Young blood for Terps

The Baltimore Sun

COLLEGE PARK -Chris Turner's phone rang at 4:34 yesterday morning.

It was offensive coordinator James Franklin - now the head coach in waiting - calling to make certain his starting quarterback was awake and ready to begin predawn winter workouts.

Turner laughed as he told the story, which was intended as yet another illustration of Franklin's passion.

Said Turner: "He's a maniac sometimes."

Franklin's energy and ability to relate to players and recruits were prime factors in Maryland's decision to name him yesterday to succeed Ralph Friedgen, 61, whose contract expires in 2012.

Franklin, 37, will be a relatively youthful head coach.

"James continues to have a few more years to learn the ropes," athletic director Debbie Yow said. "He'll be 40 at that point in time, so that's not so terribly young. He'll be ready when the time comes."

It's clear Yow and other Maryland officials consider Franklin's age - more specifically his youthful demeanor - more an asset than a liability.

He doesn't appear as removed from his players as many college coaches.

Said Turner: "He's a young guy; he has a lot of fun. I can talk to him about anything, and I mean anything. I think he has the makings to be a great head coach."

Franklin is known for unabashed enthusiasm. "I get excited," he said.

Just how excited does the future head coach get?

At halftime of last season's California game, Franklin punched an erasable board used to diagram plays, sending it tumbling to the floor.

Maryland was winning at the time, and Franklin was expressing his satisfaction that the offense had seemed to click. The players were stunned and delighted.

During spring drills, Franklin leaped around a tire that players were pulling in a drill akin to tug of war. He baited some players, cajoled others. "I definitely got into it," he said.

Said wide receiver Danny Oquendo, who graduated last month: "He's a perfectly balanced coach. He knows when he has to get on players and when to give them a break."

Franklin said he knows his role will change as head coach. He will have more duties and less time for individual discussions. But he said there is no reason he can't continue to form the same sorts of relationships with players.

"The student-athletes in this day and age that we're dealing with are growing up a lot faster. They have a lot more experiences than we had even in my generation," Franklin said. "Being able to relate to them, being able to articulate with them ... and do it at a level they can appreciate and understand is important."

Franklin is known as a recruiter who does his homework.

Kenny Tate, a Maryland receiver-turned-safety, recalled recently how Franklin had showed him a compelling PowerPoint presentation on how the Terps could be expected to spread the ball around to a variety of receivers.

The recruiting presentation helped persuade Tate, a freshman, to choose Maryland over Illinois, Ohio State, Florida and other schools he had considered.

Maryland apparently decided Franklin was too valuable to risk losing.

"He's very bright and he's a good recruiter and he relates very well to all the different publics," said Larry Grabenstein, chairman of the Maryland Gridiron Network booster group. "My sense is that James is considered a pretty hot property, and I know people don't like to recruit against him."

james franklin file

Title: Maryland offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach

Age: 37

Time at Maryland: 2000-2004 (assistant coach) and 2008-present (offensive coordinator)

Other jobs: Green Bay Packers wide receivers coach (2005), Kansas State offensive coordinator (2006-2007)

Alma mater: East Stroudsburg (played quarterback and graduated in 1995)

Personal: Married with two baby daughters

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