- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 13, 2006

It wouldn’t be the first week of Maryland football camp without a promise from coach Ralph Friedgen to accelerate the learning process of the Terrapins’ offense so the team could move on to other matters.

In many years, the Terps struggle to pick up the offense, delaying Friedgen’s well-planned timetable for the weeks leading up to the season opener.

This year, though, he really did mean it.

“It’s going faster than life. He comes into camp and he says he wants to put in his whole offense in five days, you kind of think ‘Well, he says a lot of things,’” sophomore receiver Isaiah Williams said. “He’s really plugging that thing in. I’ve been here for a year and for some reason I’m messing up on walkthroughs and thinking ‘What is going on?’”

What’s happening is Friedgen installed 90 percent of his offense in less than a week, in time for the camp’s first scrimmage yesterday. The implementation of the rest of the offense — other than a handful of plays — is anticipated in the next few days.

Senior quarterback Sam Hollenbach is in his fifth season, and remembers only one year the offense was inputted so swiftly. That was 2003, when Scott McBrien returned for his second year as a starter. Hollenbach is the first Terps quarterback since McBrien to serve as the primary starter in consecutive seasons, and the similarities between the camps is no coincidence.

“I don’t even know what 90 percent of the offense is because it always seems like we can have new and different things, but as far as installation this year it has been really quick,” Hollenbach said.

Friedgen has capitalized on the NCAA-mandated acclimation process, which allows teams to practice only once a day for the first five days of camp. The Terps supplemented late afternoon practices with morning walkthroughs and positional meetings last week, fostering an atmosphere for learning.

Yesterday was the first time the Terps practiced twice in a day, but even then there was plenty of instruction. Friedgen used the final 30 minutes of the morning practice to coach his reserves, paying special attention to freshmen who are just beginning to absorb the Terps’ schemes.

“I really like what we’ve done this year,” Friedgen said. “The way camp has fallen, I really think this is a better way of doing it, using this acclimation period as a real teaching period and getting things in. I think it was beneficial because our kids worked hard this summer. They got a lot of it, or at least they’ve heard a lot of it.”

Left tackle Stephon Heyer (concussion) and center Phil Costa (strained back) suffered injuries in yesterday’s first practice, leaving the Terps even more short-handed for a scrimmage that lasted more than 80 plays.

It hasn’t been a perfect first week, for reasons both within and beyond the Terps’ control. Injuries (starting guards Andrew Crummey and Donnie Woods) and suspensions (right tackle Jared Gaither and reserve guard Jaimie Thomas, both for violating team rules) on the offensive line have created mismatches.

Inconsistency at wide receiver has also bugged Friedgen, who still hopes a few players can emerge from the inexperienced unit. Yet with nearly three weeks before the Sept. 2 opener against William & Mary, the Terps have the luxury of fine-tuning the offense rather than enduring the usual dragged-out installation process.

“With time comes maturity,” backup quarterback Jordan Steffy said, “and with our team being so young, anytime you deal with the number of guys that we have that are underclassmen, every transition from the spring to the season or from the season to spring ball, a lot more’s going to be learned and the game’s going to start to slow down a little bit.

“I think that’s what we’re running into right now.”

Note — Reserve strong safety Hunter Reddick, who transferred from Navy last year, left the team earlier in the week after not passing a class he needed to remain eligible. The Terps shifted redshirt freshman Jamari McCollough to safety to adapt to Reddick’s departure.

“I told him if he had played the way he did the first two weeks of spring practice, I probably would have put him on scholarship,” Friedgen said of Reddick. “He told me what he had gotten and then he didn’t show for practice. I had someone go to his dorm room and all his clothes were gone. He just took off for California and didn’t even tell me he was going.”

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