Franklin's fresh approach

The Baltimore Sun

COLLEGE PARK -- James Franklin was at Maryland during coach Ralph Friedgen's first four seasons, so he's hardly new to College Park.

But Franklin's playbook is new, as are some looks to the Terrapins' offense that the offensive coordinator - rehired in December after spending the past two seasons at Kansas State - is installing.

Fans might notice some of the changes as early as Saturday afternoon's Red-White spring game.

They might see more three-step drops by the Maryland quarterbacks. Friedgen also said the Terrapins expect to put four receivers on the same side more than in the past.

"A new offensive coordinator and a new special teams coach [Danny Pearman] has really added some excitement to our program," Friedgen said yesterday.

Franklin brought with him fresh terminology that has made this a challenging spring, even for the veterans.

"It definitely is slightly tweaked so that even older guys like myself and [others] on the offensive line have to get back in that playbook and understand what we have to do on each play," fifth-year center Edwin Williams said.

Williams and many other Terps already had a comfort level with Franklin, who coached wide receivers for Maryland and the Green Bay Packers before becoming Kansas State's offensive coordinator two seasons ago. Franklin had recruited Williams and others in his class.

Franklin's Kansas State offense averaged 285.4 passing yards last season, compared with Maryland's 203.4. Friedgen had been serving as his own offensive coordinator.

Franklin's offense is built on giving his players flexibility to read defenses on the fly.

"Coach Franklin is definitely not the kind of person to say, 'Do it this way, do it that way.' He says after every practice, 'We're in this thing together,'" Williams said.

Williams said the blocking schemes are designed to shift help - quickly - where it is needed. "It's definitely not as rigid. The rules from last year were very [set] in stone. It's flexible."

Franklin inherits an uncertain quarterback picture. The good news for the Terps is that it's a more seasoned group of candidates than last year. Chris Turner, who started the last eight games of 2007, is vying with Jordan Steffy and Josh Portis, who transferred from Florida after the 2005 season.

"I think it's a very tight battle at quarterback," Friedgen said. "Right now, I think Chris Turner and Jordan Steffy and Josh Portis are all in the hunt. This Saturday will be another indicator of who is where, and hopefully we'll make a decision on that before fall camp."

Notes -- Linebacker Dave Philistin, offensive lineman Tyler Bowen and linebacker Moise Fokou are among a handful of players who have missed spring practices because of injuries. ... The spring game begins at 3:30 p.m. at Byrd Stadium. Free parking is provided in the Terrapin Trail Garage. Fans are being asked to enter the stadium on the north side of the field opposite Tyser Tower.

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