When word came out that a long-time Maryland coach would be joining the Illini staff, we went straight to the most-informed place on the subject: SBNation's Maryland blog, Testudo Times. Pete Volk, the co-manager of the blog, answered a few questions for us about Tom Brattan and how he'd fit in with the Illinois staff.
The Champaign Room: To start off, what is your overall opinion of Brattan as a coach? Good, bad, somewhere in between? Should we be happy?
Pete Volk, Testudo Times: Let's go with somewhere in between. Brattan has some serious history behind him and there's no doubting his qualifications (especially at Northwestern), but Maryland had some atrocious offensive lines over the past few seasons. Granted, he didn't have a lot of talent to work with (although there was some there, like Bruce Campbell, who never turned into consistent performers), but the Terps have had a lot of trouble offensively over the past few seasons in large part due to the play on the line. Injuries were no small factor as well -- former high-profile prospect Pete DeSouza's career ended after breaking both legs in a scooter accident -- and a number of high-profile offensive line recruits had to switch to the defensive line to help with depth.
TCR: Brattan is replacing A.J Ricker, who was a very solid recruiter as evidenced by Illinois' strong 2015 class of offensive linemen. What does Brattan bring to the table in recruiting?
PV: In his time with Maryland, Brattan was a solid recruiter, but not a world-beater. His main areas were Georgia and Virginia, and he helped close on offensive line prospects no matter the area. His biggest gets were Nate Clarke and Mike Madaras, neither of whom panned out for the Terps.
TCR: Illinois has four veteran starters on the offensive line this year, but the depth is somewhat questionable. Can we trust Brattan to do a good job of developing our younger guys for 2015 and beyond?
PV: To be honest, he did not get a lot of opportunities to do so in the past few years, due to a combination of transfers going out of the program and a higher quality of talent coming in. He's produced some solid four-year players, like Bennett Fulper and Andrew Gonnella (a former walk-on who became a key cog of the Terps' 2010 team), His offensive lines did perform well and grow under Ralph Friedgen, however, so it may have been a simple case of a clash of systems.
TCR: Lastly, it seems that Brattan had a great career at Maryland-- he produced plenty of All-ACC performers and NFL draft picks. Why wasn't his contract renewed in 2013?
PV: Under Randy Edsall, Maryland's offensive line consistently ranked in the bottom half of the FBS. Maryland's offense performed quite well last year, thanks to the explosive talent the Terps have at the skill positions, and the line was really the only offensive unit that struggled. Brattan and wide receivers coach Lee Hull (now the head coach at Morgan State) were the only holdovers from the Ralph Friedgen era, and I think between that and the poor performance of the O-Line, it was time to move on.
I was expecting a slightly more positive outlook from the interview given Brattan's resumé, but I suppose that's what happens when your offensive line is as bad as Maryland's was for the past few years. A few bullets:
- It seems that Brattan will neither help nor really hurt the Illini on the recruiting trail. This isn't too big a concern--just keep the solid guys we have, pull in Quinn Oseland, and everything is gravy. Alex Golesh, Illinois Football's fantastic recruiting coordinator, should be able to help minimize the loss of A.J. Ricker on this front.
- Brattan appears to be at least a decent developer of talent, from what we know. Brattan took several Maryland recruits and turned them into All-ACC performers, as we mentioned earlier. That's a plus, and there's a decent reason that he may have struggled in recent years to develop talent. It's simply difficult to prosper as a coach when faced with constant player overhaul due to injuries and transfers. Hopefully, Brattan will find more success with the more consistent program that Tim Beckman is trying to build at Illinois.
- Brattan's scheme is what has me most worried after chatting with Pete. If Maryland's offensive line has been as bad as it sounds recently, 2015 could be a rough year. There are so many seniors on the line this season that I'm not worried, but I'm hoping that Beckman and co. begin grooming a guy to take over for the 66-year old Brattan after a few years in the position.