MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Among the numerous struggles already presented to the West Virginia football team going into tomorrow’s Maryland game, one stands out as particularly vexing.
The University of Maryland football team hired three new coordinators in the offseason. Head coach Michael Locksley brought a new offensive coordinator, a new defensive coordinator, and a new special teams coordinator on his staff since the first of the year, essentially revamping the entire program’s outlook.
“Coach [Brian] Stewart on defense, he was at Baylor last year and he was in the NFL,” WVU head coach Neal Brown said. “It’s been ’17 since he really called it. Coach [Dan] Enos is the offensive coordinator. Last time he called it was at Miami. Cincinnati, when they were really good last year. Special teams-wise, they have a new coordinator there as well with coach [Ron] Zook. He’s been on the staff, but he hasn’t been the actual coordinator, so we’re trying to use our best guesses on what we’re going to see.”
Dan Enos, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, comes to College Park following a stint as the associate head coach and running backs coach for Cincinnati. Enos helped lead the Bearcats to a 9-1 record, an AAC Championship, a top-10 ranking, and a trip to the Sugar Bowl. He helped Cincinnati rank top-25 in every possible offensive category in 2020, averaging 37.5 points per game and 212.4 yards rushing per game.
He hasn’t been in an OC capacity since 2019 at the University of Miami, but his 30 years of experience coaching various offensive positions, as well as a head coaching opportunity with Central Michigan, makes him an enormous threat for WVU defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley.
“You’ve got to be ready for it with a new OC or not, but especially with a new OC,” Lesley said. “Having a new OC just makes it that much more challenging.”
It’s difficult enough to scout a team’s versatility off of the Terrapins’ five total games last season. Combine that reduced film with coordinators who shake up the expectation, and you land on a scouting report with gaping holes.
“They have one of the highest return rates on offense and defense, but there’s not a whole lot to go on,” Brown said. “They only played five games a year ago, and like I said, they have new coordinators… You’re kind of guessing, for lack of a better term, on that.”
The same issue exists for the West Virginia offense. WVU offensive coordinator Gerad Parker is up against Maryland’s newest addition, defensive coordinator and safeties coach Brian Stewart. This WVU coaching program has seen Stewart last season as the cornerbacks coach for the Baylor Bears, but he also spent time in the NFL with the Detroit Lions in 2018 and 2019. Now, he’s in Maryland, stepping back into the coaching job he held between 2012 and 2014.
Coach Parker said that scouting coordinators as experienced as these two presents problems early in the game.
“If you’re not careful, you chase ghosts,” Parker said. “What they did at the end of the year last year defensively certainly speaks to the staff that’s there and to the head coach and what they’ve done. They finished playing really good defense, so that certainly will be a part of what they do as well. They play hard up front. They’ve got great secondary. It’s talented.”
Parker says that he’ll be watching the first two series specifically in order to target any lingering vulnerabilities.
“When you start getting ready for an opponent that has changed defensive coordinators, and of course, it’s game one, so you don’t have anything that’s right in front of you to see in the year 2021,” he said. “You try to fill in the holes the best you can, but you also have to make sure you trust what we’ve worked on, how we’ve chosen to make ourselves better, and make those plays work.”
Walking into Maryland Stadium not completely convinced of the scouting report is, of course, cause for concern, but Parker says that it’s par for the course in a new season.
“You’re always playing a little bit of a game of cat and mouse because, like I said with who we play, we have a lot of respect for Maryland and our future opponents…” he said. “It’s a little bit of cat and mouse throughout an entire game, but certainly there will be some things, on both sides, that you know about who we are, who they are through your first two series and feeling third downs out, red zone stuff. Just situational football are things that you continue to make adjustments on and feel as you go.”
Although the coordinators have changed, the roster hasn’t. Nearly every single Terrapin player who caught a pass at any point in 2020 is returning.
Maryland returns 30 of its 38 offensive and defensive starters from last season, so it may not be as much guesswork as the WVU coaching staff has anticipated.
“Because so many of those guys are returning and getting to play, there’s a lot of them that have, you get a fair eval on those guys…” Parker said. “We feel good about that piece.”
With the players and coordinators scouted, Mountaineer fans have a little more than 24 hours to wait before they see this WVU staff clash with the Terrapins in College Park, MD. at 3:30 p.m.