Big Ten: Randy Edsall

Despite making a commitment to Alabama last week, ESPN 300 offensive tackle Isaiah Prince said Wednesday he's visiting Maryland and will give the Terps a solid look.

Season report card: Maryland

January, 27, 2015
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Grades for the 2014 season are now past due, so we're handing them out as quickly as possible. The Maryland Terrapins are up next following their first season as a member of the Big Ten.

How did Maryland fare?

[+] EnlargeStefon Diggs
AP Photo/Nick WassReceiver Stefon Diggs helped Maryland achieve a winning season in its first season in the Big Ten.
Offense: C+

Some offenses are good. Some are bad. Maryland's was just strange in 2014. The Terps ranked 109th nationally in yards per game, 108th in rushing and tied for 116th in third-down conversions. But they put points on the board, finishing fifth in the Big Ten in scoring (28.5 ppg). Wide receiver Stefon Diggs brought explosive ability, but quarterback C.J. Brown and the offensive line struggled at times, and the overall unit didn't show much consistency in any area.

Defense: C

Like the offense, Maryland's defense could be a strength or a weakness, depending on the game (or sometimes the quarter). The Terrapins were terrific against Indiana, Penn State and Michigan, but hemorrhaged points against the Big Ten's better teams -- Ohio State (52), Wisconsin (52) and Michigan State (37). Cornerback Will Likely (six interceptions, two touchdown returns), defensive end Andre Monroe (10.5 sacks) and linebacker Yannick Ngakoue (13.5 tackles for loss, six sacks) stood out, but the overall unit was unpredictable.

Special teams: A-

The kicking game undoubtedly proved to be Maryland's strength in 2014. Kicker Brad Craddock won the Lou Groza Award after connecting on 18 of 19 field-goal attempts, including all 16 from inside 50 yards. Punter Nathan Renfro had a solid season, and Likely had both a punt return touchdown and a kick return touchdown, leading the Big Ten in kick return average (31). Maryland's coverage teams were the only drawback (105th in kickoff coverage, 101st in punt coverage).

Coaching: B-

Expectations outside College Park were fairly low for Maryland entering its first Big Ten go-round. Randy Edsall guided the Terrapins to a 7-4 start before a blown lead against Rutgers and a bowl no-show against Stanford left Maryland at 7-6. Andre Powell did a tremendous job with the special teams units, a reason why new Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi quickly added him to his staff.

Overall: B-

Despite no obvious strength other than special teams, Maryland was on the cusp of an 8-4 regular season before squandering a 35-10 lead against Rutgers. The Terrapins struggled against the Big Ten's elite but secured wins at both Beaver Stadium and Michigan Stadium. The injuries weren't quite as overwhelming but still significant, as four starters were lost for the season. It's a decent first step, but Maryland must improve on both sides of the ball to stay afloat in a challenging Big Ten East Division.

Offseason to-do list: Maryland

January, 20, 2015
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Our January journey through the Big Ten continues with a look at three items each team must address in the offseason. The Maryland Terrapins are up next.

1. Stabilize quarterback situation: This is a concern for most Big Ten teams outside of Michigan State and Penn State. At Maryland, the job looks set to go to rising senior Caleb Rowe, who pushed C.J. Brown in the first half of last season. But Rowe suffered a torn left ACL -- for the second time -- in an October practice. He’ll likely remain limited in the spring, an unfortunate development for the Terps. Junior Perry Hills and sophomore Shane Cockerille continue to develop and Maryland appears in the market for a graduate transfer QB, but Rowe is the best bet to take the reins in August. He completed 63 percent of his throws in 2014 and saw significant playing time as a sophomore in 2013. Consistency for Rowe is a concern. And despite his injury, this spring rates as an important time for him to grow in Mike Locksley’s offensive system.

2. Rebuild front seven: Have you seen what’s happening in the Big Ten East? Maryland fared well in its first season as a part of the league, posting a 5-1 road record before it ran out of gas late in the season. But more difficult challenges are coming as programs in every direction sink huge investments into football. Chief among the Terps’ concerns is a need to build a defensive system to compete against the innovative offenses of their division rivals. Coordinator Brian Stewart fielded a unit that ranked 12th in the Big Ten in yardage allowed, and the front seven needs a total replacement. Andre Monroe was a star pass rusher. Cole Farrand, L.A. Goree and Darius Kilgo were active near the line of scrimmage. Maryland features a solid secondary, headlined by star cornerback Will Likely, but the defensive backs can’t do their jobs well without support up front.

3. Continue to upgrade talent: Coach Randy Edsall has done well in recruiting. He beat traditional powers for receiver Stefon Diggs, Likely, offensive tackle Damian Prince and defensive end Jesse Aniebonam. More, please. Maryland sits among a hotbed of talent in comparison to the home ground of most Big Ten programs. It can recruit head to head against Penn State, evidenced by the pledge in this class of defensive tackle Adam McLean. Facility improvements are on the way. Yes, Edsall has created momentum in recruiting, and his teams have improved every season since his arrival in 2011. All signs point toward continued success in collecting talent. We’ll know more, though, in two weeks when the 2015 class is complete.
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- When Minnesota's Jerry Kill, Maryland's Randy Edsall, Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald and Purdue's Darrell Hazell exited the head coaches' convention meeting Tuesday morning, they didn't spell out O-H-I-O.

