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Draft Season Takes Odd Detour to San Antonio

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Draft Season Takes Odd Detour to San Antonio

Posted on 05 February 2011 by Glenn Clark

This one might be the toughest one yet.

After big weeks in Orlando and Mobile, there’s still another All-Star Game for National Football League hopefuls to make a statement at the start of NFL Draft season.

The NFLPA Game is Saturday in San Antonio, Texas (2pm-CBS College Sports) at the Alomodome. You’ll remember the game previously being known as the “Texas vs. The Nation” game. Well, you MIGHT remember the game previously being known as that.

The game will still keep the “Team Texas” vs. “Team USA format”, but the Draft showcase surrounding the game is significantly more important than the game itself.

This one isn’t quite at the level of the other All-Star Games, but it’s just as important for the players involved. These players are mostly guys who are currently on the outside l

Before I continue to with NFLGA Game player profiles, I remind you of the East West Shrine Game players we have already profiled, as well as the Senior Bowl prospects we have already profiled.

QB-Ricky Dobbs (Navy), Pat Devlin (Delaware), Colin Kaepernick (Nevada)
FB
-Anthony Sherman (UConn)
RB
-Evan Royster (Penn State), Da’Rel Scott (Maryland), DeMarco Murray (Oklahoma)
WR
-Lester Jean (Florida Atlantic), Terrence Toliver (LSU), Leonard Hankerson (Miami), Austin Pettis (Boise State)
OT
-Matthew O’Donnell (Queens University Canada), Gabe Carimi (Wisconsin), Nate Solder (Colorado)
DE
-Justin Trattou (Florida), Allen Bailey (Miami)
LB
-Mark Herzlich (Boston College), Casey Matthews (Oregon)
S
-Jermale Hines (Ohio State), Jaiquawn Jarrett (Temple)

The only player movement for the Baltimore Ravens since our last post has been the re-signing of Punter Sam Koch, so my team needs remain the same…

1. Defensive End
2. Offensive Tackle
3. Wide Receiver
4. Cornerback
5. Fullback
6. Inside Linebacker
7. Safety
8. Center
9. Running Back
10. Quarterback

Here’s a look at 10 players to keep an eye on during the NFLPA Game…

QB Josh Portis (California-Pennsylvania)

portis

Yep. Same guy.

After a six year NCAA career that saw him frustrate Gators fans in Gainesville and Terrapins fans in College Park before finally settling in with the Vulcans, Portis is suddenly now thought of as a potential NFL player.

There’s good reason for it.

Portis completed 205 of his 335 passing attempts in 2010, tossing 33 touchdowns and throwing just seven interceptions along the way. He threw for 6,072 yards combined over his junior and senior seasons.

And despite how many times his design run plays went wrong at Byrd Stadium, Portis is still just as dangerous with his feet.

Portis has the look of a QB. He’s 6’4″, 208 pounds, fast and is the cousin of outstanding Washington Redskins RB Clinton Portis. He received an invite to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, where he’ll have the chance to make a further impact for NFL personnel. His California coach was Dwain Painter-who coached NFL quarterbacks for some 20 years.

He’s taking the draft process seriously, having opened JoshPortis.com to help gain a more significant profile.

Fans in the Old Line State have a bitter taste about him because things didn’t work out for Portis in James Franklin’s offense. That doesn’t necessarily mean he was a bad quarterback. His numbers clearly reflect the fact that he played at the D2 level, but there’s still a chance he could be a late round option in Charm City as they try to stabilize the position behind Joe Flacco.

QB Taylor Potts (Texas Tech)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRYaO56e9hU[/youtube]

The great thing about Taylor Potts is that he’s the first Red Raiders quarterback in a number of years whose big numbers can’t immediately be dismissed by saying something along the lines of “that’s just because he played in a Mike Leach offense.”

That being said, the numbers for Potts were still prolific after Tommy Tubberville replaced Leach. Between his junior and senior seasons, Potts threw for 7,166 yards, tossing 57 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. Unlike the QB who came to Lubbock before him (Graham Harrell), Potts didn’t have the pleasure of throwing the ball to now San Francisco 49ers WR Michael Crabtree.

Harrell (and fellow former TTU QB’s Kliff Kingsbury & Sonny Cumbie) haven’t exactly built a pipeline from Lubbock to the NFL. Potts is the first quarterback to come after the Leach era. Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome will have to determine if that makes him worth taking a late round (or free agent) shot on to complement Flacco.

WR Denarius Moore (Tennessee)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AinMXfB3fyM[/youtube]

Moore is going to run one of the most important 40 yard dashes this year at LucasOil Stadium.

If he slides under 4.40, he’ll give himself a great opportunity to be a high pick. If he can’t get under 4.40; folks like Ravens Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz will have to wonder if he’s really capable of addressing a speed receiver need.

Moore had an outstanding senior season for the Volunteers, catching 47 balls for 981 yards and nine touchdowns. He finished his career in Knoxville with a very respectable 112 catches for 2,004 yards and 18 TD’s.

But he HAS to be the speed guy. At 6’0″-6’1″, 191 pounds-if he can’t stretch the field he wouldn’t separate himself from Derrick Mason or Anquan Boldin. The problem is that if he does-the former Vols star probably won’t be around on Saturday when the Ravens might like to pick him.

DE Eddie Jones (Texas)

eddiejones

Until his senior season, Jones had not exactly proved to anyone outside of Austin that he was capable of generating a QB rush from the edge.

But in 2010, Jones was able to tally six sacks (and a forced fumble) for a Longhorns squad that underperformed greatly.

Jones will have to use the stop in San An and other stops during Draft season to show that he is still developing as a rusher. If he does, a team like the Ravens could very well choose to snap him up late in the Draft.

