GREENSBORO, Ga. | A weary, drained Ralph Friedgen stood at the podium after Maryland’s Emerald Bowl loss in December and promised to bring his “A game” when the next season arrived.
It seems the Terrapins‘ coach is a man of his word.
“I don’t know what’s higher than A, but it’s up there,” center Edwin Williams said this week at the ACC’s kickoff event. “This is my last year, and to go through all this stuff the past couple years, it’s been kind of like I’ve got winter workouts and spring ball and summer and then camp starts. It all kind of meshed into one this year. It’s like everything is happening so fast and quickly, and it’s all over now.”
Friedgen is doing everything to ensure things don’t end too quickly for the Terps, who are coming off a 6-7 season.
With a new offensive coordinator (James Franklin) in his employ, three quarterbacks to choose from, a refurbished defensive scheme and more of an opportunity to oversee all aspects of his program, Friedgen has found time to revitalize a group of players who might have drifted away from him the last two years.
He spent more time meeting with players, inviting several over to his home during an offseason that ends in less than two weeks. And he has instituted several offense-vs.-defense ploys at the end of practices, such as a tire pull used to cap workouts in the winter and the old-fashioned Oklahoma drill to finish off spring sessions.
“I think I’ve made things a lot more competitive,” Friedgen said. “I think kids like competition. I’m trying to make it fun for them.”
What would unquestionably be more fun for Maryland is a larger win total. Not surprisingly, the Terps were pegged to finish fifth in the ACC’s Atlantic Division in a media vote this week.
“That’s our normal slot,” Friedgen said drolly.
Meanwhile, Virginia Tech was picked to win the Coastal Division, and Virginia was projected to take fifth in the Coastal.
Questions at quarterback might linger in the minds of outsiders, though Friedgen considers his position much stronger than a year ago. Junior Chris Turner, who sits atop the preseason depth chart, started eight games last year, while senior Jordan Steffy started five.
Neither quarterback entered last season with significant experience, and Turner helped lead the Terps to upset victories over Rutgers and Boston College. Junior Josh Portis, who was suspended last season for an academic code violation, is also in the quarterback derby.
Such competitions in the past under Friedgen had a tendency to drag on, though the coach has an earlier timetable to come up with a declared starter for the Aug. 30 opener against Delaware.
“Maybe the second week of camp is when we’ll do it,” Friedgen said. “If it’s not the right one, we’ll make a change. The strength we have is we have three guys that have experience and have won. It wouldn’t surprise me for us to play them all. That could be a possibility, depending on who’s hot.”
It will unfold soon enough for Friedgen, who is eager to snap a run of three losing seasons in four years.