But all four Big Ten coaches were pleased that Ohio State won the national championship on Monday night, ending the league's 12-year drought since last reaching college football's pinnacle. Unlike many fans, the coaches don't get wrapped up in the endless debate about conference strength, but they don't tune it out, either. They can't.

"It's great for the Big Ten," Kill told ESPN.com. "There's no question about that."

Added Edsall: "It probably eliminates that negative talk about the Big Ten and all those things. It's nice to have one of your conference members win the national championship."

The Big Ten's hubris will never match that of the SEC, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. As one Big Ten assistant joked Monday afternoon about the title game, "You hold your nose and root for Ohio State."

But conference pride exists, and to have the nation's best team shines a positive light on the Big Ten, which has been bashed for the better part of the past decade.

"To play 15 games and to be an on-the-field champion, just ecstatic for those guys, first and foremost," Fitzgerald said of Ohio State. "It also shows that anybody can win, to go play it on the field. You have to go play a competitive schedule but most importantly, you have to win. Everybody's in control of that."

Ohio State's championship isn't just a point of pride for other Big Ten teams, but an inspiration. An Indiana assistant told ESPN.com on Monday that he couldn't believe how much Ohio State had improved late in the season. (Indiana held a third-quarter lead in Ohio Stadium on Nov. 22.)

As Hazell watched the championship game in his hotel room, his thoughts turned to his own team, which was coming off another subpar season.

"It makes you hungry," said Hazell, an Ohio State assistant from 2004-10. "I took it all in. It was a quiet moment, but I sat up in the bed and I watched it by myself and thought, 'These are the things we have to do to move our program forward.'"

Northwestern has endured consecutive losing seasons for the first time since 2001-02, and Fitzgerald hoped that Wildcats players watched the title game and saw how Ohio State, written off in the playoff race early this season, had earned its way onto the sport's biggest stage.

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer has made "The Chase" a theme for his players as they pursue goals. But after Monday night, the Buckeyes have become the hunted.

"Obviously, they're the team to chase," Hazell said. "It's a credit to their staff, their recruiting department. They're out there now. They are really out there."

The rest of the Big Ten is trying to catch Ohio State. And for the first time since 2003, so is the rest of the country.

Brian Bennett contributed to this report.

Maryland Terrapins season review

December, 16, 2014
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Before shifting our full attention to the bowl games, the Big Ten reporters are looking back on the seasons for every team in the league. The next squad up: Maryland

Overview: There’s no question the new Big Ten member can hack it in the league, though it did little more than fit squarely into the middle of the pack during its debut campaign. In fact, Maryland wound up being the perfect model for up-and-down consistency, trading wins and losses every week after diving into conference play, failing to ever put together a winning streak and always avoiding a losing skid. The Terrapins handled themselves well outside of the Big Ten, only losing a shootout to a dangerous West Virginia squad, then largely going about its business with few surprises down the stretch. Randy Edsall’s team didn’t have the firepower to hang with Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan State, and it was blown out by all three of the top programs currently at the top of the Big Ten. But it knocked off Michigan on the road, pulled out a victory over Iowa and planted some rivalry seeds by edging Penn State in a physical affair that went down to the wire. Aside from a wasted opportunity to end the year on a high note in the regular-season finale against Rutgers, there really wasn’t much reason to get too high or too low on the Terrapins in Year 1 in the Big Ten.

Offensive MVP: When healthy, nobody was more valuable or explosive for the Terrapins than Stefon Diggs. The injury the junior wide receiver suffered late in the season robbed him of a chance to make a run at 1,000 yards, instead leaving him with a line that included 52 receptions for 654 yards and five touchdowns with a chance to potentially bump those totals up if he returns for the Foster Farms Bowl. But the real scoring machine and perhaps the one weapon Maryland truly couldn’t have survived without was on special teams, where place-kicker Brad Craddock emerged as the best player in the country at the position. The Lou Groza Award winner only missed one of his 19 field-goal attempts this season, and that came from 54 yards. He hit twice from at least 50 yards and didn’t miss an extra point all year.

Defensive MVP: Few cornerbacks in the league were more opportunistic than William Likely, and when opposing passers challenged him, they were always taking a risk that the football might be going the other way in a hurry. Likely finished the season with six interceptions, returning two of them for touchdowns as he developed into one of the best defensive playmakers in the Big Ten. Likely also contributed 76 tackles from his spot in the secondary, including four for a loss while adding a forced fumble along the way.

Big Ten morning links

December, 12, 2014
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Wisconsin survived its first full day since way back in 2012 without a head coach, though the search to replace Gary Andersen -- set to to be introduced Friday at Oregon State -- appears set end quickly.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported Thursday night that the school is prepared to hire Pitt coach Paul Chryst, a former UW quarterback and offensive coordinator.

It’s a delicate situation, of course, for the Badgers, the uprooted assistant coaches and their families -- not to be taken lightly. But perhaps the most interesting byproduct of Andersen’s unexpected departure is the news that Barry Alvarez will coach Wisconsin in its bowl game. Again.