At 6’2″ and 258 pounds he’ll have to bulk up a bit, but the team won’t want to see him lose speed in the process. My guess is that the team wouldn’t select Jones with the idea that he’ll be the primary rusher-but he could team with Paul Kruger to give them depth behind a higher pick or a free agent addition.

S Maurice Rolle (Louisiana-Lafayette)

morolle

I know what you’re wondering and the answer is “no.”

Despite playing in the defensive backfield and having the last name “Rolle”, Maurice Rolle is not related to either former Ravens CB Samari Rolle or Tennessee Titans S Myron Rolle.

Rolle started to develop a bit of a nose for the football over his last two seasons with the Ragin Cajuns. He collected four interceptions but battled some leg injury issues, which cut his 2010 season short.

Rolle isn’t a likely draft pick as of this moment, but he’s the type of player that can work that way with a good trip to Indy. His size (6’1″, 197 pounds) gives him the look of a NFL player, he just has to prove to folks (like Ravens Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta) that he can make a transition from Sun Belt Conference to NFL.

C Zane Taylor (Utah)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9o5s1o9IgDE[/youtube]

As the Ravens look for a center of the future behind Matt Birk, Taylor is certainly going to be a viable option.

Taylor is 6’3″ and 313 pounds but battled some minor knee injuries in 2010. In 2010 he also helped lead the way for a Utes rushing attack that tallied nearly 2,000 yards.

Plus…he’s STRONG. According to the team’s official website, he can bench 440 pounds and squat 565 pounds. Impressive, yes.

The Ravens aren’t likely to go center early in this draft, but they might think about Taylor as the Draft moves toward Saturday.

RB Damien Berry (Miami)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QpFtJQsYK5o[/youtube]

Statistically, Berry’s 2010 campaign for the Hurricanes was not all that impressive.

He finished with just 899 yards and 5 touchdowns; although he did average 4.7 yards per carry and managed four games of 100 yards or more.

NFL personnel folks are going to really have to look at the hard running ability of Berry to determine where he might fit in during the Draft process.

He has decent size (6’0″, 215 pounds) and has the look/feel of a back who can take a bunch of handoffs. In fact, he had 15 or more carries in nine of 12 games for the ‘Canes in 2010. Berry should be a hit during the interview process in Indy, as he was voted as the team’s “Good Guy” by Miami media during his senior year.

Berry has the feel of a back who could be a sleeper on Saturday. The Ravens have to make a decision regarding fellow former ‘Cane Willis McGahee; and Berry might be the exact type of back who could complement Ray Rice in a positive way.

WR Owen Spencer (North Carolina State)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pch-yYmCy98[/youtube]

One of the most under-the-radar screen receivers on the board in 2011, Spencer has the opportunity to wow personnel folks over the next few months.

Spencer never really posted explosive numbers during his four years in Raleigh, but he was nothing if not solid. Between his junior and senior seasons with the Wolfpack, Spencer caught 90 balls for 1,677 yards and 10 TD’s, including the goofy deflection of a Russell Wilson desperate heave seen above.

Wilson has size (6’3″, 191 pounds) but could use a little more speed (he’s expected to post a 40 time in the 4.5 range at the Combine) if he’s going to be counted on to extend the field for a team like the Ravens. He was certainly capable of posting big plays for NC State, averaging 22.3 yards per catch in ’08, 25.5 yards per catch in ’09 and 15.2 yards per catch in ’10.

With TJ Houshmandzadeh and Donte’ Stallworth serious question marks to return, a player like Spencer could be the exact addition the Ravens need. But Spencer has a lot of work to do between now and the last weekend of April to prove he’s a solid option.

WR Jock Sanders (West Virginia)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPmgqklGM7A[/youtube]

If nothing else, the former Mountaineers standout might very well have the best name in the NFL Draft.

Sanders’ size (5’7″, 179 pounds) is an issue. His athleticism is not. He’ll be expected to post a very quick time in the 40 at the Combine/and or his own Pro Timing Day in Morgantown. He’ll also be expected to be involved in the return game no matter where he ends up being selected.

He’s absolutely an athlete, having also lettered in basketball at St. Petersburg Catholic High School in Florida. The question now is whether or not he’s really a football player-particularly at the NFL level.

He can certainly stretch the field; but his size will mean he absolutely HAS to be behind defensive backs to be able to make plays. If he ends up in one on one battles with defenders, he’s going to lose. That’s problematic for teams like the Ravens who don’t want to risk turnovers.

He’ll stick around later into the draft; maybe even after that. At some point, he’ll be a player the Ravens will at least want to consider.

LB Adrian Moten (Maryland)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KMT7Bdm1Kpg[/youtube]

He might not be a natural rush backer, but Moten certainly showed the ability at times (despite battling wrist injuries) to get to the quarterback. During four seasons under Ralph Friedgen, Moten tallied 15 sacks.

Not only did he show an ability to pressure QB’s, Moten also finished his four year career with 205 tackles, two forced fumbles and six interceptions-including four in his senior campaign.

Moten is a player who will be available late in the draft and could fit a need for the Ravens if any of their current restricted free agent LB’s depart this offseason. He has good size (6’2″, 230 pounds); but would benefit well from shaving his 40 time under 4.6.

He’s no slam dunk to get picked, but the former Terp could well be an option for Baltimore.

Thanks to WNST.net (The AP), NFLDraftScout.com/CBSSports.com, Wikipedia, YouTube and various official Athletic sites for helping us put together the profiles

Flexing my mic muscles since 1983…

-G

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Friedgen leaves on high note as Terps demolish ECU

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Friedgen leaves on high note as Terps demolish ECU

Posted on 29 December 2010 by Luke Jones

WASHINGTON — With the backdrop of Maryland’s dominating 51-20 victory over East Carolina in the Military Bowl serving as a final act, it was obvious who the day was really about.

