Randy Edsall's first season as the Maryland head football coach didn't go as planned.
The straight-shooting Susquehannock High School graduate would be the first to admit that.
During the season, the Terrapins lost games in bunches, finishing 2-10, including eight straight to end the season. That came on the heels of a 9-4 season in Ralph Friedgen's final year as a head coach.
After the season, the Terps lost players in bunches, with 13 players with remaining eligibility opting to leave the program, including one-time star quarterback Danny O'Brien. During his 14 months as head coach, approximately two dozen players have left the program.
Some of the defectors apparently didn't appreciate Edsall's hardline approach to football and academics. He expected his rules to be followed and he expected his players to go to class. That didn't sit well with some, especially when compared with Friedgen's more relaxed personality.
Not surprisingly, Edsall came under severe criticism from both Maryland fans and the local media. At least one prominent media member, John Feinstein of the Washington Post, said Edsall should be fired -- after just one year on the job. Another famous Post columnist, Sally Jenkins, compared him to a modern-day Captain Queeg.
Edsall's program also had to deal with a pair of unexpected body blows after his hiring. First he learned in January, 2011, that the Terps lost three scholarships for academic failures. Then, last July, the NCAA ruled that Friedgen had practiced his players beyond the 20-hour-per-week limit in 2010. The NCAA then limited the Terps to a 171/2-hour week in 2011.
Fewer scholarships and a shorter work week made his job considerably more difficult, especially for a new coach.
The Glen Rock native grew up a Maryland fan. When he became the Terps' head man, he called it his "dream job," but in some respects it had quickly turned into a nightmare.
The nightmare, however, may finally be ending. Edsall has received some much-needed support this spring.
The Maryland players who have stuck with Edsall now seem committed to the former York County standout.
After the recent spring game, senior offensive lineman Justin Gilbert told the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star: "I hate saying it, but now that the guys who don't want to be here are gone, we can really focus on next season. We don't have any distractions anymore. Everybody who's here wants to be here. I really saw that this spring with guys. The chemistry was better. There was no cancers on the team. Everybody was all together."
Those words surely meant a lot to Edsall. Gilbert likely spoke for many, if not most, of his remaining teammates.
But the support didn't stop there.
Less than two weeks ago, Edsall got a strong endorsement from Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank.
Why is that important? Well, Plank is a former walk-on at Maryland who is now the school's most influential booster. He's also a member of the schools' board of trustees.
"Randy Edsall is a good, strong, decent man who is working his tail off on behalf of the University of Maryland," Plank recently told The Baltimore Sun. "And there are more people that want to spend their days burning things down than building it up. At least stop rooting against him. You know, give the guy a chance."
Plank's backing is significant. He is to Maryland what Nike's Phil Knight is to Oregon -- the power behind the scenes.
When Friedgen was pushed out following the 2010 season, it was thought that Plank wanted former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach to be the next Terps' boss. Edsall eventually got the job and there were rumors that Plank wasn't happy with the selection.
If Plank now has Edsall's back, that may be critical to the coach's success.
Recruiting is also picking up for Edsall. Over the weekend, Maryland beat out Penn State for a pair of four-star recruits.
For his part, Edsall has persevered through it all. He remains convinced that the program is headed in the right direction and he's called the player defections part of a normal coaching transition.
He may very well be right, but Edsall has made a few mistakes along the way.
It started with the way he left UConn to take the Maryland job. He flew directly from a Huskies' bowl game to meet with Maryland officials and then attend an introductory news conference -- without first talking to his UConn players in person. Many felt he abandoned his former program and its players.
His hardline handling of O'Brien's transfer was also clumsy. At first, he refused to give O'Brien a full release, but refused to elaborate on why. Eventually, the university administration intervened and told Edsall to give O'Brien an unconditional release.
And finally, his relationship with the local media has been strained, at best. Edsall needs to improve in that area. That is obvious.
None of those mistakes are fatal, however. If fact, they're fairly typical in the coaching fraternity.
What could be fatal is continued losing. Edsall knows that better than anyone.
Luckily, winning is the one area that Edsall has the most control over. His track record at UConn shows that -- if he's given a proper chance -- Edsall will turn Maryland into a winner, and he'll do it the right way.
He just needs time and support.
Despite the calls of some, such as Feinstein, Edsall will get at least one more year to prove his worth. And his six-year contract likely means he'll get at least one more year after that.
Edsall now seems to be getting the support he needs, from his players, from Plank and from recruits. Hopefully Terrapin Nation will soon follow.
The Susquehannock grad may not make the Terps into winners this season, but he will make them into winners soon, and he'll keep them winning for a long time come.
He just needs the chance.
-- Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 854-1575, ext. 455.