expected to give Crowton just about free reign over the offense, taking much of the concern out of having a head coach who came from such a traditional offensive background. Maryland has a glut of talent at the skill positions, and with Edsall’s arrival many worried (myself included) that it would be erased in favor of a plodding, ineffective “smashmouth” style, a word more often used as of late to denote an offense that runs into the line and dies rather than one actually capable of running over opponents. Crowton should be able to alleviate those worries for many.
Crowton had stints as a head coach from 1996 – 1998 at Louisiana Tech and 2001 – 2004 at BYU, but his biggest strength is in his variety of offensive schemes. He orchestrated wide open passing attacks at Louisiana Tech and BYU, ran Mike Bellotti’s explosive Oregon spread option offensive, and has experience at the NFL level with the Chicago Bears. By the time he joined the Tigers and helped turn Matt Flynn into an NFL quarterback en route to a national title, he had a long pedigree of success.
No, his offense was not good in 2010, and there is no hiding that many expected him to get the axe at Louisiana State anyway. However, that is the SEC, where one poor season has cost the careers of many great coaches. This hire is a huge catch for Maryland football given Crowton’s pedigree, and for what it means for Maryland’s immediate future. With a defensive minded coach who will keep the defensive coordinator intact, and an experienced offensive coordinator who is capable of adjusting his scheme to fit his talent, things are looking up for Maryland football.