For just a few hours on Wednesday afternoon in front of 38,062 at RFK Stadium, Ralph Friedgen was able to put aside the sleepless nights and disappointment and do what he loves one more time: coach his Maryland Terrapins to victory.

There were no mentions of Mike Leach and his potential arrival in College Park.

The day wasn’t about athletic director Kevin Anderson who so clearly exercised his clout over the last two weeks.

Declining season-ticket sales and unsold luxury suites were afterthoughts as the Terps rushed for 297 yards against a porous Pirates defense.

And even his assistant coaches were able to go out and do their jobs despite not knowing where their future lies — in College Park or anywhere else for that matter.

For the last time as head coach of the Terrapins, Friedgen coached his team to victory in convincing fashion, finishing a 9-4 season and a seven-win improvement from the disastrous 2-10 record of a year ago. The Powerade coolers received plenty of use as Friedgen and several assistants — defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Dave Sollazzo and defensive coordinator Don Brown among them — were doused by jubilant players wanting to send off the coaching staff as winners.

However, reality set in as the final seconds ticked away, and there was only one thing left to say to the man who leaves the Maryland football program in better shape than he found it 10 years ago:

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Surprisingly, the emotional head coach was composed through most of his post-game press conference despite all but two questions focusing on his departure as the game took a backseat to the real story of the day.

“It really kind of got to the point where I just wanted to get this game over with and try to get on with the rest of my life,” said Friedgen, who was overwhelmed by the amount of support he received over the last two weeks.

“I had some really special memories here. The biggest thing is I’m not going to be able to be around these kids. I really cherish being around them. Being there when we were 2-10 [in 2009] and now we’re 9-4 and hopefully we’re in the top 25. When you go through something like that, with pretty much the same individuals, you get pretty close. I really think they have a chance to be special. That’s what I’m going to miss.”

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Putting aside the disappointment of being invited to the ACC’s eighth-place bowl and traveling only a few miles to Washington, D.C., the Terps made the most of their opportunity against an inferior opponent, containing one of the most prolific offenses in the nation while also accumulating 478 total yards of offense.

As convincing as the performance was and the optimism that exists for next season with so many key offensive players returning, even the seniors realized this game was about their head coach and sending him out on a high note.

“We just wanted to make a statement,” said senior running back Da’Rel Scott, who rushed for 200 yards on 13 carries and was named the game’s MVP. “It was good to play at home — we could have gotten a better bowl — but it is what it is. We just tried to go out with a bang and make sure coach Friedgen went out as a winner. I think that was the team’s main focus.”

Despite the win, the hurt feelings remain apparent in such a tenuous situation. Rarely do coaches have the opportunity to knowingly coach their final game at a school — other than retirement situations. The reality is even tougher to swallow when that coach is finishing a 9-4 turnaround season.

That pain will linger for a long time, as Friedgen said he gave his best for 10 seasons only to find out he wasn’t wanted anymore.

“Everybody has their own opinion,” Friedgen said. “Obviously, the powers that be didn’t feel like I was good enough to go to the next level. Only time will tell whether that was accurate or not.”

Time is running short as Maryland has set January 4 as the deadline to have its new coach in place. The fate of the assistant coaches — including Brown who masterfully frustrated the East Carolina offense all afternoon — remains in limbo.

Whether the new man is Leach or one of the other names thrown around by various media outlets, the bar will be high as Anderson’s “good-to-great” proclamation will bring pressure and obstacles that Friedgen never faced when he arrived on campus 10 years ago.

“I can tell you this, it’s not an easy job,” Friedgen said. “There’s a lot of things that really have to change to help [the football program] reach its potential. To be honest with you, I don’t know if the university is willing to do that. You kind of have to know that going in, and I did. I think that was a benefit to me.”

After coaching at his alma mater, Friedgen must now face the uncertainty that goes with being an unemployed 63-year-old football coach, a reality that even he has labeled as surreal.

“Everybody thinks that I can’t live without football,” said Frieden, who received a call from former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer assuring him there is, indeed, life after football. “I don’t know. This is what I’ve done for 43 years, going to be 44. It’s probably what I do. We’ll have to see.”

It had to be sobering coaching his final game in the unspectacular Military Bowl — with memories of the 2001 season, an ACC championship, and a trip to the Orange Bowl in the back of his mind — but closing his career with a win for the players he’s repeatedly called his favorite group to coach should count for something.

“If you have to go out, this is the best way to do it. I am happy to watch this team and I wish them the very best. I am with them in spirit every step of the way.”

NOTES: D.J. Adams ran for four touchdowns, a career high as well as a season high for Maryland. … Scott’s 91-yard touchdown run was the longest by a Maryland running back since an 80-yard scamper by Bruce Perry in 2003. … Scott’s 200 yards was a personal best and season best for the Terps.  It was the best running performance by a Terp since Perry ran for 237 at Wake Forest in 2003.

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Former Maryland OC and current Vanderbilt coach James Franklin to WNST and Terps Nation: I didn’t want to walk away”

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Former Maryland OC and current Vanderbilt coach James Franklin to WNST and Terps Nation: I didn’t want to walk away”

Posted on 22 December 2010 by Ryan Chell

James Franklin
Former Maryland offensive coordinator James Franklin meant a lot to the University of Maryland, especially this year in the Terps’  8-4 campaign helping springboard his coach in Ralph Friedgen to ACC Coach of the Year and his quarterback Danny O’Brien to ACC Rookie of the Year for 2010.

His work this season was also enough to garner attention on the national stage, as Franklin-at one point named the coach-in-waiting at College Park-was hired as the Vanderbilt Head Coach last week, the 27th man to do so in the Commodores history.

Franklin joined Thyrl Nelson and Glenn Clark on “The Mobtown Sports Beat” as an opportunity to not only wish the best for the fans cheering him on in Maryland, but to explain how hard his decision to leave an organization he has been a part of for so long in Maryland to take the head coaching position at Vanderbilt.

