When Randy Edsall was still climbing the lower rungs of the coaching ladder, guiding the defensive backs with the Jacksonville Jaguars, a hotshot young wide receiver named Keenan McCardell arrived in town, a shiny new free-agent contract under his belt. Soon, McCardell became known as “Thunder,” the counterpart to Jimmy Smith’s “Lightning,” and the duo provided daily headaches for Edsall’s defensive backs during practice.
“He was a pain in the butt, from a good standpoint for our team,” Edsall said. “He always gave our team problems because he played so hard and he was so smart.”
Those daily battles on the practice field laid the foundation for Thursday’s announcement, when the Maryland football team welcomed McCardell as its new wide receivers coach along with Chad Wilt (defensive line) and Dave DeGuglielmo (offensive line). On a teleconference with reporters, Edsall pitched all three additions as energetic, enthusiastic teachers with strong pedigrees, whether in the NFL like McCardell and DeGuglielmo, or as a burgeoning coach working through the ranks like Wilt.
“Was just very, very impressed with all three of these men as they came in and sat down and interviewed with our coaches and myself,” Edsall said. “I think they’re three great additions to our staff that’s already in place.”
The timetable was no accident. Maryland wanted to announce all three as a group once the contracts were signed, which Edsall wanted to happen before the NCAA-mandated recruiting dead period ended Wednesday. Though McCardell, Wilt and DeGuglielmo haven’t been assigned recruiting territory yet, each will spend the next several days shadowing current staff members and visiting class of 2014 commitments to learn the ropes.
“That was my goal, to have it done and all of them are hitting the road today,” said Edsall, who spent the morning with Wilt and planned to spend tomorrow with McCardell, presumably visiting New Jersey wide receiver Juwann Winfree.
Wilt should have little trouble adjusting. In addition to serving as Ball State’s defensive line coach since 2011, he was also the recruiting coordinator for the Cardinals. For McCardell, a 17-year NFL veteran with two years of professional coaching experience but zero at the college level, and DeGuglielmo, who hasn’t coached in college since 1999, there might be a learning curve.
“The biggest thing I told them when they asked me, I said the biggest adjustment will be knowing the NCAA rulebook,” Edsall said. “To me, recruiting is a people business. These guys can all relate. They’re infectious. They have infectious personalities. I’ve been around Keenan and I’ve been around Dave and I was very, very impressed with Chad. When you get around these guys, they’re not going to have a problem relating to the kids, coaches, those things.
“Dave’s only nine, 10 years removed. He’s recruited before. He understands it. They passed their tests, so we’re good to go. I don’t anticipate any problems at all with them. I’ll have Keenan with me and [inside linebackers coach] Keith [Dudzinski] tomorrow for the day. He’ll get with us, he’ll see how we go into the schools and help to sell Maryland. We’ll have some training with them as well.”
McCardell, who also crossed paths with Maryland director of football operations Fran Foley with the San Diego Chargers, inherits a positional group widely viewed as Maryland’s most talented. Stefon Diggs and Deon Long are still rehabilitating their broken legs suffered this season, but both harbor legitimate NFL aspirations. Marcus Leak, a one-time starter, re-enrolled after taking a semester off for personal leave, while contributors Nigel King, Amba Etta-Tawo and Levern Jacobs all return too.
“I know this, if I was one of those guys, I’d be a sponge,” Edsall said of the receivers and McCardell. “I’d be in there picking his brain and trying to find out as much as I could about what’s going on. Obviously Keenan had a lot of talent to be able to stay in the league for 17 years. He did the right thing in terms of taking care of his body, in terms of training and in terms of doing the right things.
“You don’t stay in the NFL for 17 years unless you do the right things, you’re a good teammate, a good player, a guy who gives everything he has. To me, those guys ought to be getting into see him as soon as they can and sitting down to listen to what he has to say. There’s not a better example of how to get it done at the wide receiver position than Keenan.”
Edsall also touched on the promotion of outside linebackers coach Lyndon Johnson, who in addition to his current title also assumed Greg Gattuso’s position of associate head coach. An alumnus of Connecticut, Johnson was with Edsall for his entire tenure with the Huskies and came to Maryland when Edsall accepted the head coaching job in College Park.
“He knows how our program evolves, how we do things,” Edsall said. “I thought it would be a good promotion for him. I felt he was deserving of that. It’s a lot of discipline things, some other issues, just dealing with something that maybe I won’t have as much time to spend with to do that. A lot of those duties could be administrative duties, some other duties. Again those are the things I’ll sit down and go over with Lyndon about.”