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Friedgen reserves judgment on '07 Terps

August 29, 2007|By BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - When Ralph Friedgen is dealing with his standard equipment, he's like MacGyver.

Give him a twist tie and a bottlecap - or in this case a headset and a clipboard - and the University of Maryland coach is a whiz at getting his team out of impossible situations.

But Friedgen admits he struggles when he's forced turn over his toys and pick up a crystal ball to deal with the unknown.

Friedgen said he saw a lot of improvement in the Terrapins as they prepared for the 2007 season, which begins on Saturday when they play host to Villanova. Still, there is one question he has trouble answering.

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"How good is the team going to be?"

Best answer?

"We'll start finding out on Saturday," Friedgen said Tuesday during his weekly media conference.

No matter how Friedgen approaches it and no matter how good everything looks in practices, there are still a number of factors than need to be inventoried before there are any predictions.

They're called intangibles.

"How good are we going to be is a matter of chemistry, sacrifice and how we are going to react in crucial situations," Friedgen said. "It's how bad you want to win. You need good players who are good, but need to have the stuff it takes to be real good."

The gold standard for Friedgen is the 2006 team, one that was written off early in many cases but plodded along and challenged for the Atlantic Coast Conference's Atlantic Division title and Champs Sports Bowl invitation.

"Last year's team, for example, had eight wins," Friedgen said. "They lost the last two games or they would have had a sensational season. When they got to the bowl game, they could have just played it out, but they played their best game.

"Winning (the Villanova) game is the most important thing. We didn't play well when we opened last year and that perception hurt us. We didn't come out and look as good as was said. Even in the end, when we won the bowl game, we should have been a top 20 team, but that early perception hurt us."

There are a number of questions that keep Friedgen's crystal ball from getting a clear picture of the Terps' future.

How will Jordan Steffy react to being the Terps' No. 1 quarterback after spending his first three seasons - one as a redshirt - watching from the sideline?

Can the Terps find definitive answers for the loss of punter Adam Podlesh and placekicker Dan Ennis? Friedgen said the kicking job will be divided three ways with Chris Roberts handling the kickoff duties while Travis Baltz will punt and Obi Egekeze will do the placements.

Can the Terps handle any injuries?

"I feel good about the first team, but the second team is young and inexperienced," Friedgen said. "That is a concern of mine, especially on the offensive line."

The only things Friedgen can do to predict the Terps' not-so-distant future is rely on the things that he knows - preparation and his past experience.

"I tried to condition them differently than I have in the past," Friedgen said. "We have done more than just drills. We have done more game-type situations, especially since we are inexperienced at quarterback."

That's where the 2006 successes might come into play again.

"They have had a taste of it and now they know what it feels like," Friedgen said. "Then there are guys who have been here who know what the other side feels like, too. I'm in my seventh year here and I don't know how a team is going to be until they face the test. Everybody is confident when things are going good, but when things aren't going well, how are you going to react?"

Maybe that's why Friedgen will be like everyone else, waiting for Saturday's opener to see how the season unfolds for the Terps.

"I wonder if the kids are as hungry and motivated and want it as much as I do," Friedgen said.

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