Friedgen has beefed-up role, better handle on health
Maryland players like what they see in coach Ralph Friedgen, who's dropped weight and taken a more active role in practice.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Maryland quarterback Sam Hollenbach will see more and more of coach Ralph Friedgen this coming season. But there's apparently less to see of Friedgen, the offensive guru affectionately known as "The Fridge" because of his bulging waistline.
Friedgen has dropped more than 30 pounds since the start of spring practice, school officials said Sunday, after he took on an increased role in coaching his team's offense.
Friedgen, who earned the reputation of an offensive mastermind while helping lead Georgia Tech to a co-national championship in 1990 and the San Diego Chargers to the Super Bowl in 1994, took over as Maryland's offensive coordinator when Charlie Taaffe resigned after last season. After winning 31 games and the 2001 ACC championship in Friedgen's first three years as coach of his alma mater, Maryland went 5-6 in each of the last two seasons and didn't play in bowl games.
So in an effort to improve his team's sagging offense, Friedgen chose not to hire a new offensive coordinator and will call the Terps' plays himself. He also moved running backs coach John Donovan to quarterbacks coach, but Hollenbach said Friedgen is doing much of the teaching in position meetings and practices.
"It's been different," Hollenbach said. "He keeps everybody on their toes and he's demanding. The freshmen are on their toes because he'll just fire out questions during the position meetings. It's entertaining for me."
The last two seasons certainly haven't been entertaining for Friedgen or Maryland fans. After scoring an ACC-high 413 points during its 10-2 season in 2001, Maryland was limited to 16 points or fewer in 10 of its 22 games the past two seasons combined. The Terrapins showed improvement in 2005: They ranked third in the ACC in total offense with 383.9 yards per game and third in first downs with 22 per game. But they were again undone by third-down conversions (35.9 percent), poor red zone execution and turnovers (ranked next-to-last in the ACC in turnover margin, ahead of only Duke, with 17 interceptions thrown and eight fumbles lost).
"[Friedgen] is the kind of guy who is going to do whatever it takes to win," Hollenbach said. "He's lost some weight and he's taken a more active role in practice. He's more involved as a position coach. It's a side of him I haven't seen. I like it better like this."
School officials give the credit for Friedgen's improved health to his wife, Gloria, who is monitoring his diet and demanding schedule. In the past, Friedgen would arrive at his office in Maryland's Gossett Team House around 6 a.m. and wouldn't eat until after practice that evening. Usually, Friedgen would then eat with his team and consume food like his offensive linemen. Now, Gloria Friedgen sends meals from home for her husband to eat at the office and he's often eating three healthy meals a day.
ACC reviews bowl order
After Boston College finished 9-3 in its first season in the ACC last year and ended up playing Boise State in the MPC Computers Bowl in not-so-balmy Boise, the ACC spent the offseason reviewing how its teams would be selected for future bowl games.
The league is expected to announce a new bowl order Tuesday during its annual ACC Kickoff news conferences at Sawgrass Resort & Beach Club here. According to bowl game officials familiar with the order, the lineup will go something like this: ACC champion to the Bowl Championship Series, No. 2 selection to the Peach Bowl in Atlanta, No. 3 to the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, No. 4 to the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, No. 5 to the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn., No. 6 to the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte, N.C., No. 7 to the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco and No. 8 to the MPC Computers Bowl.
Under the new agreement, the ACC championship game loser can't fall below the Music City Bowl, and a bowl game can bypass a team for another team with a lesser record only if the teams are within one game of each other in the ACC standings.
So if the new agreement were in place last season, for instance, the Music City and Meineke Car Care bowls couldn't have selected Virginia and NC State, which both finished with 3-5 ACC marks, over Boston College and Georgia Tech, which were both 5-3 in league play.
"Unfortunately, we were the guinea pigs that had to suffer going to a bowl that people didn't think we deserved to go to," Boston College guard Josh Beekman said. "Fortunately, the ACC is changing things so it won't happen again."
Brohm's return on target
During last week's Big East preseason news conferences in Newport, R.I., Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said he expects quarterback Brian Brohm to be ready for the start of practices early next month. Brohm, the 2005 Big East Offensive Player of the Year after throwing for 2,883 yards and 19 touchdowns, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee against Syracuse last Nov. 26. He didn't play in Louisville's last 2005 regular-season game against Connecticut or in its 35-24 loss to Virginia Tech in the Gator Bowl.
Brohm, one of two Heisman Trophy candidates from Louisville along with tailback Michael Bush, completed what was once considered a yearlong rehabilitation in about six months. Brohm underwent surgery Dec. 5 and was running less than a month later. Not only did he tear the ACL, but he also dislocated his kneecap, severely bruised his femur and strained the patella tendon in the knee. The injury was very similar to the one suffered last year by Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer, the former Heisman Trophy winner from Southern California.
