ACC: Gary Crowton

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January, 31, 2012
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If you could choose one school other than your alma mater to play football at, which one would it be?

Maryland hires defensive coordinator

January, 17, 2012
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Former Houston defensive coordinator Brian Stewart has been hired as Maryland’s defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach, the school announced on Tuesday morning.

Coach Randy Edsall has now made the two most important hires of the offseason, replacing Todd Bradford with Stewart and offensive coordinator Gary Crowton with Mike Locksley. The Stewart hire was obviously in the works for much longer than the school let on, as it only announced the firing of Bradford on Friday. Stewart will have his work cut out for him, as he has to turn around one of the worst defenses in the country. Then again, the entire staff has to turn around a 2-10 season.

Stewart spent the past two seasons with Houston, which finished 13-1. The Cougars ranked in the top 15 in the FBS in five categories: red-zone scoring (second – 67 percent), interceptions (t-third – 21), tackles for loss (sixth – 7.7 per game), turnovers gained (t-10th – 31) and opponent passing efficiency (12th – 111.75 rating).

Houston also improved from 96th nationally in scoring defense (32.2 points per game) in 2010 to 35th (22.4) this past year.

“I’m very pleased to have Brian come on board,” Edsall said in a prepared statement. “He is a proven defensive coordinator at both the collegiate and professional level. All of his experience will help us move forward as we look for him to implement his aggressive style. He will also be a great addition to our recruiting efforts.”

I'll have more on this hire later this afternoon.

Terps' DC Todd Bradford won't return

January, 13, 2012
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Maryland defensive coordinator Todd Bradford will not return in 2012, the school announced on Friday. Both parties agreed to a negotiated buyout of Bradford’s remaining contract.

“We appreciate Todd’s efforts this past season and wish him well in his future endeavors," Coach Randy Edsall said in a prepared statement. "It is the right time for us to move forward in a different direction.”

There's only one direction for Maryland to go at this point -- up.

Edsall, whose six-year contract was too lucrative for this season to cost him his own job, has now fired both of his coordinators. Gary Crowton has already been replaced by Mike Locksley. Bradford's dismissal should come as no surprise after the 2-10 finish. Maryland was ranked No. 108 in the country in total defense and No. 102 in scoring defense. With the move, Clemson and Maryland are now both in need of defensive coordinators.

ACC's lunchtime links

December, 15, 2011
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"Where do you think you're going? Nobody's leaving. Nobody's walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas. No, no. We're all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here. We're gonna press on, and we're gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny (beep) Kaye. And when Santa squeezes his ...

Well, you know how the rest of it goes ...

ACC's lunchtime links

December, 8, 2011
12/08/11
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Money money money ...
In his first collegiate start last weekend, Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown rushed for 162 yard against the No. 7 team in the nation, undefeated Clemson. Are the Terps gearing up for back-to-back Rookie of the Year awards by two quarterbacks on the same roster? Danny O'Brien, at least for now, is out; Brown is in. I caught up with Brown earlier this week to get his take on how this season has unfolded for the position. Here are the highlights of our interview:

How much have you surprised yourself?

[+] Enlarge C.J. Brown
Mitch Stringer/US PresswireSophomore quarterback C.J. Brown nearly led Maryland to an upset of Clemson in his first career start.
C.J. Brown: I always knew I could do it. It was just a matter of having things fall into place and being able to take advantage of the opportunity. Luckily so far I think I have, and hopefully I can build upon that.

I remember during the spring or summer that coach Randy Edsall had mentioned you were pushing Danny O’Brien, but I’m not sure how seriously everyone took it. I don’t think people were really aware of how much you were pushing him. In retrospect, how much of a competition was really there this summer?

CJB: I think there’s always going to be competition, but how much are people really going to pay attention to it, especially with the season Danny had last year and the accolades he received? I really wasn’t reading into it because there wasn’t anything I could control. I could only control what I was doing and the coaches were seeing that and he made a comment, but I’m just lucky and thankful I’ve been given this opportunity.

When did you realize that entering the starting lineup was a real possibility for you?

CJB: Not until last week. When I was able to get some time at Georgia Tech and go in and make an impact. I always knew I could do it, but when was the right time for that opportunity to come?

