Offense priority as Terps open practice

QB Hollenbach impresses

running back up in air

College Football

August 09, 2005|By Heather A. Dinich | Heather A. Dinich,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - At the top of Maryland football coach Ralph Friedgen's to-do list before the season starts is revamping an offense that produced more turnovers than touchdowns in the final four games of last year's losing season.

As he zipped around the field in his red golf cart yesterday afternoon, Friedgen began preseason camp determined to move the ball this fall.

He just has to figure out who's going to do that for him.

Maryland's quarterback, junior Sam Hollenbach, has started only one game, but Friedgen said Hollenbach impressed him yesterday.

Still, a featured running back has yet to emerge, the wide receiver corps is the youngest unit on the team and as many as four players with no more than sophomore experience could start on the offensive line.

Even the coaching staff has a few new faces on offense.

John Donovan took over the tailbacks and fullbacks after four years as an assistant recruiting coordinator with the Terps, and Bryan Bossard is coaching the wide receivers after spending the past three years in the same position at Delaware.

"I've watched our spring film maybe 15 times," Friedgen said, noting he has 15 practices planned. "I had the offensive coaches in for two weeks just going over our spring film, making sure we were on the same page. I think we've done our due diligence. Hopefully that will pay off."

Last year's 5-6 finish, much of which resulted from a sputter and stutter offense, might have been an anomaly for Friedgen, who has been called an "offensive genius" by some.

The 58-year-old coach enters his fifth year at Maryland with a 36-14 record that includes three major bowl appearances.

But the Terrapins scored five touchdowns in their final seven games last season and averaged 17.7 points - next to last in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Last year's dismal ending wasn't forgotten yesterday, as players said they were eager to redeem themselves.

Practice began with hip-hop music during warm-ups and ended early, as lightning forced them off the field with almost half of their drills remaining.

During one drill, the quarterbacks each took turns aiming for colored shapes on a net cage.

So far, Hollenbach has the edge.

He read the coverages so well that Friedgen said, "I hope you're not teasing me."

"He's undefeated," Friedgen said, referring to the rookie's 13-7 win over Wake Forest in the season finale. " ... What I admire in him is his perseverance. He could've quit, could've transferred, could've made excuses. He hung in there, paid attention in meetings, and when his opportunity came, he made the most of it. ... To me, it's Sam's job to lose."

Tailback, however, is a position the coaches are waiting for someone to win. In order to take some pressure off Hollenbach, the Terps need to establish a running game.

"We have to be able to run the football," Donovan said. " ... No one really separated themselves. Hopefully somebody will before Sept. 3. If not, we'll probably have to go with the senior first and see what happens there."

Senior tailback Mario Merrills emerged as the starter at the end of spring, but Keon Lattimore said he has spent his free time this summer watching film and studying the playbook, which he estimated to be about as thick as two dictionaries.

"Coming out of spring it was pretty much dead even," Lattimore said. "This camp allows us another opportunity to prove what we have. All guys bring their `A' game. It should be a very intense and competitive camp."

Their success, though, depends on the offensive line, where tackle Stephon Heyer is the lone senior returning who started all 11 games last year.

NOTES: Linebacker D'Qwell Jackson was in Jacksonville, Fla., yesterday because his grandmother is sick. Friedgen said he hopes Jackson will return to the team today. ... Maryland is gaining two new transfers and, coincidentally, two of the Terps' opponents are losing them. Temple linebacker Rick Costa, whose brother Phil Costa is a true freshman center for Maryland, is expected to join the team today, and Navy defensive back Hunter Reddick also has transferred. Both players have to sit out this year. ... The Terps open the season Sept. 3 against Navy, but athletic director Debbie Yow said she doesn't expect the series to renew.

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