Q&A with Ralph Friedgen

SunSpot Staff

In his rookie season, Ralph Friedgen led the Terps' football team to an Atlantic Coast Conference championship, a 10-2 finish and an appearance in the Orange Bowl.

The Terps open the season on Aug. 31 against Notre Dame in the Kickoff Classic in East Rutherford, N.J.

The second-year coach and Maryland alumnus talked with SunSpot about his outlook on the upcoming season and his fitness and fund-raising crusade.

SunSpot: What goals do you have for the season?

Ralph Friedgen: Well, we've got our work cut out for us. We're a young team with only 11 seniors. We've got to find a quarterback and hope that E.J. [Henderson] and Bruce [Perry] are recovered from their injuries. I'm worried about our depth on offense and the offensive line and also on the defensive side of the ball.

SunSpot: Two of your top players - E.J. Henderson (back surgery) and Bruce Perry (groin, abdomen injuries) - are recovering from surgery and injuries. Will they be ready for Notre Dame at the Kickoff Classic on Aug. 31?

Ralph Friedgen: Right now, they should be ready to go full tilt for two-a-days (Aug. 10), but I'll know better once I see them in contact drills. I talked to E.J. last week and he said he was running full speed and said his strength is what it was at last year. The thing is how his back is going to hold up in contact situations. I'm just going on what he told me, but I also want to talk to the doctor.

Bruce is about 100 percent. I think sometimes he feels real good, but other times it bothers him. His doctor in Philadelphia said it's not something that's cause for alarm.

SunSpot: You have three quarterbacks in the running for playing time, but you recently mentioned that Chris Kelley seems to have made a miraculous recovery from his knee surgery. Will Terp fans finally see him in a regular-season game this year?

Ralph Friedgen: I think that's going to happen. I watched him run and he went up and down the hill in front of our complex forward and backward. He's at beach this week and I told him no boogie boarding. I want to get him and doctors together and get a timetable. If you talk to Chris, he's ready to go right now. I don't know what the doctors think. I'm shocked. I didn't expect him to play this season. It's been three months since the surgery and usually it's four to six months. Chris just took it on himself and asked if he could rehab in Silver Spring because he rehabbed there before and was comfortable there.

For a few weeks after the surgery in April, he was doing rehab four hours a day. Then he did two hours a day the whole summer. He's showed me a lot. He was really heartbroken when this happened, but he didn't hang his head.

In spring practice I would have ranked our quarterbacks: Chris by a little, then Scott McBrien and Orlando Evans. I want to see how everyone's improved over the summer. I'm going to have to make a quick decision.

SunSpot: What are your thoughts on opening the season against a storied program like Notre Dame?

Ralph Friedgen: I like opening with a tough game. You can point to it all winter, spring and summer. I think the game will be tremendous for our players and hopefully, be a positive one. It's good for our program and I'm excited about it.

SunSpot: You've turned your fitness regimen and weight loss program into a fundraising opportunity. What has been your progress so far and how does that add up in relation to the financial goals you have for improvements to the program?

Ralph Friedgen: Right now, I've lost 37 pounds and I'm hoping to get to 40 by next week. I get $1,000 a pound, and I hope by next April I will have lost 100 pounds. I started this April 1. I'll put the money toward the Gossett Team House and the academic team center, dining facility and auditorium we're building there. We redid our offices already. This weight loss thing has kind of taken on a life of its own. I guess everyone is having fun with it. Now, some people are worried that I don't eat enough. Before, they worried I ate too much.

SunSpot: Does using your weight loss as an incentive for people to donate money bother you? Or, were you planning to change your lifestyle before it became a marketing tool?

Ralph Friedgen: Two alumni really offered me a challenge. I'm a competitve guy and if you ask me to lose weight on my own I wouldn't have done it. But they gave me a goal and I'm goal-oriented.

I think we're undergoing a transitional state at Maryland. We're going to places we haven't been before. I want to take this program to the top and you have to educate people on what has to be done. I know people get tired of me fund raising, but I've got 10 years. I don't want to be coaching in my 80s. I want to get the program to the top as fast as we can.

We've made tremendous strides. The size of the Terrapin Club doubled in a year. The Maryland Gridiron Network has grown from 200 to 650, and I'm hoping for 1,000 by next year. Season tickets sales are up to 21,000 from 13,000 last year. There are a lot of positive things.

SunSpot: Do you feel like there is a bit of "wait and see" skepticism in the air from fans or recruits regarding your success last season? Is there pressure to repeat to show that the program has made permanent progress and is capable of being a perennial postseason team?

Ralph Friedgen: I'm sure there's a lot of people we're playing against that feel that way. But from the increase in ticket sales and support, I think a lot of people believe in our program.

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