You had a big touchdown in that Georgia Tech game and showed you can run, but how much of that has taken a toll on you? I think you had more carries than Davin Meggett against Clemson.

CJB: Physically I feel good, my legs feel good, I take care of my body. I haven’t taken too many big hits, so I feel good.

Is it still a competition? Are you constantly looking over your shoulder, or do you feel like there’s been an official changing of the guard?

CJB: No, I think there is always going to be a competition. Danny is going to push me just like I pushed him. We’re just trying to better each other and better the team and hopefully get victories.

How comfortable are you in this offense?

CJB: I feel like I’m very comfortable. I feel like I fit like a piece to a puzzle. What coach [offensive coordinator Gary] Crowton has taught me and installed in this offense, I think I can run the offense the way he wants it to be run.

How have you been received in the huddle?

CJB: I feel like I’ve been received as the person I come off as. I have great chemistry with the guys, I’ve known most of the guys since I’ve been here. We’ve all come in together. I feel like it’s been a smooth transition. Everything is running well.

How has it been with Danny? Has it been rocky at all?

CJB: No, not really, and I didn’t think it would. We’re great friends. I was there to support him, and he’s been there to support me. When I came off the sideline, or he came off the sideline, we were always there telling each other what we saw and what we could do to make changes and stuff like that.

How frustrating is it having for you the kind of game you did against Clemson and still not coming out with the win?

CJB: I think it’s frustrating anytime you lose, especially having a lead against a top-10 team in the nation at home. But you’re proud of the effort and disappointed in the outcome. Unfortunately we didn’t get a win. We’ll get back at it this week and we have a big road test at Florida State.

What do you guys have to do better to reverse your fortunes down the stretch?

CJB: We just have to beat down the door, finish. We’ve had the opportunities and we’ve come up short. Once that happens, we’ll be able to take the next step.

It seems like the coaching transition has been a huge positive for you. How much of it has been about the change in offensive styles?

CJB: I guess you can look at it that way. I still have tons of respect for coach (Ralph) Friedgen and coach (James) Franklin. I love those guys to death. I’ve tried to adapt to the offense. Anytime you’re put in adverse situations you have to adapt. I’m just trying to do my best and do what the coaches want me to do.

ACC's lunchtime links

September, 14, 2011
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Saturday can't get here soon enough!

What to watch in the ACC: Week 1

September, 1, 2011
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There’s always something worth watching in the ACC, but Week 1 is usually one of the most interesting Saturdays of the season because of the anticipation that has been building since the end of the Orange Bowl. Here are 10 things to keep an eye on this week in no particular order as the ACC starts the season:

1. Debut of three new head coaches. Maryland coach Randy Edsall and Miami coach Al Golden will kick off their first seasons against each other on Labor Day, while North Carolina interim coach Everett Withers takes on James Madison. Golden and Withers have both had trying off-field incidents to deal with, as NCAA investigations at both schools have added extra challenges.

[+] EnlargeAl Golden
Joel Auerbach/Getty ImagesNew coach Al Golden is ready to shift Miami's focus onto the field.
2. Rookie starting quarterbacks. Five first-year starters will be introduced this weekend in Clemson’s Tajh Boyd, Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas, NC State’s Mike Glennon, North Carolina’s Bryn Renner and Virginia’s Michael Rocco. FSU quarterback EJ Manuel is entering his first season as a full-time starter, along with Georgia Tech’s Tevin Washington. There are bound to be a few plays they’d like to have back this weekend, but there should also be some signs of a promising future at the position.

3. Miami’s replacements. With eight players sidelined because of the NCAA investigation, Miami’s backups have been promoted to critical roles. Players like Andrew Smith, Marcus Robinson and Jordan Futch will have to elevate their games quickly.

4. Georgia Tech’s B-backs. This could be the first season under coach Paul Johnson that the Jackets don’t produce a 1,000-yard rusher in their run-based offense, only because the B-backs work more by committee. David Sims will start against Johnson’s alma mater, Western Carolina, but Charles Perkins and Preston Lyons could both get some carries.

5. Florida State’s offensive line. This group has had injury problems all offseason, and if there’s one question about the Seminoles this year, the offensive line is it. How this group looks intact remains to be seen.