Alvarez, the 67-year-old athletic director and Hall of Fame former coach of 16 years in Madison, led the Badgers in the 2013 Rose Bowl, a six-point loss to Stanford, after Bret Bielema bolted to Arkansas.

Alvarez ought to just coach the Badgers in every bowl game. In fact, other legends should follow suit and rejoin their former programs on the sideline in the postseason. Surely, the NCAA would allow a special 10th coach. If not, just make them interns.

Let’s bring back Bobby Bowden, Lou Holtz, Mack Brown (too soon?), Don Nehlen, Lavell Edwards, Hayden Fry, Barry Switzer and, if Indiana can get to six wins, Bill Mallory.

Yes, I’m joking. Slightly more serious about this, though: Nebraska has an opening on its staff for the Holiday Bowl. How about Tom Osborne? If Alvarez can go from the College Football Playoff selection committee to the sideline, why not Osborne?

Yeah, he’s 77, served three stints in Congress, lost a gubernatorial primary in Nebraska -- did that really happen? -- and spent five years as athletic director since coaching his last game, a resounding win over Peyton Manning and Tennessee in the 1998 Orange Bowl.

But Osborne has perhaps never watched more college football than in this season. He must have some ideas on how the Huskers could surprise USC. One more fumblerooski up his sleeve.

What an experience it would be for Barney Cotton, long loyal to Nebraska, to have the ex-coach at his side. Cotton played under Osborne from 1975-78, then sent his three sons to Nebraska. It could also be a meaningful sendoff for Ron Brown, the Nebraska running backs coach who worked alongside Osborne in the legendary coach’s final 11 seasons.

Might help a bit with ticket sales, too, and inject a little spice into a game that means a great deal to several Huskers who want to honor their former coach, Bo Pelini, but realistically, little to the forward movement of the program.

Alvarez played linebacker for Bob Devaney on Nebraska teams of the 1960s that included Osborne as an offensive assistant. If Barry can do it, so can Tom.

Alas, it’s unrealistic. Osborne would likely never thrust himself into the spotlight in such a way. But just let me dream.

Thursday in Lake Buena Vista, Florida...

Lots of hardware

What a night on the Disney Boardwalk at the College Football Awards Show. The Big Ten had a good showing, as Iowa offensive tackle Brandon Scherff won the Outland Trophy, presented to the nation's top interior lineman; Maryland's Brad Craddock took home the Lou Groza Award as the top place-kicker; and Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon beat finalists Tevin Coleman of Indiana and Ameer Abdullah of Nebraska for the Doak Walker Award, given to the best running back.

Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright won the Bednarik Award, given to the best defensive player. Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa was among the finalists.

Also, Nebraska wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp won a vote for college football's play of the year for his behind-the-back catch in the season opener.

Around the league:

West Division
  • As expected, Gordon plans to leave after this season for the NFL.
  • Some confusion exists over Iowa's starting quarterback for the TaxSlayer Bowl.
  • A meeting with Missouri in the Citrus Bowl is a "big step" for Minnesota, according to coach Jerry Kill.
  • One of Purdue's recent football brings a French flavor, by way of a California junior college.
  • Northwestern needs to make changes, writes Teddy Greenstein, but will it happen?
  • The competition continues at Illinois during bowl practices.
East Division
  • Urban Meyer and Nick Saban have already met once in a playoff. They sat side by side Thursday and recalled the 2009 SEC championship game.
  • No surprise that Michigan wide receiver Devin Funchess did not meet his own expectations this year.
  • The explanation of playoff committee chair Jeff Long on Mississippi State's final-week jump over Michigan State does not erase flaws in the process, writes Graham Couch.
  • Indiana lands UAB receiver Marqui Hawkins but misses a juco QB target.
  • Freshman quarterback Michael O'Connor is leaving Penn State.
  • Maryland coach Randy Edsall, in San Francisco on Thursday, to discuss the Terps' matchup with Stanford, says receiver Stefon Diggs will play in the Foster Farms Bowl.
  • The salary pool for Rutgers' assistant coaches ranks eighth in the Big Ten.

Big Ten morning links

December, 4, 2014
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The silly season can wait. With the Big Ten title game just two short days away, and plenty of time when it’s over to talk about coaching searches, let’s focus on Wisconsin and Ohio State.

1. Heisman pose vs. The Shrug: The Big Ten’s top offensive player lines up opposite the league's top defender with a conference title on the line. Sure, the marquee lost a little bit of star power with the injury to the league’s top freshman, J.T. Barrett, but that won’t diminish the entertainment value of seeing Melvin Gordon collide with Joey Bosa. Gordon and Bosa, both freakish athletes, officially won Big Ten offensive and defensive player of the year awards on Tuesday night. With Barrett now out of the picture, the pressure is on Bosa to perform. The sophomore is going to have to be at his best to lead a defensive unit that has struggled some at stopping elite running backs -- and Wisconsin’s offensive line might be the best he’s faced all season. On the flip side, Gordon might be able to win over a few more Heisman voters if he can put together another vintage performance against a club with no shortage of talented defenders alongside Bosa.

