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Friedgen is 2-for-1 deal for Terps' offense

August 08, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

Ralph Friedgen is anything but a bargain shopper.

He wants - no, he demands - the very best.

The University of Maryland football coach isn't an off-the-rack kind of guy. He's a big man with bigger expectations.

It's a tailored fit or nothing.

So, when Friedgen set out to find a new offensive coordinator for the 2006 season after two consecutive bowl-less 5-6 records, his shopping list was very specific.

He wanted someone who was flexible, accomplished and creative in calling plays.

He wanted someone who could find the big play along with a balance between the passing and running game, in both plays and yardage.

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He wanted someone the Terrapins would listen to. After all, Charlie Taaffe, his good friend and offensive right arm for the first five years at Maryland, had decided it was time for a change and left.

He wanted someone who could strike a chord and coax effective play from the quarterback position, especially after what might be considered two consecutive subpar seasons with Joel Statham and Sam Hollenbach. They paled in comparison to Shaun Hill and Scott McBrien, who led the Terps to great heights in Friedgen's first three years in College Park.

And, oh yeah, it wouldn't hurt if the new coordinator was an accomplished winner on both the college and professional levels of football.

And after pushing his cart up and down the aisles of every College Football Quickie Mart in the country, the light went on.

The guy Friedgen was shopping for was already at Maryland and he knew him well.

To paraphrase the old Pogo comic strip "Friedgen had met that coordinator and it was him."

Friedgen will be wearing two hats this season - the forward one of the head coach and the backwards one of the offensive coordinator calling all the plays.

He had made stars out of quarterbacks and went to national championships wherever he has coached.

Georgia Tech shared a national title with Friedgen as the offensive coordinator in 1990. And Stan Humphries led Friedgen's San Diego Chargers offense to the Super Bowl XXVIII in 1994.

And now, instead of having input in Maryland's game plan, he will be planning the whole shooting match. Friedgen returns to being the lord of the offense and the master of Maryland football domain, both at the same time.

And he is looking forward to it.

"I've had 18 straight years of winning and I kind of got spoiled I guess," Friedgen said Monday during Maryland's annual media day kickoff. "When I look at our team I don't see us that far away. We've got to get things corrected and I think this team has a hunger that they want to be good. Personally I've worked hard, if not harder, than I ever have in my life to get this program back where we need to be. I'm rejuvenated."

And it means a majority of weight that goes with Maryland's fortunes will fall firmly on the shoulders of Friedgen. It's a pressure he's relished and a position in which he has flourished in the past.

It is a strange union that will give Maryland's youthful offense an added dimension called unpredictability. It has also forged a new understanding of the game plan for Hollenbach, who will enter his second year as the starting quarterback.

"The way that Coach Friedgen calls the games, I know that I don't have to go outside of what I can do in order to win games," the senior said. "He just wants me to make plays by making the right reads and getting the ball to the playmakers that's all it is.

"Last year, I made a lot of mistakes and I'm comfortable with it. We were in the top half of the ACC in offense, but with all the mistakes, we didn't win. It all comes down to pride making plays. And whoever makes the plays should be playing."

Friedgen and Hollenbach will be working with stronger running game behind a young but improving offensive line while the rebuilding receiving game tries to find its legs.

Friedgen alluded that the "new offensive coordinator" will be looking at using a number of two running back sets, now that Josh Allen is set to comeback from injury and Lance Ball leads a group of young, but tested, returning runners.

It could be only the tip of the diversity iceberg that Friedgen might float at the ACC.

"It's going to be totally different with Coach as coordinator," Ball said. "Everywhere he has been, he has been a success. There is going to be a lot of flexibility on offense. Two-back sets there will be times when we have three backs back there."

For now, Friedgen the coordinator has the Terps right where he wants them. They are a little nervous ... a little queasy a little on edge because they don't know what to expect.

That's a good thing, because Friedgen likes to have that kind of advantage.

"I like variety," Friedgen said. "You still have to play to your strengths and make plays, but I get tired of doing things the same old way. The guys get confused because we don't seem to run the same play the same way all the time."

And if the Terps are confused, where will that leave Maryland opponents when they are scouting for tendencies?

If Maryland and Ralph Friedgen has their way, foes will shop for answers while the Terps and their new offensive coordinator are cleaning up in Aisle 5.




Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Morning Herald. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2310, or by e-mail at bobp@herald-mail.com

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