COLLEGE PARK -- The new coach has calf muscles that could elicit envy in the protein-shake crowd. Ralph Friedgen motors around on those calves, using them to charge across the field when he's pleased and wants to slap five. When he's dissatisfied, they take him right into the formation so he can upbraid the offenders.
On a body that otherwise seems like a tribute to the couch potato, the calves did not go. They remain the sole visible artifact of Friedgen's more athletic days on the Terrapins' offensive line more than 30 years ago.
The coach did not go, either. The expectation was that the job of head football coach at the University of Maryland would be mostly that of an administrator, as he had been warned by his former boss. "You're not going to sit in the office 10 hours a day and watch offense," Georgia Tech coach George O'Leary had told his departing offensive coordinator.
The coach remains, comfortable with the pencil pusher who moved in over the past nine months, just as the calves co-exist with the trademark jowls. The duality is one more contradiction among many within Friedgen. He is the family man who regularly rolls in at 1 a.m., the intellectual who plays up his meat-and-potatoes image, the huckster who is also sincere.
He has to hawk season tickets. He has to raise money. He has to design a new uniform. He has to discipline players. He has to direct underlings. These things are part of his $800,000-a-year job.
"I have so many other things to do, so I can't focus like I was. But that's stopping after today," he said one day last month. "I'm going back into coaching. ... It's football season now."
The practice fields are cooler these days, when Friedgen, 54, can be seen with his arm across his torso, his left elbow resting on his right wrist. He observes, making notes on a folded piece of paper.
For a big play, he claps. For a dropped ball, the chin drops farther into his left hand. For a missed assignment, he blows his whistle. The refrain: "Get it right."
At the beginning of the second week of practice, Friedgen boiled over. Irritated at his team's lack of fire, frustrated with the offense that wasn't picking up his complicated system, the coach kicked the players off the field.
Then he reconsidered, bringing them back. The pace picked up.
"There's no lollygagging," said senior Aaron Thompson, who is with his third coach at Maryland -- recruited by Mark Duffner, then coached by Ron Vanderlinden and now by Friedgen.
"It has to be intense, and if it's not intense, he will call you out."
Friedgen knew his job would be tough even if he weren't taking over a team that had consecutive 5-6 seasons. He just didn't know that he would encounter as many surprises as others have found in him. He has been surprised that:
Basketball and a knee injury would rob him of half of his quarterback corps, leaving only two on scholarship.
He would have to suspend two players and fire a graduate assistant coach over scrapes with the law.
He can't count on a full stadium for the season opener Saturday against North Carolina.
"A lot of new experiences here," Friedgen said, while standing in an indoor mini-practice facility where he'd moved practice to escape yet another thunderstorm.
Friedgen had been preparing himself well for the Maryland football job in the 32 years that he'd been waiting, working as an assistant in college and in the NFL.
He had a master plan to share with athletic director Debbie Yow during the job interview last November. He got only halfway through when she said, "You're my guy."
Months later, she continues to express support. "He's a natural head coach," said Yow, who irked some alumni by failing to interview Friedgen in 1996 before hiring Vanderlinden. "He's intelligent, he has great people skills and is a great communicator. ... That's the whole ball of wax."
Friedgen formulated three plans for hiring his staff but needed only the first. He got eight of the nine people he had listed, including coordinators who were head coaches at the time.
Now, the two occasionally counsel Friedgen. Charlie Taaffe draws from having coached the Canadian Football League's Montreal Alouettes, Gary Blackney from the program he quit running at Bowling Green partly because he couldn't find the time to be both coach and school official.
But he describes Friedgen as a workaholic, putting in 18-hour days in hopes of forcing a turnaround.
"He's handled all the requisites with enthusiasm and grace," Blackney said.
Friedgen has won over his players by becoming their advocate and by spending time with them.
Early on, when he questioned their lack of size, they told him they weren't getting enough food. He added money to their meal cards and prompted the university to offer an all-you-can-eat breakfast for all students on meal plans.
"It improved immensely, in the matter of a month," said senior quarterback Shaun Hill, praising "the fact that he took our feelings into consideration."