2. Coaching connections: Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen worked for Ohio State coach Urban Meyer. Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman joked about sleeping on the couch of Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Aranda when they were in college together. In a profession that typically demands switching jobs and working with new faces for different programs throughout a career, it’s no surprise for there to be ties between Wisconsin and Ohio State. But there clearly won’t be many secrets with Andersen facing off against Meyer or Herman trying to outsmart his buddy Aranda. It could come down to which staff can come up with the best wrinkles, and it will almost certainly come down to whether the Badgers or Buckeyes are able to adjust on the fly in a high-pressure setting in Indianapolis. But more than just having some buddies on the other sideline, what should make Saturday night so fascinating is the impressive collection of some of the most respected names in coaching that Wisconsin and Ohio State have collected over the last couple seasons.

3. Bad blood?: Before the questions shifted to Michigan State as an unofficial secondary rival for Ohio State these days, Urban Meyer was getting them a year ago about Wisconsin. Considering the competitive games the programs have played recently and some of the high stakes that have accompanied those matchups, Meyer and the Buckeyes largely gave the Badgers the same treatment as the Spartans, with former center Corey Linsley calling it a “physical war.” For Meyer’s part, he downplayed any bad blood between the programs and then instead called it “intense respect,” while customarily refusing to refer to anybody other than Michigan as a rival for his program. But however it’s referred to, the series has been extremely entertaining recently, with the last three games all decided by 7 points or less, with one going to overtime and another decided in the closing seconds on a come-from-behind bomb from Braxton Miller in 2011. The Big Ten can only hope for another competitive classic between the two programs, particularly since there wasn’t one on the schedule during the regular season this year.

East Division
West Division
Lessons learned from the second-to-last week of the Big Ten regular season:

1. Ohio State won but may lose ground: If "game control" is as important as College Football Playoff selection committee chairman Jeff Long said last week, Ohio State should find itself in a spot of bother come Tuesday night. The No. 6 Buckeyes led Indiana just 14-13 at halftime and trailed deep into the third quarter before pulling out a 42-27 win. And remember that these Hoosiers are winless in Big Ten play and now just 3-8 overall. A letdown after winning on the road against Michigan State and Minnesota could have been expected, but Urban Meyer's team needs all the positive impressions it can create. It wouldn't be surprising to see Ohio State slip in next week's poll, just as TCU did after a shaky win over Kansas. On the plus side, the Buckeyes clinched a spot in the Big Ten championship game and will have a chance to add a quality win there. If all else fails, Meyer & Co. should just remind everybody that Indiana did beat Missouri -- or that Florida State barely wins every week.

[+] EnlargeJalin Marshall
Jason Mowry/Icon SportswireOhio State's Jalin Marshall scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to go along with another score late in the third, rallying Ohio State past Indiana.
2. One Axe to rule the West: Minnesota's 28-24 win at Nebraska and Wisconsin's 26-24 road victory over Iowa simplified the West Division race. The Gophers and Badgers are the last two contenders left, and in a stroke of great fortune, they will play for Paul Bunyan's Axe next Saturday in Madison. The longest-played rivalry in the FBS will have its most meaning in years, with the winner advancing to the Big Ten championship game against Ohio State. Wisconsin has won the ax 10 straight years, so Minnesota has its work cut out. But the Gophers have been proving people wrong all season. They will need a healthy David Cobb to have a chance.

3. Land of Lincoln game holds intrigue: If we had told you a few weeks ago that the season finale between Illinois and Northwestern would be really interesting, you probably would have laughed. But the Wildcats have gotten hot at the right time, upsetting Notre Dame in overtime last week and cruising past Purdue 38-14 on Saturday to get to five wins. Illinois, meanwhile, edged Penn State on a late field goal 16-14 for its fifth victory. So the Land of Lincoln Trophy game in Evanston will be a bowl play-in game for both sides. And it might just decide whether Tim Beckman keeps his job for another year in Champaign. Neither team's projected starting quarterback may play a huge role, as Northwestern's Trevor Siemian injured his leg against Purdue and Reilly O'Toole came in for an ineffective and perhaps-still-a-bit-gimpy Wes Lunt in the Illini's win.

4. Michigan State belongs in a major bowl: Instead of sulking after the home loss to Ohio State, the Spartans have taken out their frustrations on the Big Ten's newbies. After a 37-15 win at Maryland last week, Michigan State romped past Rutgers 45-3 on Saturday. Mark Dantonio had some fun on Senior Day, starting Tony Lippett on offense and defense, calling for a fake field goal while ahead 35-0 and giving offensive lineman Connor Kruse a carry. It's clear that the No. 11 Spartans are still one of the top teams in the country, with their only losses coming to potential playoff teams. They deserve to make one of the major bowls outside the playoff -- the Fiesta, perhaps? -- and get a shot against an outstanding opponent from a major conference. If they play like they have the past couple of weeks, they'll have a great chance to win a big bowl, too.

5. Maryland is having a nice first Big Ten season: Winning at Penn State and 23-16 on Saturday at Michigan is a pretty nice way to introduce yourself to the league, even if those two programs are at near historic low points. Randy Edsall's Terrapins can post an 8-4 record by beating Rutgers at home next week. Their only losses would be to three of the league's top teams -- Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan State -- and a close call at home against West Virginia. They also beat Iowa and weren't quite as hapless in big games as fellow newcomer Rutgers, which was outscored 180-43 in its four games against ranked Big Ten opponents. Maryland still has to finish it off this week, but a third-place showing in the Big Ten East and an eight-win season would make for a very solid conference debut.
You can question whether the Big Ten always competes at the same elite level as some other leagues. You can question, at times, some conference teams' all-out commitment to winning national championships in football.

