Air apparent in offense

maryland football

New coordinator Franklin has more than a passing thought

August 30, 2008|By Jeff Barker | Jeff Barker,

COLLEGE PARK - Dan Gronkowski knows as well as any Terrapin what changes lie ahead for Maryland's offense from last season. The first difference he cites is himself.

The 6-foot-6 tight end, who has weighed as much as 265 pounds, said he is down to about 250. The new Gronkowski - Gronkowski 2.0, he might be called - is better able to navigate the increased number of routes Terrapins coaches have installed for him this season.

"There's more passing in this offense than we traditionally had," said Gronkowski, a senior who caught seven passes last season.

Gronkowski's evolving role represents only part of the adjustments this year under James Franklin, the newly hired offensive coordinator.

Fans get their first glimpse of this season's Terps against Delaware today at Byrd Stadium.

"I think tight end will probably be more of a factor, [and] a lot more crossing patterns," Terrapins coach Ralph Friedgen said. "In fact, we run a lot of the same stuff Delaware runs. We will stretch the field also. I think that's one of the better things we do."

The Terps will run a variation of the West Coast offense. The quick-developing crossing routes are designed to maximize the speed of Darrius Heyward-Bey and the other receivers.

If Maryland seems conservative early in the season, that is because the coaches want quarterback Jordan Steffy, recently named the starter over Chris Turner and Josh Portis, to gradually gain confidence. Steffy, a fifth-year senior, hasn't started a game since suffering a concussion against Rutgers in Maryland's fifth game last season.

"With our offense right now, we're using the short pass a lot, and that's a good thing early," fullback Cory Jackson said. "It's just about developing that confidence again."

Franklin, who wants an environment in which Steffy can be relaxed, said, "Success breeds success."

Even the excitable Franklin said he will be calmer on game day. He is known for literally getting in players' faces, sometimes to praise and other times to criticize.

"During the week, I really want to work extremely hard, work the kids hard and prepare for every situation that can come up. By the time game day comes, it's over. It's too late to worry," Franklin said. "I'm pretty calm and cool during the game talking to guys on the headsets and calling the plays."

Franklin was at Maryland during Friedgen's first four seasons, so he is hardly new to College Park. His Kansas State offense last season averaged 285.4 passing yards (compared with Maryland's 203.4), and he knows fans are likely to expect more of the same. He counsels patience.

"You need to take shots, but they're calculated risks," Franklin said. "You've got to know when and where to do it."

Season opener: Delaware @Maryland, today, 3:45 p.m.


Radio: 1300 AM

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