Friedgen, Terrapins gear up for spring game

Coach drums up interest for Saturday's contest

College Football

April 26, 2001|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - With one practice and a public scrimmage remaining in his team's spring preparation for the 2001 season, Maryland football coach Ralph Friedgen said he was pleased with how well his team has been able to adjust to his staff and its style of instruction.

"From an organizational standpoint, we've been able to get a lot done," said Friedgen, who conducts the spring game Saturday at 4 p.m., and is visiting fraternity houses on campus to drum up interest. "You hardly hear me yelling at all anymore."

The faster pace startled Terrapins players when they first met for organized drills on March 31, but has since grown on them over 14 practices to the point where receiver Giulian Gary said that Friedgen lauded his team for its ability to keep up.

Senior linebacker Aaron Thompson predicted that "when we play other teams ... it will be like watching paint dry," compared to the pace of Maryland's practices.

The learning process for the offensive players slowed after about the sixth practice, but Friedgen, who replaces Ron Vanderlinden, said he was happy about his offense's ability to install all of the plays for special situations. His line is solid, but dealing with injuries; he's OK with his running backs, and while the quarterback situation is fairly secure, the receivers could use more speed.

On defense, Friedgen was concerned with the guys up front, but glad that they had shown improvement. An assault charge puts the status of starting linebacker Marlon Moye-Moore in the air until the early summer, but the coach is comfortable that he has the most depth at that position.

In the defensive backfield, corners Tony Okanlawon and Curome Cox were singled out for praise on a unit that the coach said made major progress.

"Every front and coverage is in," Friedgen said. "Our defense has improved over the last five practices."

With only 60-65 players out for spring practice, the Terps will not divide into two teams on Saturday. Instead, Friedgen will run the starting offense against the starting defense and the second-team offense against the second-team defense.

The coach's major hope is to test the proficiency of his team during two-minute situations.

"We've done it in practices and have that much down; I'd like to see how we do in a game situation," Friedgen said.

NOTES: Shaun Hill will likely go into fall camp as the starter, but redshirt freshman Chris Kelley has closed the gap significantly this spring. Kelley - a high school All-American at Seneca Valley - sat out last year because of an injured left knee, but he left an impression on Gary, one of the receivers. "He's surprised most of the people who didn't know about him," Gary said. "He has the ability to do whatever he did in high school all over again in college."

On the defensive line, Friedgen is looking for help this fall from true freshmen like end Randy Starks. In the meantime, the returnees have shown significant gains according to the coach and to players. Aaron Thompson gave credit to the fiery approach of defensive line coach Dave Sollazzo. The players "have a coach who stays on top of them and doesn't allow them to take plays off," Thompson said. "I don't know if they're feeling the pressure of guys coming in, but from my point of view, they're biggest pressure is from their coach."

Another group due for inspection is the tailbacks. The top two backs from last year, LaMont Jordan and Mukala Sikyala, are gone, leaving sophomore Bruce Perry and senior Mark Riley as the top candidates this spring.

Perry, who sat out last season as a redshirt, said it would be nice to bolster his candidacy in front of a crowd on Saturday, but he'll benefit more from his efforts this summer.

"The man who decides who will play will be Coach Friedgen, not the fans," Perry said.

Sikyala signed a free-agent contract with the San Diego Chargers, while safety Shawn Forte and fullback Matt Kalapinski both signed with the Miami Dolphins.

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