But you can't question whether Big Ten head coaches are paid like the best of the best, at least at the top of the heap. USA Today has again done yeoman's work in compiling the salaries and compensation for every FBS head coach, and several Big Ten bosses remain among the most richly rewarded.

[+] EnlargeMark Dantonio
AJ Mast/Icon SportswireMark Dantonio is the Big Ten's highest-paid coach at $5.6 million in total pay.
According to the database, the league has four of the top 10 highest-paid coaches in the FBS, though the names and rankings may surprise you a bit. Michigan State's Mark Dantonio surprisingly, checks in at No. 2 at more than $5.6 million in compensation, behind only his former boss, Alabama's Nick Saban.

It's important to note here that USA Today's methodology includes bonuses and other pay besides just salary. Dantonio received a $2 million longevity bonus that is being calculated into this list; his salary, which was bumped up after the Spartans won the Rose Bowl, is $3.64 million.

Ohio State's Urban Meyer checks in at No. 6 at just over $4.5 million, followed by Penn State's James Franklin (No. 8 overall at $4.3 million) and Iowa's Kirk Ferentz (No. 9, $4.075 million). Note that the figure for Franklin is based on a proposed financial term sheet released by the school, which declined to make Franklin's actual contract public.

Surprised not to see Michigan in the Top 10? Brady Hoke checks in at a relatively (key word) modest $2.85 million, good for only No. 30 in the FBS. Hoke ranked in the top 10 last year because of a large retention bonus he received. If the Wolverines make a coaching change and decide to land an established head coach, they could easily pay in the $3 million to $4 million range. Maybe more, if they could reel in a truly big fish like Les Miles or one of the Harbaughs.

The difference between the Big Ten and the SEC in salaries is much like the on-field rankings: depth. Twelve of the 14 SEC coaches are ranked in the Top 30 in salary and all 14 are ranked in the Top 34. Just six of the Big Ten coaches are in the top 30, which is one less than the Big 12 has. The SEC also boasts eight of the top 20 highest-paid coaches in the FBS, while half of the Big Ten's 14 coaches are ranked No. 41 or lower.

Here's how the rest of the Big Ten coaches stack up:

No. 24: Nebraska's Bo Pelini: $3.08 million
No. 39: Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald: $2.48 million
No. 41: Wisconsin's Gary Andersen: $2.29 million
No. 45: Minnesota's Jerry Kill: $2.1 million
No. 46: Purdue's Darrell Hazell: $2.09 million
No. 47: Maryland's Randy Edsall: $2.03 million
No. 52: Illinois' Tim Beckman: $1.95 million
No. 66: Indiana's Kevin Wilson: $1.3 million
No. 73: Rutgers' Kyle Flood: $987,000

Brad Craddock is automatic for Terps

November, 14, 2014
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A fall Saturday doesn't go by without "#collegekickers" popping up on Twitter, as fans and media types commiserate over field-goal unreliability at this level.

But that hashtag is one that Maryland fans never have to type. The Terrapins have the most dependable kicker in the FBS right now, though his back story shows just how unpredictable that part of the game can still be.

Brad Craddock never watched American football while growing up in Australia, never stepped foot on Maryland's campus before he signed and traveled halfway across the globe intending to be the Terps' punter.

[+] EnlargeBrad Craddock
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarBrad Craddock has become a leader in the Maryland locker room.
"That's what I always thought I'd be doing," he said. "I never thought I'd be kicking."

Yet here he is, having made all 14 of his attempts this season, including a school-record 57-yarder last month against Ohio State. Only two other kickers -- Duke's Ross Martin and Kansas State's Matthew McCrane -- are still perfect this year, and neither has attempted as many field goals as Craddock. Dating back to last season, Craddock has made 20 consecutive tries, the longest active streak in the country. He's 9-for-9 beyond 40 yards this season. And he's a Lou Groza Award semifinalist for the second straight season.

"He's the best kicker in the country," Maryland coach Randy Edsall says.

In Maryland's last game, Craddock drilled a 43-yarder in the final minute on the road at Penn State to give the Terps just their second win ever over the Nittany Lions and first in Beaver Stadium.

"I don't really remember much of it, honestly," he said. "It's still sort of surreal to me, I guess."

That describes much of his journey to this point.

Craddock was raised in Adelaide, the capital city of South Australia (and a two-hour drive from a place called Kangaroo Island). He played Australian rules football and tennis growing up. In high school, he hooked up with OzPunt, an organization that trains Australian rules players how to punt and kick for American football teams.

Craddock put together an audition tape and sent it out to every NCAA Division I team. He'd stay up until 3 a.m. calling coaches and doing research on schools. He said several teams showed interest, but Maryland was the first to offer a scholarship. He accepted it right away, relying on what he and his mother learned about the school from the Internet.