“I wanted an opportunity to be a head coach and I wanted to have an opportunity to do it at a great school with a great history, great tradition, and one that was in the best conferences in America,” Franklin told Nelson and Clark. “I really had narrowed it down to specific schools, but when I got the call and got a chance to talk to the people here-and in my mind that’s what it’s all about anywhere-it’s about the people.”

The school was won over by Franklin’s interview-he used the same skills in recruiting players to execute Ralph Friedgen’s offense to impress Vanderbilt Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos and Vice Chancellor for University Affairs and Athletics David Williams II.

“The hiring of Coach Franklin represents a new day for Vanderbilt football,” Zeppos said in a press release. “He has my full support and commitment that we will help him create an environment where the successes on the field equal the university’s extraordinary successes off the field. Coach Franklin will have an immediate and positive impact on our students, alumni, faculty, staff and broader Vanderbilt community, and I welcome him to Vanderbilt.”

Ultimately though, Franklin admitted that the school won him over from the spot more than some other high-profile jobs out there that Franklin could have had.

“When I got a chance to sit down and talk to the Chancellor…and he was totally committed to winning at the highest level here.”

I just saw a tremendous commitment to excellence in everything we do, and it was an unbelievable opportunity,” he said. ” To me, it’s not about looking around country and say what jobs would I like, it came down to the people that are on those campuses and the opportunities presented to you.”

Vanderbilt will look to the offensive-minded Franklin to turn around a Commodores team that finished 2-10, and 1-7 in the tough SEC conference.

The school was looking to find a candidate who could supplant themselves as an institution at Vanderbilt-one that could bring stability to a struggling program.

“They’ve been so supportive, and they understand where we’re at, and I think after us sitting down and talking, they know where were going. They’re in this for the long haul, and they want to do this the right way. They want to build something that’s going to be built to last. That’s what we’re trying to do here.”

“And they’ve been committed to that from the first time I’ve talked to them. But we have to keep improving, just like we did at Maryland this year. We got better every single game throughout the season, and if we do that, we’ll take that same approach here at Vanderbilt.”

In July, Bobby Johnson stepped down as coach of the program after 8 seasons on the Commodore sidelines, but he finished with a 29-66 record during his time in Nashville. Robbie Caldwell took over for Johnson and led the team this year with the interim title attached to his name, and he resigned after the season was completed.

Franklin-who is the school’s first ever minority candidate-brings with him an impressive resume to the SEC school. Franklin, 38, has been in the coaching ranks since 1995 both at the college and professional levels.

His first big stop at the college level came in 1998 when the was a graduate assistant to Mike Price at Washington State, followed by a stop at Idaho State as their receivers coach the following season.

He came to College Park in 2000 and a little less than a season in, the Terps head coach at the time-Ron Vanderlinden -was relieved of his duties and replaced by(continued…)

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Maryland forcing out Friedgen, inviting in Leach

Posted on 18 December 2010 by Luke Jones

Any head coach wants to go out on his own terms, but it so rarely happens as Ralph Friedgen has painfully learned this week after 10 years at Maryland.

Despite being told by new athletic director Kevin Anderson that he would return to coach the Terps in the final year of his current contract in 2011, Friedgen has been forcefully asked to take a buyout and retire, ending his 10-year run as head coach of his alma mater.

With Friedgen exiting, it appears former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach is the Terps’ desired successor. Sources tell WNST.net the hiring of Leach is imminent with the controversial coach being targeted as the big name needed to revitalize a struggling program.

Leach declined comment when reached by WNST.net Saturday afternoon, as he and Friedgen are close and the high-profile candidate wished for more clarity to the situation before speaking further.

Of course, given Leach’s controversial exit from Lubbock, Anderson could face opposition from influential university supporters in the days to come. Leach was suspended and eventually fired at Texas Tech after the controversial treatment of a football player who had suffered a concussion. The 49-year-old, however, believed his termination was due in part to the bitter contract negotiations taking place at the time.

Leach has a close relationship with Under Armour founder Kevin Plank, a former Maryland football player and major contributor to the athletic program. Plank would likely sell Leach as the collegiate football face of Under Armour should he take the job at Maryland.

Other names such as former Maryland assistant and New Mexico head coach Mike Locksley and former Notre Dame coach Tyrone Willingham are not considered as candidates for the head job at this time, as numerous sources claim Leach is the school’s only current target.

Friedgen’s departure comes after he was named the 2010 ACC Coach of the Year following a six-game turnaround from a disastrous 2-10 record in 2009. According to several sources, Friedgen’s wish for a contract extension was not well-received by the new athletic director who couldn’t ignore the program’s lackluster record and financial problems in recent seasons.

Friday’s announcement of Vanderbilt hiring offensive coordinator James Franklin as its new head coach likely sped up the timetable of Anderson’s desire to make a new mark on a program that’s struggled in recent years. Franklin had previously been the coach-in-waiting and the program’s top recruiter, which likely would have led to fallout with recruiting even if Friedgen had remained next season.

With the program’s financial struggles hardly a secret, reports indicate Maryland football will fall $2 million short of expected revenues this season. As the recently-renovated Tyser Tower holds unsold suites at Byrd Stadium and season tickets sales have declined for five straight years, this bold move is about pumping new blood in the program.

In a teleconference regarding Franklin’s exit on Friday afternoon, Anderson would not confirm Friedgen’s return in 2011. The athletic director also said he did not make a counteroffer to persuade Franklin to remain with the Terps, adding fuel to the speculative fire that he was aiming to clean house entirely.

Maryland will play East Carolina in the Military Bowl on December 29 in a game now looking far more intriguing given this week’s drama and the immediate and long-term future of the program. Friedgen is, however, expected to coach at RFK Stadium in his final game with the Terps.