6. New schemes. Clemson’s offense made sweeping changes under first-year coordinator Chad Morris, and Boston College will have some wrinkles under first-year coordinator Kevin Rogers. Maryland should also unveil a new look under first-year coordinator Gary Crowton.

7. Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins. If he starts against Troy as expected, Watkins would be just the 14th Clemson first-year freshman to start the season opener since freshman eligibility returned to college football in 1972. Watkins would be the first wide receiver to start the opening game as a true freshman since Roscoe Crosby started the opener of the 2001 season against Central Florida.

8. Wake Forest placekicker Jimmy Newman. He’s on a serious streak. Newman has made 12 straight field goals, currently the longest streak in school history. He has also made all 65 PAT attempts in his career, the second-longest streak of extra points in school history behind Sam Swank with 121.

9. The Roccos. Michael Rocco will be making his debut as Virginia’s starting quarterback the same day his uncle, Danny, takes on NC State as the head coach at Liberty. Rocco enters the season with 25 career passing attempts, and his uncle is entering his sixth season at Liberty with a 40-16 record.

10. Revamped secondaries. Georgia Tech and North Carolina have both undergone significant transition in the secondary, and Boston College has also had some turnover. The Yellow Jackets had to replace all four starters in the secondary, and the Tar Heels have to replace three starters. At BC, senior safety Dominick LeGrande decided to transfer, and projected starter Okechukwu Okoroha was dismissed from the team for disciplinary reasons.

Hope and concern: Maryland

June, 2, 2011
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The hope and concern series continues today with Maryland:

Biggest reason for hope: Quarterback Danny O’Brien

In a season of change at the quarterback position throughout the ACC, Maryland returns the league’s 2010 Rookie of the Year. First-year coach Randy Edsall praised O’Brien throughout the spring, and because O’Brien is such a true student of the game, Maryland fans can be confident in his ability to adjust quickly to the new terminology and philosophy under first-year coordinator Gary Crowton. O’Brien was 7-3 in his first season as a starter, completed 57 percent of his passes and only had eight interceptions.

Biggest reason for concern: Turnover

Not only did Maryland lose former coach Ralph Friedgen, the ACC’s 2010 Coach of the Year and seven of his assistants, the Terps also bid farewell to 10 starters – 11 if you include the double-duty of kicker/punter Travis Baltz. Offensively, the loss of big-play receiver Torrey Smith, who caught 128 passes for 1,879 yards and 17 touchdowns over the past two seasons, will require some adjustment. Defensively, the Terps will miss linebackers Alex Wujciak and Adrian Moten. There will be plenty of new faces in new places when Maryland opens the season on Labor Day against Miami, and how quickly everyone adjusts to their new roles -- and their new coaches -- will determine whether or not they’re in or out of this season’s ACC race.

More in this series:

Spring game storylines: Maryland

April, 29, 2011
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Maryland is the last team in the ACC to finish its spring practices as the Terps will hold their annual spring game at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday in Byrd Stadium. Maryland will play four 12-minute quarters. Here are three storylines to watch:

The ACC’s 2010 Rookie of the Year: With so many new faces at quarterback stealing the headlines this spring, Maryland quarterback Danny O’Brien has been practicing under the radar. He’s one of the top returning starters at his position, though, and this will be the first chance for the public to see how much progress he’s made under first-year coordinator Gary Crowton.

The kicking game: An underrated yet extremely important phase of the game remains a major question for the Terps. Maryland has to replace a four-year starting kicker/punter in Travis Baltz. Nick Ferrara is one to watch in the spring game, as walk-on Michael Tart is the only other kicker currently on the roster. Both players have been punting and kicking this spring, but Ferrara has only participated on Saturdays because of study halls on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Backup competitions: While the starting lineup is mostly set, coach Randy Edsall has said this will be one final spring audition for many of the backups. The staff is still looking for a third running back, they’re not settled yet at backup safety or linebacker, and because of injuries still need to figure out the two-deep on the offensive line. The rotation on the defensive line also remains a question, so numerous players should see snaps on Saturday.
COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Maryland began spring practices on Tuesday with a new coach, new schemes and enough new terminology that quarterback Danny O'Brien compared it to learning a foreign language.