He showed up in College Park ready to compete for the punting job. But during his freshman year, starting placekicker Nick Ferrara got injured, and Edsall had Craddock try field goals. Craddock had kicked a few for his audition tape but said he had attempted less than 10 field goals in his life at that point.

"I didn't really know what to do," he said. "Technique-wise, I didn't understand how kicking works. I just went out and banged the ball and hoped it went in."

He would make 10-of-16 attempts that year but also missed a potential 33-yard game-winner at NC State when the ball caromed off the left upright. Distraught, he seriously considered quitting football that offseason.

"I thought I had actually hit it pretty well, and I didn't really understand how I missed it," he said. "I went home and decided that if I didn't go back, I'd regret it. I figured I'd come back and work and train as hard as I could. And if I still wasn't good enough, it was because I wasn't good enough, not that I didn't try."

Craddock doubled his efforts when he returned and began working with former Baltimore Ravens kicker Matt Stover to learn the finer points of his new craft. He went 21-of-25 attempts as a sophomore.

"We kind of just threw Brad in there and he learned under fire," Edsall said. "To see how far he's come since he's been with us is just a true measure of how hard he's worked and how hard he's studied the art of placekicking."

Craddock's journey has helped him become something even rarer than a reliable college kicker. He's a respected team voice despite his specialist role, serving on the Terrapins' leadership council and guiding younger players. Edsall said Craddock recently sat down with sophomore linebacker Yannick Ngakoue for more than two hours to help him get his priorities in order.

"He's one of the best leaders that we have," Edsall said. "I said to our team that everybody should take the time to sit down with Brad and to ask him questions and hear what he has to say. … He's just very, very mature."

Craddock is also automatic these days when Maryland needs a field goal. Just goes to show that with college kickers, you just never know.

Big Ten morning links

November, 13, 2014
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Another week, another huge game in the Big Ten. Maybe it would have been better not to save all the excitement up for November, but it's hard to complain right now.

1. B1G and not bad: Those early-season debacles outside of the league were supposed to be the death knell for the Big Ten, and they certainly generated a lot of punchlines. But in case anybody hasn’t noticed, the conference is actually a lot more highly thought of by the selection committee than it might be getting credit for, with only the SEC boasting more teams in the current Top 25 than the Big Ten’s five. There are some caveats that must be mentioned, starting with the number of teams still blocking the path of No. 8 Ohio State to the four-team field. And Minnesota might not be long for its spot at No. 25 if it can’t beat the Buckeyes on Saturday. But it’s worth noting that the Big Ten schedule might not actually be a drag on a potential one-loss league champ, because as it stands right now the résumés of Ohio State and Nebraska would both be boosted down the stretch by multiple matchups with ranked opponents in a league that seems to have overcome its rough start.

2. Under-the-radar matchup: The schedule this weekend is well stocked with intrigue, which should probably be enjoyed because Nov. 22 is looking pretty barren. But before worrying about that, Saturday presents a clear heavyweight battle in the West between Nebraska and Wisconsin, with a solid undercard between Ohio State and Minnesota. But while those games are stealing the spotlight, Michigan State’s visit to Maryland should be worth monitoring as well and could be meaningful in sorting out the final pecking order in the East and when bowl bids are handed out. The Terrapins have had some ups and downs in their first season in the Big Ten, but if they can overcome the fired-up, frustrated Spartans on Saturday, they could actually pull ahead into second place in the division with a head-to-head tiebreaker. Maybe that doesn’t mean all that much in the grand scheme of things, but it could be a useful recruiting tool for Randy Edsall down the line.

3. Michigan meltdown: If nothing else, the Wolverines can claim the national lead in public apologies this season. And the mess at Michigan this season isn’t just limited to on-field issues or even the athletic department, with president Mark Schlissel the latest to stick his foot in his mouth and seek forgiveness. Given everything that has gone wrong with the Wolverines this season, it’s getting to the point where nothing can really come as a surprise anymore and missteps barely even cause people to bat an eye. But that’s still pretty remarkable considering the history, tradition and reputation of that university on the field and in the classroom, and it’s fair to wonder if perhaps that might have an impact on the likely coaching search the program will be starting after the season. The problems don’t seem to be limited to just the football team, and maybe that will give a high-profile candidate a reason to pause if the Wolverines come calling.

East Division
  • Michigan has not ruled out a possible return this season for running back Derrick Green.
  • Michigan State was "handled" up front and not consistent enough on its defensive line last weekend, and it's aiming to get that cleaned up against Maryland.
  • Rutgers right tackle Taj Alexander has seen the value of being part of a rotation as a younger player, so he can't complain about being in one again as a veteran.
  • The "blackout" at Maryland will extend to the uniforms for the prime-time matchup with Michigan State.
  • Ohio State H-back Dontre Wilson could be back in time for a bowl game.
  • The future of Penn State's depth chart at quarterback.
  • The conversations about Indiana all revolve around quarterbacks.
West Division

Weekend rewind: Big Ten

November, 3, 2014
11/03/14
10:00
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The Big Ten slate wasn't filled with all that much excitement this past weekend -- with one notable exception.

Four conference games were decided by three touchdowns or more, but the renewal of the Maryland-Penn State rivalry almost made up for the humdrum afternoon. Heck, memorable moments in that game started even before the opening kickoff, from a brief pregame scuffle to the no-handshake coin toss seen around the country.