"They did a nice job on the operation and they did a great job with the rehab of it," Petrino said. "The thing I'm happy about is any time you injure a knee you start experiencing other problems on the other side of your body, usually a hamstring or something like that. He's fought through all that, and our guys did a great job of knowing when to push him and when to pull back a little bit."
Petrino said he expects Brohm to have a new target this coming season. Georgia Tech transfer Patrick Carter, who sat out last season under NCAA transfer rules, should be one of the Cardinals' starting wide receivers, Petrino said, probably working in the slot. Carter, the younger brother of former Auburn receiver Tim Carter, who plays for the New York Giants, left the Yellow Jackets after losing the quarterback job to starter Reggie Ball. Carter switched to receiver in 2004 and returned 26 punts for the Yellow Jackets before leaving prior to the 2005 season. Carter has good size at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds and was a sprinter on the Cardinals' track team this past spring.
"We expect him to be one of our starting receivers," said Petrino, whose team lost its top two receivers from 2005 in Joshua Tinch and Montrell Jones. "He's got good speed."
Another transfer to watch on Louisville's offense: Brock Bolen, a whopping 235-pound fullback who might be making holes for Bush. Bolen, who transferred from Illinois, also runs the ball very well.
Don't look past Seminoles
Clemson, despite losing quarterback Charlie Whitehurst and six other starters, seems to be a popular choice among media here to contend for its first ACC championship since 1991. But Florida State tailback Lorenzo Booker laughed when he was told by reporters of the Tigers' high expectations. The Seminoles were overwhelming underdogs against Virginia Tech in the 2005 ACC championship game, but they beat the Hokies 27-22 and won the league for the 12th time in 14 seasons.
"Last year, they said Virginia Tech was going to kill us in the ACC championship," Booker said. "But we were the ones in the Orange Bowl -- not them. I was there and didn't see any Virginia Tech players. Were they in Miami? I was in Miami. People are always going to say what they want to say, especially if you're in a program like ours. The minute we lose a game, it's like, 'Oh, Florida State is this and that.' But we're still the face of the ACC and until somebody does what we did, it's never going to change. When you say ACC, you think Florida State."
Playing it safe
Miami linebacker Jon Beason said the only thing teammates Willie Cooper and Brandon Meriweather are guilty of is being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Cooper, a junior safety, was shot in the buttocks early Friday morning while confronting an unknown person in the front yard of the home where the players live. Meriweather pulled a handgun from his pants and fired three times at the assailant, who jumped a fence and fled in a car driven by another person. Police said Meriweather had a permit for the gun and used it legally.
"I believe in Murphy's Law: Wrong place, wrong time and things happen to people," Beason said. "There are parts of Miami you should stay out of. There are other parts of cities you should stay out of. That was their home. They know you're a football player and they think you have valuable things. It doesn't scare the hell out of me, because I'm from Miami. Just pray and be lucky."
Miami is excited about freshman offensive tackle Ian Symonette, a 6-foot-9, 340-pounder from Nassau, Bahamas. "He's got some baby fat on him," Beason said, "but he can move." Maryland expects to have back three players who sat out all of last season with knee injuries: offensive tackle Stephon Heyer, linebacker Erin Henderson and running back Josh Allen. Allen ran for 922 yards and eight touchdowns in 2002 and is faster than Lance Ball, the ACC's top returning rusher from 2005. Heyer was the anchor of Maryland's offensive line in 2004 and then tore knee ligaments during preseason camp last year. He will probably start at left tackle, with promising sophomore Jared Gaither moving to the right side. Henderson, the younger brother of former Terps All-American E.J. Henderson, was an emerging star before he was hurt in preseason camp in 2005. Nose tackle Rob Armstrong, who sat out last season with a back injury and seemingly retired, also is back and could provide bulk to the Terps' smallish defensive front. For those football fans who think Virginia's Al Groh is as dry as he seems, the former New York Jets coach actually has a pretty good sense of humor. Groh apparently obtained modeling photos of projected starting quarterback Christian Olsen and displayed them on the scoreboard during a scrimmage last spring. Olsen, a Notre Dame transfer and brother of Miami tight end Greg Olsen, said he had the photos made while visiting New York last year. "I was in New York and me and a friend went in and did it as a joke," Olsen said. "It turned into a lot bigger thing than it was." Strangest thing said during the first day of ACC Kickoff? Virginia Tech safety Aaron Rouse had several reporters shaking their heads when he said: "If Duke wasn't in the ACC, they'd probably be the No. 1 team in the Big 12 or somewhere."
Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com.