COLLEGE PARK – Jordan Todman was in an Arizona hotel room when he learned Randy Edsall would become the newest coach of the University of Maryland football program.
The All-Big East running back’s legal guardian, Steve Cruz, was surfing the Internet on his laptop while Todman prepared to meet with NFL agents.
“Hey, Coach Edsall’s leaving,” Cruz said, seconds after stumbling upon an online news report.
Todman was shocked. Less than 24 hours earlier, the junior had stood before his Connecticut teammates after a 48-20 Fiesta Bowl loss to Oklahoma and announced his decision to turn pro.
Now, the man who asked him to make that public address was gone. Edsall was in College Park, preparing to take his “dream job.”
“I didn’t see it coming at all,” Todman said Wednesday. “I was kind of at a loss for words.”
Tomorrow’s UConn-Maryland game will mark the first time many of Edsall’s former players will see their old coach since that fateful day in January 2010.
Will the Huskies use the sudden spurning as motivation? Or will they let bygones be bygones, and appreciate him for his contributions to their university?
After all, Edsall essentially built the UConn program. He led the Huskies through a transition from the former Division I-AA, shepherded them into a new stadium (40,000-seat Rentschler Field) and took them to five bowl games in 12 years.
Todman, who is on the Minnesota Vikings’ practice squad and still speaks regularly with many of the current Huskies, said he believes he knows how his former teammates will react.
“I don’t think [the wounds] healed,” he said. “The players who are at UConn and were able to be coached by Coach Edsall, they’re definitely going to have a grudge and a chip on their shoulder.”
Ryan Griffin, though, isn’t so sure. The Huskies’ senior tight end said Tuesday he feels the team has moved forward. He said the team has embraced new coach Paul Pasqualoni, and is solely focused on bouncing back from a disappointing 10-7 loss to N.C. State last week.
“Other than seeing his face on a couple pictures around here, I wouldn’t say we talk about him,” Griffin said. “It’s business as usual around here.”
Edsall has taken a similar approach to the reunion. Although he said earlier this week he regretted leaving before telling UConn players about the Maryland job, Edsall has downplayed his connections to the Huskies.
“To me, this is the third game on the schedule,” Edsall said. “It just happens to be against Connecticut.”
It’s an understandable approach. After all, tomorrow’s contest will be significant to Edsall for far more than the opportunity to see familiar faces.
The Terps have already matched last year’s win total, and are now hoping to go 3-0 for the first time since their 2001 ACC Championship run. Coming off a 2-10 debacle in his debut season, Edsall has a chance to experience real momentum for the first time with Maryland.
To do that, though, he’ll likely need to figure out a way to penetrate UConn’s loaded defensive line. Comprised of five of Edsall’s former players — Trevardo Williams, Sio Moore, Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Dwayne Gratz and Jesse Joseph — the unit is the heart of a defense that ranks third nationally in total defense and No. 1 against the run (28.5 yards per game).
“The only thing [Edsall] said is the defense is going to be coming hard,” Terps defensive end A.J. Francis said. “He knows they have some athletes on defense and they’re going to try their best to make plays against our offense.”
And UConn likely won’t need any added motivation. Edsall ensured as much when he chose to board a plane to Maryland instead of flying back to Connecticut with his team after that Fiesta Bowl.
“When they get on the field, I’m pretty sure it almost turns into a rivalry game,” Todman said. “We had no history with Maryland, and the fact that our coach is there, they feel like they have something to prove.”