Terps' Cosh Fights Through Criticism

After learning alongside several respected coaches and earning their praise, Chris Cosh's stint as U-Md.'s defensive coordinator has drawn mixed reviews.
After learning alongside several respected coaches and earning their praise, Chris Cosh's stint as U-Md.'s defensive coordinator has drawn mixed reviews. (By John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)
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By Eric Prisbell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 18, 2008

The man some Maryland fans love to hate made his way to College Park three years ago with his wife, two sons and a handful of recommendations from some of the most recognizable names in the coaching profession.

Looking for a job after Kansas State Coach Bill Snyder retired, then-Wildcats linebackers coach Chris Cosh called someone who did not know him: Ralph Friedgen, the Maryland coach in search of a defensive coordinator. After being turned down by Georgia Tech's Jon Tenuta and Florida's Charlie Strong, Friedgen interviewed Mississippi State's Ellis Johnson but became enamored of Cosh after dining with him and talking with Cosh's former bosses: Snyder, Nick Saban and Lou Holtz.

"Right or wrong, I get a feel for people," Friedgen said. "I have not been wrong too many times. I go with my instincts."

Several coaches or players can be blamed for Maryland's inconsistent first half of the season, but a vocal segment of the Terps fan base has directed most of its ire at only one man. By the time Cosh, 49, arrives for work at 6:30 a.m. each day, fans on Internet message boards usually start demanding his dismissal.

"If that's what they are saying, that's very unfair," sai d Cosh's wife, Mary Cosh. "There are several people whose joy in life is to say negative things about people. They get their satisfaction through that. When you know the truth, you don't let anyone define who you are."

Saban, for whom Cosh worked at Michigan State, this week called Cosh a relentless recruiter and "outstanding" coach who emphasized fundamentals, and simply one of the best assistants he has ever had. Lou Tepper, whom Cosh worked under at Illinois and worked with at Virginia Tech, called Cosh the best linebackers coach he has ever seen. When told of the compliments, Cosh said "some people" might be surprised to hear that, which was the closest he will come to responding to critics.

"I define myself as a coach, but I am a father, a husband -- you want to be well rounded," Cosh said. "My job, my players and winning are all important to me, and I'm going to work my butt off for all those things, but I am going to be remembered for what kind of person I was, what kind of father and husband I am."

An Uneven Performance

Cosh's critics cite a defense that ranks 91st nationally in total defense, a unit two weeks removed from allowing Virginia's offense to score more offensive touchdowns (four) than it had in the entire season combined (three). Cosh's less vocal supporters note an injury-depleted defense that made critical adjustments in the second half of the 20-17 victory at Clemson on Sept. 27.

"He won the game for us," Friedgen said.

Friedgen said he has not lost confidence in Cosh but called him an evolving coach because sometimes he gets too emotional on the sideline.

"As a coordinator, you can't do that," Friedgen said. "If you want to be an assistant coach, that's fine. But if you are going to call defenses, you have to be, 'What's the personnel group? What's the down and distance? What is my call now?' You don't need to be going, 'Uh, uh, uh, uh', or screaming or yelling. I just can't operate like that. That is about the only criticism I have."

While pleased with his unit's work ethic this season, Cosh was disappointed with the effort against Virginia, saying that it "looked like our equipment was heavier that game. We were a step behind."

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