WNST.net’s Glenn Clark and Drew Forrester contributed to this article.

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Ralph Friedgen following Franklin out the door at Maryland?

Posted on 17 December 2010 by Luke Jones

On the same day former offensive coordinator James Franklin officially became the head coach at Vanderbilt, an even bigger bombshell is brewing in College Park.

Comcast SportsNet’s Chick Hernandez is reporting the University of Maryland has asked Ralph Friedgen to accept a buyout of the final year of his contract, potentially ending his 10-year run as head coach of the Terps.

New athletic director Kevin Anderson previously stated last month that Friedgen would return to coach in 2011, but the departure of Franklin — previously the coach-in-waiting and Maryland’s top recruiter — may have accelerated his desire to make a new mark on a program that’s struggled in recent years despite a successful 8-4 campaign this season. Friedgen was named the 2010 ACC Coach of the Year following a six-game turnaround from a year ago.

In a teleconference regarding Franklin’s exit on Friday afternoon, Anderson would not confirm Friedgen’s return in 2011. The athletic director also said he did not make a counteroffer to persuade Franklin to remain with the Terps, adding fuel to the speculative fire that he’s aiming to clean house.

Maryland will play East Carolina in the Military Bowl on December 29 in a game now looking far more intriguing given this week’s drama and the immediate and long-term future of the program.

Strangely enough, I opined on Tuesday that Anderson was the wild card for the future of Maryland football and could elect to wipe the slate clean to take the struggling program in a new direction. I just never dreamed the shakeup would come so soon.

Stay right here at WNST.net for updates on this developing story and subscribe to the WNST Text Service for the quickest updates sent right to your mobile device.

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Franklin’s departure significant to future of Maryland football

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Franklin’s departure significant to future of Maryland football

Posted on 14 December 2010 by Luke Jones

The report of offensive coordinator James Franklin accepting an offer to become the head coach at Vanderbilt provides conflicting feelings if you’re a supporter of Maryland football.

On one hand, the coach-in-waiting was the program’s heavyweight recruiter, a charismatic 38-year-old who can make the connections with young football players that current head coach Ralph Friedgen cannot at the age of 63. Franklin was entrusted to revitalize recruiting after the program plateaued — or regressed — in recent years after Friedgen’s success at the beginning of his 10-season tenure.

Following a 2-10 season in 2009 when it looked like the futures of both Friedgen and Franklin were in doubt, it was redshirt freshman Danny O’Brien — heavily recruited out of Kernersville, N.C. by the offensive coordinator — who stabilized the quarterback position and led the Terps to an improbable 8-4 season and trip to the Military Bowl against East Carolina on December 29. It likely saved the jobs of both men as new athletic director Kevin Anderson was settling into the job formerly held by Debbie Yow, who orchestrated the coach-in-waiting agreement nearly two years ago.

And here is where feelings begin to conflict regarding Franklin’s departure for the Commodores and the SEC.

That coach-in-waiting designation included a $1 million bonus for Franklin had he not been named head coach by Jan. 2, 2012. At the time, Yow viewed it as a necessary measure to insure the program would not lose its young figurehead of the future after an aging Friedgen would retire from his alma mater.

However, for a program struggling to sell tickets and operating on a shoestring budget in relation to its ACC counterparts, the agreement began looking more like a brick wall than an insurance policy as the Terps struggled through that disastrous 2009 campaign. As much as many fans don’t want to hear it, money was the biggest factor in the decision to retain both Friedgen and Franklin for the 2010 season.

Whether you’re an affluent program or not, $1 million is a lot of money to pay someone not to become your head coach, not to mention the two years of salary each coach was owed at the time.

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Fast-forward to the present, and the Terps appear to be in better shape on the field after a six-game turnaround and pending “trip” (the game’s being played in Washington, D.C., after all) to a bowl game. Maryland announced last month that Friedgen would return in 2011, and now the head coach seeks a contract extension beyond next year.

It’s a tough decision that looms for the new athletic director, the man left to deal with a precarious situation in his first few months in College Park. Anderson publicly expressed his disdain for coach-in-waiting agreements back in October, not an indictment of Franklin at the time but not exactly a ringing endorsement either.

The sheer fact that Franklin was willing to take the Vanderbilt job in the cutthroat nature of the SEC speaks volumes about where he thought he stood at Maryland in regards to his future as the potential head coach. If Franklin thought it was tough getting recruits to come to College Park, he’ll have a difficult time persuading top players to join a program that’s played in two bowl games in the last 36 years to get their brains beaten in by the college football royalty that exists in the SEC annually.

The writing was on the wall for the young coach. If the Terps would flourish again, Anderson would have little choice but to offer Friedgen some type of extension, leaving Franklin $1 million richer, but with no guarantee of a head job elsewhere.

If Maryland were to fall on hard times again, Franklin likely would have found himself unemployed (along with Friedgen) and no longer in a position to pursue a top gig, even with a fatter wallet.

Through it all, the new athletic director remains the wild card of Maryland football, with no one knowing exactly what Anderon has in mind for the future.

It was a gamble that Franklin, apparently, was not willing to take with the current opportunity to become a head coach elsewhere.

With the $1 million coach-in-waiting clause no longer a factor, Friedgen might now feel he’s in a better position to coach beyond the 2011 season, even though he no longer possesses his top recruiter and offensive coordinator. Or Anderson may view the veteran coach as the only obstacle blocking a fresh start for a program that’s fallen on hard times after a brief renaissance early in the Friedgen era, this year notwithstanding.

Franklin’s departure will certainly impact recruiting and the offensive product on the field, but it also creates the financial flexibility for Anderson to wipe the slate clean and start anew should he decide Friedgen is not his man beyond the 2011 season.

Whatever the case, its impact on the future of Maryland football cannot be argued.

