For a generally average (at best) program, Maryland football has sent plenty of talented players to the NFL. The team is like its soon-to-be-former conference that way; the ACC isn’t the most highly regarded major conference, but it is among the best in sending players to the draft.
The Terps’ second-year head coach Randy Edsall feels he’s giving his players solid preparation for their post-college football careers – but is he, really?
In his first season at Maryland, the team was just 2-10, and not a single Terp was taken in the draft. (Cornerback Cameron Chism and running back Davin Meggett went undrafted but later signed with NFL teams.)
In the past, poor records haven’t kept NFL scouts away from Maryland football players. Former coach Ralph Friedgen was 2-10 in his second-to-last season in 2009, but four players from that squad went on to the NFL. Offensive lineman Bruce Campbell and defensive back Nolan Carroll were drafted, and offensive linemen Phil Costa and Jaimie Thomas and defensive lineman Travis Ivey were signed as undrafted free agents.
In Friedgen’s ten seasons with the Terps, 29 of his players were taken in the NFL draft, including San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis, Minnesota Vikings linebacker E.J. Henderson (and his brother, Erin), and Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith.
Edsall occasionally discusses how his NFL experience gave him insights into the draft and what the NFL is looking for – he was the assistant defensive backs coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars from 1994-1997 – but at his last job as the head coach at Connecticut, he sent just 15 players to the pros in twelve seasons.
In fairness, Edsall was tasked with elevating the Huskies to Division I football, and according to the team’s website, they had no players drafted between 1994 and 2005. Ending that drought is important, but does Edsall have what it takes to keep sending Maryland players to the NFL?
Tight end Matt Furstenburg put himself on the radar with a strong showing at the Combine, with a 40 time and vertical jump good for third among players at the position. Defensive lineman A.J. Francis, who excelled at the Terps’ Pro Day this week, is also projected to go in the later rounds.
Francis and Furstenburg were among thirteen Maryland players who participated in the workout for NFL Scouts, all facing uncertain prospects. According to The Baltimore Sun, Francis and teammates Kenneth Tate and Joe Vellano have been working out at the same training facility, but Francis is the only one of the three to have individual meetings set up with NFL teams.
Vellano, one of the underappreciated players on Maryland’s 2012 squad, was a first-team All-ACC selection in 2012, while Tate was an All-ACC safety in Friedgen’s last season. He moved to linebacker under Edsall, theoretically to help his shot at the NFL, but missing significant chunks of the last two years with knee injuries may have hurt his prospects.
Ultimately, Edsall will be judged on wins and losses, but his ability to turn out NFL players is an important piece for attracting the top recruits who will help the team get those all-important wins. A good showing in this year’s draft would be a big boost for a Maryland program that desperately needs momentum heading into its final season in the ACC.