Feet on ground, hand in game

UM's Friedgen fills offensive coordinator, quarterback coach roles with Taaffe gone

College football


College Park -- The red golf cart usually occupied by Maryland football coach Ralph Friedgen has been parked and empty at spring football practices, evidence of the coaching change that has occurred.

Friedgen can no longer use the cart to zip from squad to squad, barking orders at his players during drills.

Somebody has to coach the quarterbacks.

The unexpected departure of offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe less than two months before spring practices began left Friedgen with little time to hire a replacement. He still hasn't and said he probably won't, although Friedgen is interviewing candidates to coach the quarterbacks.

Meanwhile, Friedgen has assumed the roles of offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, and lost about 30 pounds from his multitasking. While Friedgen laments he can no longer oversee the entire practice when the units split for specified drills, his quarterbacks said their increased time with him has improved their game and their relationship.

"The relationship we have with him is so much closer," said Jordan Steffy, who is pushing Sam Hollenbach for the starting job. "Before we'd just see him out on the field. He was never in our meetings. Now we get the side where we make mistakes on the field, he's yelling and screaming, but when we get in the meeting room, that's when we correct things and he's not as up-tempo. He's more relaxed, and we know what he's thinking."

At Maryland's scrimmage on Saturday, Steffy said the offense was in a short-yardage situation when he went to Friedgen with a particular play. Before Steffy opened his mouth, "[Friedgen] was like here, call it," Steffy said. "It was the same exact play I was thinking.

"It helps us get all on the same page," he said. "He's definitely doing a heck of a job right now with all of the responsibilities he has."

It hasn't been easy.

"Where it gets a little tough on me is preparing for the quarterbacks and then preparing for the team," Friedgen said. " ... I'll grade the [practice] tape, then stay and get the lesson plan ready for the quarterbacks for the week.

"All of a sudden everything hits me at once," he said. "I've been working pretty hard."

So have his quarterbacks.

Sam Hollenbach has a new $240,000 Pro Simulator computer system in his dorm room to help him learn the playbook.

At the team meetings, Friedgen uses a PowerPoint presentation to flash a play for about two seconds. The quarterbacks have to recognize the defensive front, coverages, adjustments and where they're going with the ball.

"That kind of stuff is different," Hollenbach said.

And then there are Friedgen's tests.

These aren't pop quizzes, either. Four or five questions? Think bigger.

"More like four or five pages," Hollenbach said, shaking his head. "I had one marked wrong because I had a guy motioning between the tackle and the tight end, not the guard and the tackles."

Hollenbach said if the players don't score a certain percentage on the test, they'll get fewer reps at practice.

"I think he's just trying to put pressure on us to make sure we're doing it right," Hollenbach said. "It's kind of entertaining for me watching the younger guys. You've got to know your stuff. It's like studying for a test for school."

This is the first time Hollenbach, who will be a senior, has been coached by someone other than Taaffe at Maryland. Taaffe said in a February statement he resigned to "explore other coaching opportunities," but has not been hired elsewhere.

Sources said Illinois offensive coordinator Mike Locksley was high on the list to replace Taaffe, but negotiations fell through.

So Friedgen decided to call the plays himself.

"It's his system, so he's pretty familiar with it," said running backs coach John Donovan, a graduate assistant at Georgia Tech when Friedgen was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. "I've seen him call plays before. It's funny seeing him doing it again."

Taaffe used to call Maryland's plays from a booth in the press box. Friedgen will call them from the field.

"He's got a pretty good eye on the field," Donovan said. "He was calling plays on the field when we were at Georgia Tech anyway, and he had a good sense of what was going on, but he might ask for an opinion upstairs, `Is that what I saw?' and we'll say yay or nay. It won't be that big a deal as far as that transition."


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