The other four B1G games were all basically over by halftime, and the average margin of victory was 32.8 points. That made for plenty of individual standout performances, and it also made Maryland’s 20-19 win stick out a bit more.

On to the Week 10 rewind:

[+] EnlargeBrad Craddock
Rich Barnes/USA TODAY SportsThe clutch kicking of Brad Craddock, No. 15, helped give Maryland its first win over Penn State in 53 years.
Team of the week: Maryland. Apologies to Iowa, but the Terps made history Saturday -- so that takes precedence over a dominating win against an inconsistent team. Maryland had never won in Beaver Stadium and hadn’t beaten Penn State since 1961. Before this past Saturday’s contest, PSU even held the 35-1-1 series advantage. Maryland’s defense ended up finishing with nine stops in the backfield, and kicker Brad Craddock nailed a game-winning 43-yard field goal with under a minute left. Said head coach Randy Edsall: “You don’t know what this means to our program.”

Biggest play: The team of the week might not have earned that honor if it wasn’t for a key fumble recovery Saturday afternoon. In the fourth quarter, immediately following a Terps field goal, Penn State freshman Grant Haley fumbled on the ensuing kick return after a nice hit by linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr. Alex Twine recovered the ball, and Maryland scored a touchdown four plays later to take a 17-16 lead. That play set the stage for the game-winning kick later in the final quarter.

Big Man on Campus (offense): Wisconsin RB Corey Clement. Step aside, Melvin Gordon, it’s time for another Wisconsin back to bask in the spotlight. Gordon did just fine against Rutgers, to the tune of 128 yards and two TDs -- but Clement did even better. The No. 2 running back finished with 131 rushing yards and two scores, and his rushing average was markedly higher than his Heisman hopeful teammate. Clement averaged 9.4 yards a carry; Gordon averaged 6.7 yards a carry. The pair once again carried their team to a win, but Clement’s production inched out Gordon’s this time around.

Big Man on Campus (defense): Iowa S John Lowdermilk. He was all over the field Saturday and finished with a dozen tackles, a pass breakup and a forced fumble. Iowa allowed just 74 passing yards -- the eighth-lowest total during the Kirk Ferentz era -- and he was terrific in run support, too, as the Wildcats wound up with 2.4 yards per carry. There were plenty of good defensive performances for Iowa, but Lowdermilk set the tone.

Big Man on Campus (special teams): Maryland kicker Brad Craddock. He hasn’t missed a kick all season, and he nailed a game-winning, 43-yard field goal with 51 seconds left against Penn State. Does anything else really need to be said? Craddock was clutch at the most important time, so it's difficult to argue anyone else is more deserving. He was 2-of-2 on field goals. Penn State's Sam Ficken likely would've taken Craddock's spot here had the game ended differently.

Biggest face plant: Northwestern. If there was a “Most inconsistent team” trophy, the Wildcats would win that season award, too. Trevor Siemian finished with his worst game yet -- posting a QBR of 3.3 (on a scale of 100) -- as the Wildcats faced a 31-point halftime deficit, their biggest halftime deficit in four years. After surprising wins against Penn State and Wisconsin earlier in the season, it looked as if Northwestern would rebound its way to a bowl game. But after dropping its third straight, the Cats are down for the count.

Facts and numbers to know: Iowa RB Akrum Wadley recorded his first carry Saturday and also finished with 100-plus rushing yards, the first time that’s happened to a Hawkeye since Brandon Wegher in 2009. … Ohio State tied its own Big Ten record with 20 straight Big Ten regular-season wins; previous record was Ohio State’s run in 2005-2007. … OSU has outscored opponents 189-39 in the first half this season. … Nebraska blocked two punts against Purdue, the first time it’s done that since Oct. 25, 2003, when it played Iowa State. … Wisconsin is bowl eligible now for the 13th straight season, the longest streak in the conference. … Wisconsin shut out Rutgers, 37-0, its first shutout on the road since a 31-0 win over Iowa on Oct. 24, 1998. … For the first time in 128 seasons, Penn State played in an overtime game and a one-point game in consecutive contests.

Big Ten morning links

November, 3, 2014
11/03/14
8:00
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Top o' the morning to ya:

1. It's here. Finally. Ohio State-Michigan State game week. We've been waiting for this one since, oh, about Jan. 4. ESPN's "College GameDay" will be in East Lansing. It's a playoff and East Division elimination showdown, as well as a rematch of last year's Big Ten championship game.

But the anticipation of this game's arrival points out something else: the utter lack of depth at the top of the Big Ten. This will be the first meeting of ranked teams within the conference since the Oct. 4 game between Nebraska and Michigan State. A month between marquee games is a long time, especially when other leagues are staging them on close to a weekly basis.

Wisconsin's ascent back into the Associated Press and USA Today coaches' polls (we'll have to wait until Tuesday night to find out if the Badgers are in the only Top 25 that matters any more), could guarantee that there's one more game on the schedule between ranked opponents: Nov. 15, when Nebraska visits Madison. But that's it, and it's not nearly enough. Because otherwise, we get stuck with games like Illinois-Ohio State in prime time.

