Straight to the points

Friedgen uses scoring system to instill discipline, camaraderie

Football

August 05, 2008|By Jeff Barker | Jeff Barker,Sun reporter

COLLEGE PARK - August preseason camp might be grueling and hot, but it sure beats what happens to Maryland football players who run afoul of coach Ralph Friedgen's intricate points system - a motivational tool that can't help but grab team members' attention.

Consider the experience of fourth-year defensive back Anthony Wiseman.

Under wispy clouds turned orange by the sunrise, Wiseman jogged up and down the Byrd Stadium stairs in shorts and a T-shirt last year, beginning at 5:30 a.m.

His lonely run - captured by the cameras of Terrapins Rising, the team reality show - turned him into a cautionary tale for teammates who prefer to sleep past dawn.

Wiseman was a victim of a points system instituted by Friedgen before last season and continued this year.

"You gain points for bad behavior," Friedgen said in an interview before the team held its media day and first preseason practices yesterday afternoon.

As in golf, players endeavor to keep their scores low, or risk paying a Wiseman-like price.

"You miss class, it's a point. Late for class is half a point," the coach said. There are various other ways to gain or lose points.

"If a player amasses five points, that player runs at 5 a.m.," Friedgen said.

The process begins early in spring practice when the team is divided into 10 units, each with a captain.

"I have a draft," Friedgen said. "We go into the auditorium. I say, 'Team One, you're on the clock, 30 seconds.' And I have all the names on a big screen."

The system is aimed not only at keeping players in line but also at building bonds as unit members police each other. "If the team gets 10 points, they all run at 5 a.m.," Friedgen said.

As in the military, it is in each player's interest to ensure that his buddy understands the drill.

Matt Goldberg, last year's holder and backup receiver, said the points never strayed far from players' minds.

"People were aware of it and could push each other: 'Get to class, get to class!' " Goldberg said. "But was it fun? It wasn't fun running for somebody else's mistakes. We had to go and run at 5 o'clock in the morning."

Larry Grabenstein, chairman of the Maryland Gridiron Network booster group, said the system seems to work because it places responsibility on team members rather than the coaches. "He has the players disciplining themselves," Grabenstein said.

Defensive lineman Jeremy Navarre (Joppatowne) said most players learned quickly - particularly those who found themselves running stairs and vowed not to let it happen again. "Lesson learned," Navarre said.

The best-behaved unit is invited to a barbecue at Friedgen's home.

The most recent round of the system ended at the conclusion of spring practice. But Friedgen said he has been considering extending a variation of the system into the fall. "I'm always trying to figure out ways to motivate these guys to do well," the coach said.

*NOTESSophomore Dominique Herald, a linebacker-safety, was suspended for the opening game for violating team rules. Friedgen declined to elaborate. "Most of the time I'm trying to teach the kid a lesson," the coach said. Herald will probably be used at safety when he returns. ... When Friedgen sized up his depth chart, he wasn't comfortable with the safety position. So the coach said he is temporarily turning wide receiver Kenny Tate into a strong safety. Tate, from DeMatha, was rated 16th nationally among wide receivers by Scout.com. ... Friedgen hasn't named a starting quarterback yet. Asked whether Chris Turner, the incumbent, topped the depth chart, Friedgen replied: "I don't even know if you could say that. It's pretty tight all the way around." Friedgen said he wants more consistency from Turner and he wants Jordan Steffy to avoid pressing "and just go out and play the game." Josh Portis, the coach said, needs to make certain he grasps the offensive system. The coach didn't rule out a rotation in which quarterbacks would be used depending on the situation. ... Offensive lineman Tyler Bowen, defensive lineman Joe Vellano and wide receiver Kevin Dorsey will miss August practices with injuries. "They'll come in when school starts," Friedgen said.

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

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