Many of the players, though, are the same ones who brought the Terps within two wins of clinching the Atlantic Division title last year.

[+] EnlargeO'Brien
AP Photo/Stephan SavoiaMaryland quarterback Danny O'Brien and 13 other starters return to the Terps in 2011.
There are plenty of questions surrounding the program as Maryland begins its first week of spring practices under first-year coach Randy Edsall, but the players are confident there is enough talent remaining on the roster to build upon the success of last year’s nine-win season.

“The reality is all of those things are outside the box,” running back Davin Meggett said of the coaching transition. “The box is the white lines and the grass fields. We’re all the same. We lost a few key playmakers, but there’s no doubt in my mind we can’t match up, or replace them, or match up even better in between those lines. That really gives us a good look on how well we’ll play as far as next season.”

There’s reason for confidence in College Park. The Terps return 14 starters, including O’Brien, the 2010 ACC Rookie of the Year. Four offensive linemen return along with Meggett, the team’s leading rusher (720 yards). Defensively, seven of the top 10 tacklers return.

Maryland’s biggest holes to fill are at linebacker, where Alex Wujciak and Adrian Moten have graduated, and at receiver, where standout Torrey Smith left early for the NFL.

The biggest reason for concern, though, isn’t in College Park. It’s in Tallahassee, where Florida State is seemingly on cruise control heading into coach Jimbo Fisher’s second season. The Seminoles eliminated Maryland from the division race last year with a 30-16 win in Byrd Stadium.

Despite Florida State’s success and Maryland’s transition year, the Terps agree there’s no excuse not to be in hunt again.

“As players we feel like we’re contenders for the ACC championship,” said receiver Kerry Boykins. “We’re just buying into what the coaches say and what the coaches believe because we know they want what’s best for us. They’re here to win championships just as well.”

Boykins said the receivers and O’Brien met separately throughout the season and then had seven-on-seven drills every Wednesday, when O’Brien would help them grasp the concepts of what they were studying. They watched film of LSU, where offensive coordinator Gary Crowton was hired from. The biggest change in the offense will be the tempo, and the Terps will run more no-huddle, but how much is yet to be seen by even the players.

O’Brien said the offensive players are “not anywhere close to where we were last year by any means as far as familiarity with the offense,” but that they’re still probably further along than one might expect.

“There’s been a lot of change, but I think we’re really excited because it’s the same team coming back,” O’Brien said. “We might have a new scheme, new terminology, but it’s a lot of the same guys, and we’re a really tight family here at Maryland. We’re excited about what we’re going to put on the field this fall.”

Video: Maryland OC Gary Crowton

March, 8, 2011
3/08/11
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Heather Dinich talks with new Maryland offensive coordinator Gary Crowton.
COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Maryland running backs coach Andre Powell put change into a parking meter in downtown College Park for 20 minutes -- just long enough to run into Boston Market for a quick bite.

Twenty-two minutes later, he had a ticket.

Win or lose, moving takes some getting used to.

[+] EnlargeDanny O'Brien
Mitch Stringer/US PresswireDanny O'Brien passed for 2,438 yards and 22 touchdowns on his way to earning conference rookie of the year honors.
Randy Edsall’s staff has made a bizarre transition. Instead of replacing a group of coaches that were fired for losing, they’re tasked with improving a program that won nine games last season, including a bowl game, and had the ACC’s Rookie of the Year and Coach of the Year. While there is obviously talent still remaining on the roster (14 starters return), the new assistants downplayed the notion that their transition might be any easier because they inherited a good team.

“In this profession it’s never easy, it’s always harder because everything is brand new,” said special teams and outside linebackers coach Lyndon Johnson, who was on Edsall’s staff at Connecticut. “We’re coming in with a different philosophy, different schemes, so there’s a learning curve not just for players, but for us as coaches. Our defensive staff, the four of us, none of us come from the same background. We all have to learn Todd (Bradford’s) system in order to be able to teach it to our players. It’s always going to be an uphill battle, but this isn’t like it was an empty-shelf program. These guys were very successful.”

And yet only two assistants -- receivers coach Lee Hull and offensive line coach Tom Brattan -- remain from Ralph Freidgen’s staff.

