It wasn’t long before their willingness to accept him back trickled to players who didn’t know Franklin.
“That helps,” Franklin said. “You’ve been in their home, you’ve broken bread with them, you’ve hugged and kissed babies and done all these types of things, and that’s important.”
There is also a benefit to returning to the place his career incubated. Franklin believes Friedgen’s arrival in College Park was serendipitous for his own development.
Franklin’s main tenets are unsurprising: put people in position to succeed but be flexible enough not to drown in your own philosophy. And while that sounds quite a bit like Friedgen, the 36-year-old Franklin goes about employing his ideas differently than the man 25 years his senior.
“Coach Friedgen has his style, the old style,” Heyward-Bey said. “Coach Franklin has the new style. But we make it work. It’s made it better for the older guys because we’ve seen Coach Friedgen’s style for long time. And now we get a little taste of Coach Franklin. It’s still Coach Friedgen’s team, don’t get me wrong.”
Lightening the load
For two years, Friedgen served as his own offensive coordinator, repeatedly insisting there was a handful of people he would trust to take over the job.
After all, why would Friedgen tolerate the extra work if he knew of someone he would be comfortable with? He found that person in Franklin, a man accustomed to Friedgen’s considerable demands as a boss.
“That’s kind of why I have a little bit of a sense of pride because he knows what I want and knows how I want things,” Friedgen said. “He’s very detailed, very organized.”
Franklin’s impact on Friedgen might be more significant than the version of the West Coast offense he installed or the playbook - one even longer than Friedgen’s - handed out to players.
Suddenly, Friedgen has the option of peering at the defense for much of practice, as well as use time to meet with players and maybe snag an extra hour of sleep rather than preparing meetings and scripts with bleary eyes at the start of a long day.
“The biggest compliment since I’ve been here is that Gloria Friedgen said to me, ‘James, Ralph is happier than he’s been in two to three years,’” Franklin said. “‘He looks better, he feels better, he’s happy. He just doesn’t feel he has all the weight of the program on his shoulders.’”
It helps that both men view the game in similar ways, a fact exhibited in Maryland’s decision to start Jordan Steffy at quarterback.
Friedgen sat back and listened to Franklin’s thoughts throughout the process before they agreed to start the fifth-year senior. But the two were never far off in how they viewed the competition.
“It’s almost eerie right now because from day to day, even from hour to hour … he sees what I see.” Friedgen said. “It’s almost to a point where we’re watching tape and I see a wrinkle off a play and I’ll think about it, and he’ll say something in a meeting that’s almost like the same thing I was thinking.”