Time will only tell whether it pays off for the parties involved.

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Thursday Morning’s Crabs and Beer

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Thursday Morning’s Crabs and Beer

Posted on 09 December 2010 by Glenn Clark

Happy Thursday!

It’s a Happy Thursday for me because I left “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” playing on a loop on my DVD player the other night, which means I’ve seen THIS scene play out about twenty times now since Thanksgiving. It hasn’t gotten old.

(Edit from GMC: You know damn well there’s an “F word” in this clip. Act accordingly.)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mk74WprmZxY[/youtube]

Let’s see what everyone has to say…

1. WNST.net’s Drew Forrester says John Harbaugh didn’t intend to direct Tuesday night comments to all Baltimore fans

But there’s no doubt how folks in Charm City TOOK the comments, and that’s what Harbaugh is going to have to keep in mind moving forward.

I’m a little spent on Harbaugh comments following my column yesterday comparing him and former Ohio State coach John Cooper (you should go here and read it). I’ve talked to a number of football fans in town over the last 24 hours and there’s no question the comments stuck with fans.

I understand where John Harbaugh’s emotion came from Tuesday night. I understand that he’s as frustrated (if not more) than anyone in town right now.

But he HAS to be more respectful to fans-even when they’re insane. (Edit from GMC: Says the guy who loses his mind on football fans on a regular basis.)

It’s part of the job, whether he wants it to be or not.

2. WNST.net’s Glenn Clark says Ravens LB Jameel McClain will appeal $40k fine

There’s no doubt McClain’s fine was a bit excessive for a first time offender who had no intent to hit Pittsburgh TE Heath Miller in the head. But something tells me the NFL has decided they need to make a statement in this case because the game was seen by a HUGE audience on NBC’s Sunday Night Football.

Make no mistake. This will absolutely be a significant issue as the NFLPA enters labor discussions this offseason and we head towards a potential lockout in 2011. If the league wants any concessions from players regarding revenue, they are almost certainly going to have to concede this outrageous fines even if they are simply trying to protect their players.

It’s not going to be an easy fight.

3. BaltimoreRavens.com’s Mike Duffy says Ed Reed believes Steelers WR Hines Ward deserved fine as well

Speaking of fine, here’s a picture of Danielle Dwyer. (Thanks Brosome via Busted Coverage!)

danielled

4. National Football Post’s Aaron Wilson says Ravens lost CB Prince Miller to Detroit Lions, signed CB Danny Gorrer to practice squad

And before we move on from the Ravens, a couple of things…

-The Ravens return to the practice field at 1 Winning Drive in Owings Mills today. Harbaugh, QB Joe Flacco, RB Ray Rice, LB Ray Lewis and others are scheduled to address the media. We’ll have full coverage, so make sure you stay tuned to AM1570 WNST, follow us on Twitter (@WNST) and keep checking back at WNST.net.

-Did you miss Ravens TE Ed Dickson with Drew Forrester Thursday on “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST? Make sure you head over to the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net today to check it out. Some other things you can hear in the Audio Vault include…

  • Sean Salisbury (“Sean Unfiltered”-Voice America Sports Radio)-who went around the NFL with Drew Thursday
  • Michael Bradley (Philadelphia Magazine)-who talked about his decision to not give his Heisman Trophy vote to Cam Newton with Drew Thursday
  • Our Morning Reaction “Cheap Shots From The Bleachers”, as Drew took a shot at Cam Newton winning the Heisman, and Glenn Clark took a shot at fans who don’t “get” the Army/Navy Game
  • Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News)-who went around the NFL with Rex Snider Wednesday on “The Afternoon Drive”
  • Barry Barnes (Fanhouse)-who went around the AFC North with Rex Wednesday
  • Jean Fugett Jr. (Former Washington Redskins & Dallas Cowboys TE)-who discussed the loss of Todd Heap with Rex Wednesday
  • Lee Hull (Terps WR Coach)-who joined Thyrl Nelson Wednesday for “The Terrapins Coaches’ Report”
  • Steve Beck (Military Bowl Executive Director)-who discussed the Maryland-East Carolina matchup with Thyrl Wednesday on “The Mobtown Sports Beat”
  • Mike Bauman (MLB.com)-who checked in with Thyrl Wednesday from the MLB winter meetings in Orlando
  • Plenty of audio from 1 Winning Drive Wednesday; including Dickson, Jameel McClain, Le’Ron McClain, Todd Heap, Derrick Mason, Anquan Boldin and Kelly Gregg
  • Post-game audio from Maryland’s win over UNC Greensboro last night; including Gary Williams, Jordan Williams, Cliff Tucker and Adrian Bowie

It’s all in the Audio Vault, so make sure you take a few minutes today to check it out. You know you want to.

5. MLB.com’s Kelly Thesier says Orioles, Minnesota Twins could finalize deal for JJ Hardy today

Between this and Mitch Atkins, I’m not sure how the Birds CAN’T win the World Series next year!

If they’re still looking to make a splash before the end of the meetings, I have a suggestion for Andy MacPhail. Consider Alina Vacariu. (Thanks Guyism!)

vacariu

(Edit from GMC: UPDATE-CBSSports.com now says the deal is done. Hooray!)

6. The Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec says O’s agreed to terms with Koji Uehara on one year deal

I don’t know if this has ever happened before, but if I were the Orioles I might go ahead and consider a ticker tape parade BEFORE Spring Training.

The Orioles made other news Wednesday, as they distanced themselves from comments made by Luke Scott in an interview with Yahoo! Sports.

I can’t imagine why…

7. D1scourse’s Patrick Stevens says Adrian Bowie, Cliff Tucker respond to adversity as Maryland crushed UNC Greensboro

The Spartans stink. That being said, even they could beat Penn State.

Gary Williams said after the game he considered making lineup changes following the Terps’ poor offensive output against Temple in the BB&T Classic.

