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Terps feel the need for speed

August 05, 2008|By BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Ralph Friedgen has had the University of Maryland football team traveling the road to respectability since becoming its head coach eight years ago.

This season, the journey will continue and shift into the fast lane.

Outside the usual talk of experience and depth during Monday's annual media day, one special five-letter word was added.

Speed.

"We've been trying to upgrade our speed since I got here," Friedgen said. "It is kind of like the situation we had when we had Steve Suter here. If we find guys who can run and make the grades, I'll take them and find a spot for them."

Coming out of the chute, the only thing slow about the Terrapins might be their turtle-like mascot.

Maryland is making rather drastic changes in its look this season on both sides of the ball to use speed to its advantage.

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The offense is moving to a West Coast influence with James Franklin returning to the Maryland staff as offensive coordinator, taking over the job from Friedgen, who served in a dual capacity for the last two seasons.

The offense will feature plenty of quick, short, directional passes aimed at spreading defenses and finding seams to break big plays. The Terps will put a premium on their depth at wide receiver and the varied talents of the three quarterbacks -- Chris Turner, Jordan Steffy and Josh Portis -- to move the ball.

"To you guys, (the offense) won't be much different," Turner said. "There might be more plays with a single back. There are still the same number of checks that we have to make, but it's more quick passing and quicker decisions to be made. I think it fits us very well."

Maryland also has three returning starters on the offensive line, but will feature a changing of the guard at running back with Da'Rel Scott and Morgan Green, who will replace Keon Lattimore and Lance Ball.

"I think this is our fastest team," Friedgen said. "There is only one guy on defense who has not run under a 5-flat (in the 40-yard dash). There is a lot of speed on offense, and not just at the wide receiver position. Scott can run."

Defensively, Maryland plans to show some diversity by using different alignments. One plan incorporates a 3-3-5 set -- three linemen, three linebackers and five defensive backs -- to help the Terps use some of their talents. Maryland is deep at the linebacking spot, but will be looking to replace three defensive back starters.

"We didn't tackle well at the corner position last year," Friedgen said. "This isn't a defense that we are going to run all the time, but the good thing is that we can use the same people on the field. We are able to be flexible and move a linebacker on the line or move a defensive back up to a linebacker spot."

Part of the defensive design is to use deception to help put pressure on the quarterback and cause confusion for opposing offenses. Friedgen said the Terps ranked near the bottom in the Atlantic Coast Conference in quarterback sacks and against third downs last season.

"I anticipate the defense to play well this year," Friedgen said. "We have changed some things around to play to our strengths and minimize our weaknesses."

Putting the pedal to the medal is one way to play to the strengths.

"Speed is good," said linebacker David Philistin. "Everyone knows that speed kills."

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