|James Franklin: The One That Got Away From The Terps?|
By Michael Page
As first-year coach Randy Edsall's Maryland football team wrapped a disastrous season, blowing a 27-point, third quarter lead to the Wolfpack at N.C. State on Nov. 26, former Maryland offensive coordinator and "coach in waiting" James Franklin's Vanderbilt Commodores were dismantling Wake Forest, 41-7.
Franklin -- who roamed the sidelines in College Park from 2008-2010 as an assistant head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach -- has the led the Commodores to a 6-6 overall record (2-6 Southeastern Conference), winning more games for the program this season than in 2009 and 2010 combined and earning themselves a trip to the Dec. 31 AutoZone Liberty Bowl in Memphis, where they will face Cincinnati.
Though Franklin's Commodores had a losing record in the storied SEC, they showed they were heading in the right direction putting a scare into perennial national powers Florida, Georgia, Arkansas and Tennessee, losing to each by less than a touchdown.
Kevin Anderson, during his first year as Maryland's athletic director, decided to clean house after a 9-4 finish (5–3 Atlantic Coast Conference) in 2010, a Military Bowl appearance, and a Coach of the Year honor for Maryland alum and 10-year head coach Ralph Friedgen.
Friedgen was unceremoniously shown the door after compiling a 75-50 overall record, with seven bowl appearances (5-2), for the Terrapins during his 10-year stay. Friedgen took over a team in 2001 that had only one winning season and no bowl appearances since 1990. The bigger head scratcher though, is that when the decision to replace Friedgen was made, Franklin seemed to be the proverbial baby with the bathwater.
Franklin, a coach who had been with the Terrapins for two tours of duty (2000-2005) and (2008-2010), was designated on Feb. 6, 2009 by then-athletic director Debbie Yow as the "coach in waiting," saw that position evaporate with the hiring of Kevin Anderson. With the uncertainty surrounding the Maryland coaching situation, and Friedgen coming off such a successful 2010 campaign and exhibiting a willingness to remain head coach for a few more seasons if given the chance, Franklin accepted the offer to become the Vanderbilt head coach and compete in the football-rich SEC.
Franklin, lauded for his recruiting both locally and nationally, seemed to be a logical choice to replace Friedgen, given his reputation as an up-and-coming coach, his closeness to the program and his successful tutoring of ACC Freshman of the Year and Freshman All-American Danny O'Brien.
Instead, Anderson opted to bring in Randy Edsall, who had made his mark at UConn posting a 74-70 overall record and taking the Huskies to five bowl games (3-2). Edsall, an experienced head coach with ties to the area, has had a rocky first year, to say the least. The Terps' 2-10 finish was the worst overall record in the entire conference.
Complicating matters further, their Freshman All-American quarterback Danny O'Brien all but disappeared during his sophomore season, eventually being benched and battling with fellow sophomore C.J. Brown for playing time. It's only one year into the Randy Edsall era of Maryland Football, so no conclusions should be drawn from one season, but there is plenty of work ahead for the new coach, who is stepping out of the Big East and into the more competitive ACC.
So while Edsall gets to work on recruiting and preparing to get the program on track for the 2012 season, down in Nashville, Tenn., Franklin has become one of the hottest new coaches in college football and has his team preparing for a bowl berth. Only time will tell whether the Edsall hire was the right move for the Maryland football program, but expect some changes sooner than later.
Anderson met with Edsall on Saturday to conduct a top-to-bottom assessment of the program. Edsall's job certainly appears safe for now, but one has to wonder what could've been if Franklin had gotten the chance (or Friedgen had returned) to build on the momentum from 2010.
Posted Dec. 5, 2011