As youngest Terps gain experience, Friedgen's patience thrown for a loss

Second, third units disappoint coach with errors in Saturday rout of Temple

September 13, 2004|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - One of Ralph Friedgen's recurring themes this year, through three weeks of practice and two weeks of games, has been patience.

The word finds its way into most of his public comments these days, with Friedgen asking both the fans and media for it when assessing Maryland's young football team. He has also, on occasion, had to remind himself to be patient, something that doesn't come naturally to the 57-year-old coach, now in his fourth year as the Terps' head man.

Saturday night's 45-22 win over Temple was one of those times, and it was easy to see the conflicting emotions in Friedgen's face after the game.

He was disappointed with his second and third teams, but then seemed to soften his assessment after he began listing the names of freshman after freshman that had been in the game. They were young, and he understood some of the mistakes. For the moment, their youth would grant them patience, but by no means would it grant them job security.

"I'm about producing. I'm not a charity situation," said Friedgen, whose 2-0 Terps are now ranked No. 21.

"You get on the field and get a chance to show us what you can do, then do it. Don't just go out there and be there. I'm disappointed in some of those guys, because I've been after some of the coaches to play them, and now the coaches will be telling me, `I told you so.' A lot of them, it was their first time being in a college game, so I understand that. But I don't want to say as a head coach I'm going to be accepting of it. I understand it, but I want them to see what they did wrong and learn from it."

True freshmen Jack Griffin, Carlos Feliciano, Jordan Steffy, Chris Varner, J.J. Justice and Scott Burley played against the Owls. Redshirt freshmen Tim Cesa, Omarr Savage, Wesley Jefferson, Garrick Clig, Donnie Woods and Andrew Crummey also were in for significant stretches.

Some, like Jefferson, who made 12 tackles, looked good. But there were far more missed tackles, missed blocks and blown assignments by the rest of the younger players. Friedgen was so fed up at one point, he sent his starting defense back onto the field with two minutes remaining.

"I get into the dilemma of do we redshirt some of these kids?" Friedgen said. "I told [my coaches] we're going to go out and recruit anyway, so let's play these kids and give them the experience and give them the chance to grow and play."

Friedgen did, however, labor over what to do with Steffy, who won the backup quarterback job in camp just four months after he graduated from Conestoga Valley High School in Pennsylvania. Steffy ended up playing most of the fourth quarter, and was 0-for-3 passing. He became the first true freshman to play quarterback for Maryland since Latrez Harrison in 1999.

"I went to Jordan at halftime and I said, `What do you want me to do? Do you want me to hold it?'" Friedgen said. "He said, `How soon will I play?' I said, `Pretty soon.' He said, `I want to play, Coach.' The coaches were pretty split, but I made the decision to play the kid. If he's going to get better, he's got to play. He had a couple of plays wrong, a couple of reads wrong, but hopefully he'll grow from it."

NOTES: Friedgen said yesterday he would give the first team a "B" and hand out a "C" to the second team for their play in Maryland's first two games. After giving out the grades in response to a question, Friedgen said, "I didn't know we were grading them." ... While talking about how pleased he was with Saturday night's team effort, Friedgen labeled his approach to this season this way, "I'm living for now. We'll play each game and see how we make out." ... Junior tailback Josh Allen is "sore" and will be held out of contact drills this week, with Friedgen not wanting to divulge the nature of his injury because "I don't want people going after him." ... Junior middle linebacker D'Qwell Jackson (hyper-extended left elbow) also will not take part in contact workouts this week, but like Allen, he is expected to play against No. 7 West Virginia on Saturday.

Sun staff writer Bill Free contributed to this article.

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