Maryland offensive coordinator Gary Crowton will not return next season, three individuals with knowledge of his departure said Wednesday.
Crowton lasted just one season under Coach Randy Edsall, who has pledged to make necessary “tweaks” in order for the team to improve in 2012. Crowton’s exit represents the first staff move since the Terrapins concluded a 2-10 season by dropping seven consecutive games by double digits.
The leading candidate to replace Crowton, according to two people close to the program, is former Maryland running back coach and recruiting coordinator Mike Locksley, who grew up in Washington and who possesses strong recruiting ties throughout the area. Locksley was fired from New Mexico, his only head coaching job, on Sept. 25 after compiling a 2-26 record.
According to the unsigned copy of Crowton’s contract, the offensive coordinator had a three-year deal that paid him more than $500,000 in guaranteed annual compensation.
Last week, the Denver Post quoted Crowton saying he “very much” wanted the head-coaching job at Colorado State. But the Rams introduced Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain as their new coach on Tuesday.
Maryland assistants were informed of Crowton’s departure about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, said an individual who described the reaction of one assistant he spoke with as “super surprised.”
When asked to comment on Crowton’s exit, team spokesperson Shawn Nestor said, “We do not discuss personnel matters.”
Maryland aimed to install an up-tempo spread offense this season. But after amassing 499 total yards in a season-opening victory over suspension-depleted Miami, the offense struggled to find consistency.
The Terrapins finished the season ranked 68th nationally in total offense, 89th in scoring offense and 111th in passing efficiency. Despite injuries, the offensive line performed adequately all season. But one issue that consistently hampered the offense was dropped passes by receivers.
What’s more, quarterback Danny O’Brien struggled to match his performance from 2010, when he earned ACC rookie of the year honors, and did not appear an ideal fit for Crowton’s offense. Backup C.J. Brown, a mobile quarterback who started the final two games after O’Brien broke a bone in his arm, found success running with the ball but struggled at times in the passing game.
Regarding the general state of the team, Edsall said before Crowton’s departure: “I am not panicked. I know in terms of what we are doing that it is right. I have sat down and have evaluated things. And, yes, there are some things that we have to do and that we have to tweak to make us better. And we will do those things.”
Crowton’s coaching career has spanned three decades. He had a 47-36 record in a combined seven seasons as the head coach at Louisiana Tech (1996-98) and Brigham Young (2001-2004). Crowton had spent the previous four seasons at Louisiana State, where he served as offensive coordinator on the Tigers’ 2007 national title team.
In other news, wide receiver Adrian Coxson and defensive lineman Cody Blue will leave the football program. Eight players have left the program since the season ended and a total of 20 have left the program with eligibility remaining since Edsall was hired in January.
Coxson, a redshirt freshman wide receiver, will be granted his release to transfer to another school. Coxson, a Baltimore native who transferred from Florida before the 2010 season, played in nine games this past year. He caught four passes for 90 yards with one touchdown.
In a statement e-mailed to The Washington Post, Coxson said in part that “it’s a disappointing decision for me to leave my hometown team, as I had some very large goals when I enrolled at Maryland last year, but [I] just feel like it’s in my best interest at this point to move on and pursue both my education and my playing career elsewhere.”
Edsall said in a statement released by Maryland that, “We appreciate everything that Adrian has done for us and hope everything works out for him in his future endeavors.”
Blue, who has played on the offensive and defensive lines during his career, had been suspended during the season for an unspecified transgression. Throughout the latter stages of the season, Blue was not expected to return in 2012 for his junior season.
“We have had discussions with Cody regarding a number of university and athletics department issues, which we will not discuss publicly,” Athletic Director Kevin Anderson said in a statement. “Should he decide to transfer, we certainly wish him well in his future athletic and academic ventures.”
Terrapins note: Defensive lineman Joe Vellano was voted a second-team all-American by the Associated Press. The junior leads the Football Bowl Subdivision in tackles by a defensive lineman.
Freshman defensive lineman Andre Monroe was named a second-team freshman all-American by Phil Steele and Yahoo Sports.