Cliff Tucker said he didn’t know he was starting until earlier in the day Wednesday.

Gary Williams WANTS to stick with Tucker and Bowie all season. Fans want to see Terrell Stoglin and Pe’Shon Howard in the lineup.

What ends up happening will have everything to do with whether or not Tucker and Bowie can play with consistency over the next few weeks.

Maryland opens ACC play Sunday afternoon (4pm on Comcast SportsNet/Fox Sports Net) when they host Boston College at Comcast Center.

8. TowsonTigers.com says Josh Brown and Rashawn Polk scored 18 points each, but Towson couldn’t hold off George Washington in DC

A loss to the Colonials probably won’t impress anyone, but a six point game against GWU at the Smith Center is likely a sign of progress for Pat Kennedy’s team. One major problem from last night? They got just one point from Troy Franklin. I don’t think they’ll win many games that way.

Towson now heads to Catonsville next for a contest with UMBC at RAC Arena Saturday night. The Retrievers had a rough night last night, as they were pounded by Rider 81-39. I’d tell you something about that game, but what the hell is there to say?

9. The AP says Shane Walker & Robert Olson each scored 14, but Loyola lost to George Mason in Fairfax

Tough night for Jimmy Patsos’ Greyhounds last night at the Patriot Center.

In honor of the holiday season, I’m going to try to make some spirits bright here. Here’s a picture of Tehmeena Afzal. (Thanks The Smoking Jacket!)

afzal

10. Washington Post’s Eric Prisbell says Terrapins Offensive Coordinator James Franklin finalist for head coaching gig at Vanderbilt

This COULD end up being helpful for Kevin Anderson and the folks in College Park.

James Franklin did a HELL of a job with Danny O’Brien this season. Should he leave for the Commodores, his leadership would be missed.

But the Terps have a MESS on their hands with this transition. Either they’re going to have to force Ralph Friedgen out and give the job to Franklin (which didn’t seem so unlikely a season ago), or they’re going to have to dish out a million bucks they don’t have.

If Franklin heads to Nashville, Maryland avoids that problem. Either they can extend Friedgen should he have another good season or they can hire whatever available coach they want to hire.

But bear in mind-the leadership at the University of Maryland WANTED James Franklin to be the next head coach. The move wasn’t just made to keep him from going back to Kansas State. They ABSOLUTELY thought Franklin represented what they wanted in a head coach.

It’s just become a much stickier situation than they originally expected.

And finally, I leave you with this.

Time for a few new versions of “The Greatest Song(s) of All Time This Week.”

It’s a Christmas edition this time around.

The retro version of TGSOATTW is “Christmas Song” by Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds. WIN.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x33XlnWWfaI[/youtube]

The new version is the version of “Last Christmas” they did on GLEE. Please don’t judge me because I like this.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WoNvv7hq364[/youtube]

Flexing my mic muscles since 1983…

-G

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In Capping Successful Season, Friedgen’s Terps Find Dawn After Darkness

Posted on 27 November 2010 by Glenn Clark

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Don’t call it a “pleasant surprise.”

Don’t call it a “respectable turnaround.”

Don’t dare call it a “nice story.”

After beating the 23rd-ranked North Carolina State Wolfpack 38-31 in their regular-season finale Saturday at Byrd Stadium, the Maryland Terrapins (8-4, 5-3 ACC) put the final touch on a season that can only be described as a “success.”

It might not be the type of success that will make fans in Baltimore and DC rush to purchase season tickets (Saturday’s attendance was only an announced 35,370), as it won’t end with an ACC Championship Game appearance and could possibly result in only a trip to the Military Bowl at RFK Stadium.

But by picking up win no. 8 against an NC State (8-4, 5-3) squad that would have clinched a berth in next week’s title game at Bank of America Stadium, the Terps bridged the gap between “good story” and “successful season.”

Then, athletic director Debbie Yow (who departed College Park for Raleigh in July) announced last December that she would retain head coach Ralph Friedgen. In an interview with Drew Forrester shortly thereafter on AM1570 WNST, she made it clear that her expectation for Friedgen’s 2010 Terps was at least a 7-5 finish.

Despite Yow being replaced in the AD post by Kevin Anderson this fall, it remained fair for those around the Maryland program to have an expectation for the Terps to finish the season 7-5. If Friedgen’s team really was moving in the right direction, their 2010 schedule was not so daunting that it couldn’t result in at least seven victories.

Seven wins would have been a feel-good story.

The eighth victory makes it a real success.

“I’m really happy for our players” said Friedgen. “(They’ll) finally hopefully start getting some respect. Even when we’re doing well, we never beat anybody. Well, we beat somebody tonight.”

The way Maryland came about victory no. 8 makes it even more impressive. After a November 20th loss to Florida State eliminated Maryland from having any chance of reaching Charlotte, it would not have been stunning to see the Terps roll over against the ‘Pack. Quarterback Russell Wilson and NCSU were still very much alive in the ACC title game picture, with legitimate dreams of an Orange Bowl berth.

It appeared as though that possibility would come to fruition early on Saturday, as the Terps fell behind 14-0 after two offensive possessions for each team. But freshman quarterback Danny O’Brien rallied the Terps, connecting with receiver Torrey Smith four times for touchdowns (a school record for the receiver), and the Terrapins wouldn’t allow another NC State touchdown until the fourth quarter, after they had already built a 21-point advantage.

There was particular emotion evident from Maryland players and coaches (including an exuberant leap from defensive line coach Dave Sollazzo following a fourth quarter sack by DL Drew Gloster) throughout the game. It was a stark contrast to what happened two seasons ago, when Maryland was eliminated from the ACC title picture in a blowout loss to the Seminoles, then finished the season with another loss at Boston College.

Friedgen said he was concerned about the possibility of a letdown.

