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Will Friedgen's self-help strategy help Terps?

August 31, 2005|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Football isn't a job to University of Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen.

In some cases, it's therapy.

After an off-season filled with second guessing and talking to himself, Friedgen is anxious to get off the couch and back into the games.

And even with all the pomp and circumstances that surround Saturday's first meeting between the Terrapins and Navy since 1965, this game means more to Friedgen than the rekindling of a rivalry of two schools that sit 30 miles apart.

"I'm excited," said Friedgen Tuesday during his weekly media conference. "I've been waiting a long time to get back on the field and get our winning ways again. I've carried a year of losing, and I don't like it at all. I hope (the players) don't like it, either. We've got to go back out and re-establish ourselves, get back the respect we earned. I don't know about them, but I'm ready to go."

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After posting winning records and bowl appearances in his first three seasons, the Terps fell to 5-6 and out of the attention of the world of college football.

Friedgen took a painful look at himself and the program in the off-season and came to the conclusion that he took the success for granted. After some personal vows, the fifth-year coach is back and making plans to return to the limelight.

But there is trepidation in his conviction.

"I am nervous, because I really don't know what to expect from this football team," Friedgen said. "I don't know how they're going to respond in front of 80,000 people because of our youth. For a coach, the unknown is nerve-racking."

It's a whole new world for the Terps who will be unveiling a lot of new and youthful aspects to the team on Saturday at the Baltimore Ravens' M&T Bank Stadium.

Quarterback Sam Hollenbach has been anointed the starter after spending most of last season as the third and fourth signal caller on the depth chart.

Tailback Mario Merrills will get the start as the replacement for Josh Allen, who is out for the season with a leg injury he suffered in the final game last season.

Merrills will be one of three tailbacks who will play against Navy.

The offensive and defensive lines are young and inexperienced. The defensive line's first steps will come against Navy's triple-option Wishbone attack, which will force the entire defense to play assignment football.

All of Maryland's unknowns have similarities to Friedgen's first season with the Terps when they came out of nowhere to win the Atlantic Coast Conference title.

"The only difference is, our first season we had a more mature team," Friedgen said. "They had played before; they just hadn't won a whole lot before."

Friedgen became emotional about the thoughts of finally playing a game on Saturday. His voice cracked a little when he spoke of it.

"I've been trying to get (the Terps) jumping off the wall," Friedgen said. "They seem too calm. I talked to them pretty good (Monday) night."

He gave credit to Navy coach Paul Williams, who he knows from when both coached in Georgia - Friedgen at Georgia Tech and Williams at Georgia Southern.

"We have the same lawyer," Friedgen cracked.

Friedgen's excitement is something the Terps have picked up on.

"There is a sense of urgency from last season," said Maryland middle linebacker D'Qwell Jackson. "We want to go out and be perfect in all we do. We want to get back to a bowl. We don't want to be sitting at home in January. We are just trying to do everything right, go out on Saturday and put it all together."

Notes - Williamsport graduate Ryan McDonald was named starting center for Maryland's offense. McDonald walked on in 2002 after spending a year at Concord (W.Va.) College. The 6-foot-2, 275-pound McDonald was in on 32 offensive plays in 2004. He entered training camp listed third on Maryland's depth chart, but has the ability to also play guard.

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