Terps' Franklin plans to return to winning ways

Maryland's head-coach-in-waiting using 2-10 season as 'a learning opportunity'

August 09, 2010|By Jeff Barker, The Baltimore Sun

COLLEGE PARK — Maryland offensive coordinator James Franklin tends to load his BlackBerry with football-related thoughts on the fly -- what he likes, doesn't like and hopes to improve.

Suffice it to say that his BlackBerry notes application got plenty of use in a 2009 season in which the Terrapins, who open preseason practices today, dropped their last seven games to finish 2-10.

"I fill it with notes," said the driven, animated Franklin, 38, the designated successor to head coach Ralph Friedgen. "What I did is I used it [last season] as a learning opportunity."

And what did Franklin observe about the first Maryland football team to lose 10 games?

Franklin, who is under contract to succeed Friedgen by January 2012, agreed to share his thoughts before the players' arrival. The team hosts its annual media day today at Gossett Football Team House.

Franklin had rarely endured a season like last year. "I've been pretty fortunate to be involved with good teams all the way back to Pop Warner," said the former East Stroudsburg (Pa.) quarterback, who did undergo a losing season as an assistant coach with the Green Bay Packers in 2005.

Friedgen's job status, meanwhile, was reviewed after last season. He has two more seasons remaining on his contract.

"I think our team is very excited to show we're not a 2-10 team," Friedgen said during spring practice in March. "I really haven't had a season like that for a long time, to be honest with you."

Franklin is known for his passion. At halftime of Maryland's 2008 victory over California, a buoyant Franklin punched an erasable board used to diagram plays, sending it tumbling to the floor.

Despite last season's struggles, Franklin said he has not lost faith in himself or his team. "I'm very comfortable with who I am as a coach and who I am as a person," he said.

Franklin said his status as Friedgen's successor is not affected by the offseason departure to North Carolina State of athletic director Debbie Yow. It was Yow who signed his "coach-in-waiting" contract in 2009 after Franklin had attracted the interest of several college and NFL teams.

"Nothing has changed," Franklin said. "There was a contract. There still is a contract. It's signed; it's binding."

Franklin is contractually due to receive $1 million from the school if he is not named to succeed Friedgen by Jan. 2, 2012.

Franklin said he preferred to focus on the most immediate task -- preparing for the opener against Navy on Sept. 6 at M&T Bank Stadium.

Here are some of his thoughts:

Franklin wants to literally change the look of the offensive line, which struggled last season with inexperience and injuries.

Franklin said the members of the line would weigh about 15 pounds less on average than last season. "We're going to be a no-gut offense -- no bellies," he said. Some of last year's offensive linemen weighed in the 330s.

He wants to continue to improve the team's speed. "Our goal is to be the fastest at every position in the" Atlantic Coast Conference, Franklin said.

Maryland's flashiest returning performer is speedy receiver Torrey Smith, the school's career leader in all-purpose yards.

Franklin believes the team will benefit by being quicker at quarterback.

Jamarr Robinson, a redshirt sophomore last season, replaced injured senior Chris Turner in 2009, starting two games and playing in seven. Robinson enters the preseason atop the depth chart.

Franklin loves mobile quarterbacks who can turn potential losses into gains. Trying to keep defenses honest, Franklin called more running plays last season for Turner than in previous seasons. Turner was big, but not quick.

"With Chris, we were trying to just get three or four yards," Franklin said. "Jamarr may not go 80, but he has the chance to get 10 or to break one longer."

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