Kevin Duffy: Tough to see clear positives in work of Pasqualoni, Edsall
Updated 12:37 am, Sunday, November 11, 2012
It's apples to apples when comparing Paul Pasqualoni at UConn and Randy Edsall at Maryland.
Rotten apples, that is.
Really, think of an eye exam. The doctor says some variation of, "Better, one or two?" and you simply shrug, unable to make out the letters on the screen across the room.
The doctor tries again: "Better one," he flips the lens, "or better two? Which looks better?" You contemplate for a second, then finally go, "I don't know, Doc. They're both horrible."
Indeed, it's been a brutal few seasons for the current UConn coach and the man who used to roam the Rentschler sidelines.
This season and last, the Cliff notes on Edsall read like this: He won a nationally televised debut (of his coaching tenure and Maryland's hilarious uniforms), lost 10 of his next 11, drove 25 players to transfer and is now playing a freshman linebacker at quarterback.
And for Pasqualoni: He's 9-13 overall at UConn (though it seems much worse), he's lost to Western Michigan twice, has defeated just one team that finished with a winning record (Rutgers last season), and has played a significant role in assembling one of college football's most putrid offenses. Only after a 24-17 victory over Pitt Friday has Pasqualoni escaped last place in America's worst BCS conference.
These few seasons, low points of the past decade for each program, deserve closer examination.
In College Park, the "Fire Randy Edsall" bandwagon appears to have lost some steam, which isn't too surprising. After all, had it picked up speed from last year, it would have broken the sound barrier.
I've never seen such a mass outcry -- between players, fans and the most famous newspaper columnist in the country -- expressing so much disgust for a coach. One Terrapin anonymously complained to The Washington Post about Edsall "stifling individuality and creating a militaristic atmosphere." Then John Feinstein, the Post's star sports columnist, wrote a story titled "Randy Edsall should be stopped before he hurts Maryland any worse" in the wake of a humiliating defeat that saw the Terps outscored 42-0 by N.C. State in the final 21 minutes.
It hasn't been quite as extreme at UConn, where rumblings about Pasqualoni's performance began in late September following a lackluster defeat at Western Michigan. They've intensified since, even with Friday's victory over Pitt.
The root of such unbearable football has been a combination of self-inflicted wounds and bad luck.
Edsall inherited some talent. Heck, he had one of the league's best quarterbacks in Danny O'Brien, the ACC's Freshman of the Year in 2010. But Edsall began his famous carousel at the position -- one of his biggest flaws at UConn, as he should have just stuck with Cody Endres over Zach Frazer from Day One -- and O'Brien decided, like a few other starters, to flee town. The result: Maryland entered the 2012 season with 20 freshmen on the two-deep. Perhaps if Edsall didn't alienate so many players, he wouldn't have to rebuild from scratch, which is essentially his task.
Then there's Pasqualoni, thus far incapable of extracting his team's maximum potential -- the most important quality in a coach. He's been uninspiring and the Huskies have underachieved. A host of time management mistakes aside, his chief error in judgment was shifting Mike Foley, who orchestrated a dominant offensive line for the past six seasons, to tight ends coach and assigning offensive coordinator George DeLeone the extra responsibility of managing the line. The two greatest weaknesses on this team are blocking and play-calling, and DeLeone is in charge of both. You do the math.
Bad luck, too
But even the harshest critic must acknowledge that luck -- or the lack there of -- has factored into the equation. Maryland has as many injured quarterbacks (four) as it has wins: Starter C.J. Brown (torn ACL), back-up Perry Hills (torn ACL), third-stringer Devin Burns (foot) and fourth-stringer Caleb Rowe (torn ACL) are all done for the year, leaving Edsall with Shawn Petty, a freshman linebacker, calling the shots on offense. Oh, and Stefon Diggs, who ranks seventh nationally in all-purpose yards, missed Saturday's 45-10 tail-whipping at Clemson with an ankle injury.
You can't make this stuff up.
As for UConn, Pasqualoni's "bad luck" ranges from kicker Chad Christen's off-day versus Temple to Edsall's failure (in his latter years) to recruit the offensive line. It's clear that Coach P didn't inherit an overly talented team.
So what has each coach done to upgrade it?
Well, Edsall beat out Florida and Ohio State for Diggs, a truly big-time talent. He's also secured a top-10 offensive lineman in the class of 2013, and has put together two recruiting classes that inspires some sense of optimism. Because of the mass exodus and injury bug, Edsall's freshmen are already playing.
Aside from Chandler Whitmer, a more-than-competent quarterback, we haven't seen much from Pasqualoni's recruiting classes. And that's the only defense (literally, that's it) for retaining him beyond this season.
The future of both coaches -- will these two last to face each other at Rentschler next year? -- ultimately boils down to the "eye test." Can their respective athletic directors look at the body of work and honestly say, "This is the guy who should be leading our program into the future?"
Maybe Maryland AD Kevin Anderson can. Maybe he's seen a noticeable difference in Edsall -- "better Year One or Year Two?"-- this fall.
But Pasqualoni? If you answer "yes" to that above question, you might actually need an eye exam.