Friday, February 17, 2012

On Danny O'Brien and Maryland football transfers

Editor’s note: This post was written by friend of the blog and Terps aficionado Walt Williams -- no, not that Walt Williams. Follow him on Twitter here. Thoughts and opinions are his own.

Earlier this week, now-former University of Maryland quarterback Danny O’Brien announced his plans to transfer, along with two of his now-former teammates (offensive tackle Max Garcia and defensive back Mario Rowson). These transfers raise the number of players who have decided to leave the program to 12 since the team’s disastrous 2-10 campaign ended three months ago, and 24 since head coach Randy Edsall took over the program a year ago. By comparison, Penn State has had no players transfer (to the best of my knowledge) since they ended an even more tumultuous (although more successful on the field) 2011 season than the Terrapins suffered through.

As expected, fan reaction to O’Brien’s announcement this week varied greatly from those who were happy to see him move on and wished him well, to those who were indifferent and to borrow a phrase from Edsall, excited to see the “C.J. Brown era” begin. For his part, Edsall made two sets of comments on the situation. One, in the form of a press release, and another in the form of an interview with CSN Washington’s Chick Hernandez. Edsall failed to come off well by taking some needless cheap shots at the departing players in his print statement (“Danny told me that he is not committed to our program, that he is not ‘all in.’”) and appearing to be petty when the issue of the players not being cleared to transfer to Vanderbilt and former head coach-in-waiting James Franklin if they desired (“But usually what’ll end up happening is there’s gonna be schools on there that you might compete against, or if there’s things that you feel might have taken place, you might put schools on that list. So we have that prerogative, to put those schools on the list. The players have the prerogative that if they want to appeal that, that they can appeal that as well.”).

There are a few pertinent issues that the strong anti-Vanderbilt stance raises. One is the implication (which at this point is baseless) that Franklin is doing something untoward regarding the Maryland program. Another is that the Maryland program and the coach that are tasked with going from good to great are going to be judged against Franklin and a Vanderbilt program that is trying to go from laughable to decent in the SEC (somehow Vanderbilt is ahead at the moment). Also, there’s the strong possibility that if New Mexico head coach Bob Davie shared the views of Edsall on players reuniting with former coaches, then Zach Dancel would have been barred from transferring to Maryland (and reuniting with former Lobos head coach and current Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley), possibly nullifying with it any chance of highly touted recruits Wes Brown (Brown lives with the Dancel family) and Stefon Diggs signing with the Terps. These points aside, this week’s events add to a long line of Edsall public relations missteps.

On the field, the latest transfers mean that Maryland will now be without its two starting tackles for next season (Garcia and the also departed R.J. Dill) and will have only one scholarship quarterback on the roster for spring practice in C.J. Brown, who while dazzling fans with his mobility also left something to be desired throwing the ball at times (in addition to being winless as a starter). The 12 transfers since the end of last season will also do nothing to help the transition Maryland will go through to their third offensive and defensive coordinators in as many seasons. This will obviously be a big factor in the team’s success in 2012, and I’ll talk more in-depth about it in a future post.

Earlier this month, though, the program, like others throughout the country, was able to look to the future with hope as high school seniors signed their letters of intent to play in college. In spite of their 2-10 record, Maryland was able to land a recruiting class ranked 35th according to, including potential program savior Diggs. The 23-player recruiting class as a whole averaged 2.91 stars, according to Rivals.

The similarity in the number of players entering the program as opposed to those who have left since Edsall became head coach (24 players have left the program, and including Dancel 24 have entered it) and the general apathy former head coach Ralph Friedgen’s recruiting classes generated gave me the idea to compare the recruiting rankings of the players who left the program with those entering it. Overall since Edsall has taken over, four 2-star recruits, 14 3-star recruits, and six 4-star recruits spanning across multiple recruiting classes have left the program. Including Dancel, the program took in one 5-star recruit, two 4-star recruits, 14 3-star recruits, and seven 2-star recruits -- that’s an average of 2.875 stars. The average star rating of the players who left the program is 3.08 stars. While recruiting rankings are always subjective and not necessarily indicative of how a player will perform, the fervor fans have over them makes this an interesting comparison.

How can Edsall complain about the overall talent and speed of his team and then have 24 players transfer while bringing in players on average who are more lightly regarded? That is a question many Maryland fans are eager to find out the answer to this upcoming season.