- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 29, 2006

Ralph Friedgen is operating on a schedule typical for the regular season.

Trouble is, the Maryland football coach is just wrapping up spring practice with today’s 3 p.m. spring game at Byrd Stadium.

It has been a hectic month for Friedgen, who had guided the Terrapins through 14 practices in the last four weeks while acting as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in addition to his usual duties. He assumed the latter two jobs when Charlie Taaffe resigned in February.

“I’m tired right now …,” Friedgen said. “I get up at 4:30, I go to bed at 12 o’clock. It’s been a grind.”

And it would be for anyone. On Sunday, Friedgen went to church, then came into the office and pieced together a practice schedule and a quarterbacks plan before a mid-afternoon scrimmage. Afterward, he met with recruits and graded film for hours before finally arriving home at 10:30 p.m.

That day didn’t even include booster functions or player and staff evaluations, which both litter his schedule in May. Time off beyond perhaps a weekend escape is unlikely in the near future, and none of that time will be spent on the field.

Maybe that’s why Friedgen said several times in recent days he wished practice could continue for a few more weeks. He’s been more vocal during workouts this spring, issuing orders while standing next to the quarterbacks throughout the sessions.

“It seems like he’s loosened up a little bit and seems like he’s enjoying coaching now,” junior tailback Lance Ball said. “You see more smiles on his face. He’s staying busy. I think he was kind of bored last year.”

Added quarterback Sam Hollenbach: “In years past, he would sit back and he would evaluate. When you heard him, it probably wasn’t a good situation. When he spoke up, it was because practice was going downhill. Now, he’s more involved and every play he has encouraging things to say and criticism.”

Ball notices Friedgen teaching more than in the past — to the point of stopping scrimmages and pointing out what went wrong — and Friedgen admits “I feel like I’m a coach again.”

His influence and impatience already have helped Maryland install more of its offense than usual, and his increased contact in meetings with quarterbacks Hollenbach and Jordan Steffy should help both next season.

Not everything has been smooth. Friedgen has not spent nearly as much time with the defense, and his insistence upon using the entire playbook rather than relying on a few calls has led to mistakes all spring.

“Sometimes he wants to cheer for the defense, but it’s his play that was just called, so it’s kind of hard to cheer,” cornerback Josh Wilson said. “Actually, I like seeing it because that means he’s in the game just as much. He’s not running this play just to run it. He’s going to try to win and make plays every play.”

Still, it probably would be better for the Terps if Friedgen can spread his attention more evenly. The answer to alleviating his weariness is simple: Hire an assistant to replace Taaffe, who ran the Terps’ offense for the last five seasons. Friedgen initially wanted a new coach in place for the spring, but the arrival of practice came and went without a hire.

Even with the delay, the Terps almost certainly will add an extra coach before camp begins in August.

“I’d rather have somebody,” Friedgen said. “Otherwise, I’ll either be real thin or not around here anymore. There’s a lot of people that might like that both ways.”

Friedgen has yet to find somebody up to his exacting standards. Six candidates have interviewed for the position, and Friedgen said this week he would consider shifting running backs coach John Donovan to handle the quarterbacks and then hire another running backs coach.

“I just haven’t had anybody ring my bell,” Friedgen said. “I’m looking for a lot. I’m looking for a guy who can coach quarterbacks, can recruit, can understand our system because he’ll be in for a short time [before the season starts].”

Until then, Friedgen will continue in his exhausting three-pronged role — to the amazement of many of his players.

“I don’t know how he does it,” Ball said. “He’s a genius, but I don’t know how he does it.”

Notes — The first-team offense will play against the first-team defense and the second team-offense will face the second-team defense in the spring game. Hollenbach and Steffy will split the first-team snaps. … ESPNU will televise the game on tape delay tonight at 7:30 and tomorrow at 3 p.m.

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