“It’s a business, and in this business things happen,” Hull said. “You just adjust to it and go with the flow. Has it been an easy transition? No, but any new job is an adjustment. Had I left here and gone to another job that would have been an adjustment, too. Coach Edsall has been great through this whole transition and very understanding that Tom and I were on the previous staff. He’s been sensitive to that.”

The staff is comprised of a variety of backgrounds and two former head coaches in defensive line coach Greg Gattuso (Duquesne) and offensive coordinator Gary Crowton (Louisiana Tech and BYU). Defensive coordinator Todd Bradford and Crowton will both install new schemes and terminology this spring, which will obviously require an adjustment for even ACC Rookie of the Year quarterback Danny O'Brien.

Bradford was on the road speaking at a clinic when former defensive coordinator Don Brown left Maryland for a job at Connecticut. A month later, Bradford was hired as Maryland's defensive coordinator.

He said it’s still too early to get a read on the talent level the staff inherited.

“It’s hard to say because we haven’t coached these players yet,” he said. “It’s hard to say until we start coaching these guys. I don’t think it’s ever easy when you’re a new staff because there’s transition, there’s coaches getting to know players, there’s the learning curve that the players have, there’s a transition of how do we handle academics, how do we handle recruiting? Those are the same no matter what happened before we got there. Those challenges are always there. I think it’s very similar to any other place I’ve gone into when I’ve been on a new staff -- you have the things that have to get done in transition.”

Bradford said the staff has all of the necessary resources to be successful, including financial and fan support -- two areas that have been problems for Maryland in the past.

“That’s one of the reasons why we came, no question,” Bradford said. “I think everyone felt that way, that Maryland’s resources, where it was located, the tradition -- all of the things you look for when you’re talking about can you win every game, we felt like we had it.”

Now their challenge is to get more out of it than their predecessors did.

ACC's lunchtime links

March, 7, 2011
3/07/11
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Tournament? What tournament?

ACC's best offseason coordinator hire

February, 17, 2011
2/17/11
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Finally. Now that Maryland has hired/promoted a defensive coordinator, all of the major coaching changes in the ACC should be complete.

Aside from the two new head coaches -- Maryland's Randy Edsall and Miami's Al Golden -- the coordinator positions will have the most influence on the conference race. Five programs in the ACC -- Boston College, Clemson, Maryland, Duke and Miami -- will have new coordinators in 2011:

BOSTON COLLEGE

OUT: Offensive coordinator Gary Tranquill (retired)
IN: Offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers (spent past five seasons as QB coach of Minnesota Vikings)

CLEMSON

OUT: Offensive coordinator Billy Napier (fired)
IN: Offensive coordinator Chad Morris (hired from Tulsa)

MARYLAND

OUT: Offensive coordinator James Franklin (head coach at Vanderbilt)
IN: Offensive coordinator Gary Crowton (hired from LSU)
OUT: Defensive coordinator Don Brown (took same position at Connecticut)
IN: Todd Bradford (promoted from inside linebackers coach after a month)

DUKE

OUT: Defensive coordinator Marion Hobby (hired as Clemson defensive line coach)
IN: Jim Knowles (promoted from within)

MIAMI

OUT: Mark Whipple (fired)
IN: Jedd Fisch (former QB coach of Seattle Seahawks)
OUT: John Lovett (fired)
IN: Mark D'Onofrio (spent past five seasons with Golden at Temple)

BEST HIRE: Rogers. His experience is unmatched, and it's what separates him from the others. That's not to say there's not experience on this list -- Knowles and Crowton are both former head coaches. That's a huge bonus. But Rogers recently completed his 36th year in the coaching profession, 28 of which have been spent at the collegiate level. Fisch coached one collegiate season, at Minnesota. Morris has one season of collegiate coaching experience. Rogers has worked with the likes of Donovan McNabb, Bryan Randall and most recently Brett Favre. His biggest strength -- developing quarterbacks -- is what BC needs most right now. Rogers knows the ACC -- he coached at Virginia Tech. That's not to say that the others won't make an immediate impact or extract drastic improvements, but Frank Spaziani's hire was worth the wait.

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