Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said he doesn’t have an alarm clock because he doesn’t need one -- he wakes up on his own at 4 a.m. almost every morning, ready for work.
Last season, though, he got one of the biggest wake-up calls of his career -- a school-record 10 losses.
“I was just telling the team a minute ago, ‘There’s not a day that goes by I don’t think about being 2-10 and how it irritates me,’” Friedgen said in a recent telephone interview. “I said, ‘We’ve got too many winners in this room to be 2-10.’”
And the Terps have been on a mission to prove it since the 2009 season ended with a seven-game losing streak. Although it might be difficult to see change from the outside since there were no staff changes, Friedgen said he’s willing to tinker with the playbook and the personnel this spring to get the program back into the ACC race. Friedgen said he has taken a longer look at how he organizes things, and plans to spend more time focusing on turnover circuits, ball security, fundamentals, and tackling.
“We’re going to do what we’ve got to do to emphasize our strengths,” he said.
The strength of the team will be the linebackers, where all three starters and their backups return. Among them is veteran Alex Wujciak, who leads all returning ACC defenders in career tackles with 264. Wujciak ranked eighth nationally and second in the ACC in tackles last year with 131, including 58 solos and 8.5 for loss.
Wujciak said he has noticed an improvement in attitude and a sense of urgency this offseason from everyone -- including Friedgen.
“There’s definitely a lot of anxious people around,” Wujciak said. “You could just see it in a lot of guys in the way they lifted throughout the offseason, guys being on time and really showing they care a lot about the upcoming season. … I think a lot of times we expected throughout the season to just walk into games and win, but I think now we realize we have to practice hard and prepare to get wins on Saturdays.”
With 14 starters returning and four scholarship quarterbacks to choose from, Maryland has reasons to be optimistic. Winter workouts indicated this is a faster team than Maryland is accustomed to. The Terps return their starting wide receivers and running backs, and a more mobile quarterback -- whoever it might be -- will allow offensive coordinator James Franklin more flexibility. Jamarr Robinson is the most experienced quarterback on the roster, and he’ll have a 1,000-yard rusher to work with in Da'Rel Scott if he solidifies his position as the starter.
“The offense has to be flexible enough to take advantage of what our guys can do,” Friedgen said. “We’ve really spent a lot of time analyzing our film from last year, and seeing who we have back this year, and in the winter workouts measured what we think the strengths are, and then try to play to those strengths -- try to put them in situations they can do as opposed to just saying, ‘Ok, this is the play we run, it’s been very good in the past,’ but maybe it’s not quite as good with our guys.”
Maryland needs this spring to help figure out exactly what works best. The Terps have to replace three starters on the defensive line, three starters in the secondary, and two key leaders on the offensive line.
Franklin said there’s a natural tendency to work harder when things don’t go well. During the offseason, Franklin met individually with every offensive player -- and a few defensive players -- to talk about chemistry and being unified this season.
“Everybody is really motivated,” Franklin said. “Whenever you have a rough season, everything is magnified. … I think everybody is hungry. The players are hungry, the coaches are hungry, and from an attitude standpoint, I feel really good about us. Do we still have some issues and concerns? Yeah, but everybody is on the same page and we’re doing a much better job of communicating.”
Sometimes all it takes is a little wake-up call.