The Buckeyes are looking forward to the rematch and the chance for revenge.

2. "Let the rivalry begin." Those were the words of Maryland coach Randy Edsall after the Terrapins beat Penn State 20-19 in Beaver Stadium. Nittany Lions fans may scoff, because Penn State was 35-1-1 against Maryland before Saturday. And the Lions are definitely in a temporary downturn right now because of NCAA sanctions.

But the Terps, whose only losses this year are to ranked teams (West Virginia, Ohio State, Wisconsin), still made a statement in an ugly game. Saturday was the first meeting between the two teams since 1993, so current high schoolers don't know anything about the history. And Maryland's pregame antics, which included a scuffle and refusing to shake hands with the Penn State captains, shouldn't be encouraged but will definitely be remembered. There will be some real animosity from the PSU side the next time these two schools play, and that's what a real rivalry is all about.

There's no doubt Maryland wanted this game more, David Jones writes.

3. Is this Nebraska team different than previous Bo Pelini-coached editions?

The Cornhuskers are 8-1, with their only loss coming by five points on the road to a top-10 club. That's impressive, and it sure looks like Pelini will reach at least nine wins for the seventh straight year. But are the Cornhuskers really ready to take the next step and become a championship club?

Nebraska beat Purdue 35-14 on Saturday in what Pelini called a "sloppy" performance. On one hand, when you can play sloppy and without your offensive superstar and still win by three touchdowns, you must be pretty talented. On the other hand, Nebraska can look pretty average offensively without Ameer Abdullah, and it desperately needs him down the stretch. We should hope he's as healthy as possible for that Nov. 15 game at Wisconsin, and not only because he's a great player and the Abdullah-Melvin Gordon duel should be a thriller. We need a fully-powered Huskers squad that day to find out if this program has turned a corner.

Nebraska can still drive you a little nutty, Tom Shatel writes.

More links ...

East Division
West Division

Video: Maryland coach Randy Edsall

November, 1, 2014
11/01/14
4:32
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video

Coach Randy Edsall said he is thrilled for the state of Maryland following the Terrapins' 20-19 road victory over Penn State on Saturday.

Big Ten viewer's guide: Week 10

October, 31, 2014
10/31/14
10:00
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November is almost here, and that means it's time for the championship push in the Big Ten. While there are no games between ranked teams this weekend, there are some contests that could separate pretenders from contenders.

Here's a look at what's on tap Saturday (all times ET):

Noon

Northwestern (3-4, 2-2 Big Ten) at Iowa (5-2, 2-1), Big Ten Network: The games between these two are often close, with four of the past six meetings being decided by seven points or fewer, including last season's overtime affair. Both the Wildcats and Hawkeyes have similar statistical profiles, so this could be another thriller.

Maryland (5-3, 2-2) at Penn State (4-3, 1-3), ESPN2: The Nittany Lions and Terrapins have not played since 1993, and this could become a new Big Ten rivalry -- provided that Maryland can actually make it competitive. The Terps have won only once in 37 tries against Penn State (1961). Nittany Lions coach James Franklin used to be Maryland's head-coach-in-waiting, while Terrapins boss Randy Edsall is from Pennsylvania.

Wisconsin (5-2, 2-1) at Rutgers (5-3, 1-3), ESPN: This is the first-ever meeting between the Scarlet Knights and the Badgers, who appear to be traveling different paths. Rutgers has been blown out in its past two games -- at Ohio State and at Nebraska -- while Wisconsin just put together its best effort of the season in a 52-7 win over Maryland. Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova (knee) is questionable, which could make things tougher against a Wisconsin defense ranked No. 7 nationally in points allowed.

3:30 p.m.

Purdue (3-5, 1-3) at No. 15 Nebraska (7-1, 3-1), ABC/ESPN2: The Boilers' offense is vastly improved, but it will need to find a way to keep pace with a Huskers squad that's averaging 42.8 points per game at home. Purdue ranks 11th in the Big Ten in rush defense and could have a hard time stopping Ameer Abdullah.

Indiana (3-4, 0-3) at Michigan (3-5, 1-3), BTN: Last season's game produced 110 points and more than 1,300 yards. That seems highly unlikely this year, as both teams are struggling to score. Devin Gardner will remain the Wolverines' starting quarterback, while Indiana hopes Zander Diamont can improve after he threw for just 11 yards in his college debut, versus Michigan State.

8 p.m.

Illinois (4-4, 1-3) at No 16 Ohio State (6-1, 3-0), ABC: The Illibuck game might not be ready for prime time unless Illinois can build off last week's rare Big Ten win versus Minnesota. The Illini are last in the Big Ten in total defense, while Ohio State is putting up 44.3 points per game. So, yeah, it could get ugly (and cold, with temperatures expected to dip into the low 30s in Columbus).

Byes: Michigan State, Minnesota

Required reading

Week 10 predictions | Bold calls

Take Two: Abdullah or Gordon to NYC

Ameer Abdullah fights to see through the jungle

Gordon does Gotham; return trip in store

Ohio State learning more about J.T. Barrett

James Franklin to face familiar opponent

Michigan's issues run deeper than Hoke

Spartans sharpen focus as stakes grow

Big Ten playoff tracker

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