“It was hard. I was concerned about it going into today’s game. I kinda talked to them last night. I said ‘things in life that you really want, you don’t always get. But sometimes it’s darkest before the dawn. And if you keep persevering and you keep working, sometimes all of a sudden good things happen.’ I said, ‘I know how down you are, but there’s nothing we can do about that but go back to work.’”

Friedgen’s words rang true with Maryland players.

“We were upset we weren’t playing for an ACC title because we felt like we were good enough to play in a game like that,” said O’Brien. “But like coach said, we still had a lot to play for. I think we got up to play where a lot of teams might not have.”

“He just told us we still had a lot to play for,” said senior linebacker Alex Wujciak. “Going to a good bowl game, finishing right on Senior Night, beating a ranked team, there’s still a lot of things that this game meant for us.”

Finishing a regular season with eight wins does not solve all of the problems surrounding the Maryland football program (as Saturday’s attendance made clear), but it absolutely offers a statement of hope for 2011 no matter what happens in Maryland’s bowl appearance.

The Terrapins clearly have a quarterback who they can expect big things from in O’Brien. Just 10 of the 44 players on their 2-deep roster (offense and defense) participated in Saturday’s Senior Day even — meaning the team will bring back plenty of talent (Smith could also be tempted to throw his name into the NFL Draft).

But 2010 was not just a season about building expectations for the future. It was a regular season that gave fans both thrills and memories. The final stop against Navy at M&T Bank Stadium, the debut of O’Brien against Florida International, the emotional win at BC after Pete DeSouza’s scooter accident and the offensive shows against Morgan State, Virginia and NC State will not be forgotten by the fans that had the pleasure of watching and following.

The 2010 Terrapins were not a team that made a good run or simply took advantage of a soft schedule. The 2010 Terrapins were a good team.

A good team whose on-field performance is deserving of being remembered as a success.

After a 2-10 season in 2009 and last week’s heartbreak of being eliminated in the ACC title race, the win most certainly capped the emergence of a Maryland team from darkness.

-G

Hear from Friedgen, O’Brien, Smith, Wujciak, Gloster, OC James Franklin and DC Don Brown following Maryland’s win NOW in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net!

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Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher sizes up Terps for Saturday’s game

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Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher sizes up Terps for Saturday’s game

Posted on 19 November 2010 by Ryan Chell

Jimbo Fisher

The Maryland Terrapins football team (7-3, 4-2 ACC) is on its way toward an Atlantic Division championship, and maybe their biggest hurdle toward that goal is the Florida State Seminoles (7-3, 5-2 ACC).

And FSU’s coach, first-year coach Jimbo Fisher, joined “The Morning Reaction” Wednesday to preview the hurdle in front of his squad that Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen is showing right now.

“‘They’re doing a great job,” Fisher said. “Ralph’s a very good football coach, and their staff and him have done a really great job. The kids are really playing well.”

Both teams come in with identical 7-3 records, with Maryland standing at 4-2 in the ACC and the Seminoles with a record of 5-2.

Maryland and the Terps’ next opponent, N.C. State, control their own destinies from this point on.

Maryland may be the benefactor of an easy schedule this year, but for the Seminoles, the team in College Park is another ACC opponent and a big rivalry game on the road that they can’t take for granted.

Maryland has the biggest turnaround in the ACC(+5), and Maryland’s offense has scored 40 or more points four times this year.

And ultimately, Fisher already knows what the key is to stopping Maryland’s progress. And it all hangs on the play of freshman Terps quarterback Danny O’Brien, who recently threw for 289 yards and two scores in Maryland’s 42-23 victory over the Virginia Cavaliers.

O’Brien currently has 1,571 yards on the season and has averaged 213 ypg in his seven starts.

“I remember him in high school,” Fisher said. “I saw him and liked him a bunch. I really did.”

“He has big arm talent like you said, very accurate, who has the instincts, pocket presence, throws the ball where it’s got to go, in a hurry, is a leader, and he has all the intangibles. He’s made a difference, and they’ve done a great job playing around.”

Fisher said it’s been a difficult look for him to evaluate the Terps, as it seems game-in and game-out Maryland seems to either run all over their opponent or throw the ball over the top.

The inconsistency has challenged Fisher’s defense in practice this week.

“Ralph makes up a lot of different looks, they run the option, and they do a lot of different things. So they will have all the facets they need, but quarterback has really made a big change for them,” Fisher noted.

Fisher said he has his own plans to balance the Seminoles attack against the Terps on Saturday to avoid a Maryland defense capable of grabbing turnovers.

Maryland has 15 interceptions on the season-the most for the Terps since 2002-and eight of them have come from their linebacking corps of Adrian Moten, Alex Wujciak, Demetrius Hartsfield, and Ryan Donohue.

“I’ve always believed in balance,” Fisher replied. “You have to be able to throw it, and you have to be able to run it. If you can’t do both, good teams will eventually shut you down and we’ll watch you go in and play good defense.”

” They do a good job…Maryland creates a lot of turnovers, and I think that’s one of the things they realize they’re doing well. They’re plus-13 in the turnover ratio, and they do a tremendous job of getting turnovers on defense.”

The news Thursday around College Park was that Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen would be returning for an 11th season.

Friedgen joined the elite coaching ranks of the ACC as he recently became only the 13th head coach conference history to amass 70 career wins.

Fisher threw a lot of  respect toward his counterpart, but Forrester also asked Jimbo Fisher what it was like to replace a legend in his own right.

Fisher was the coach in-waiting for the Seminoles (a similar situation with Terps offensive coordinator James Franklin under Friedgen) behind longtime coach Bobby Bowden, who spent 33 years on the sidelines at Florida State.

Jimbo Fisher

Fisher said there has been a lot of pressure on him to perform-which he has so far this year-but still it’s always tough being the first guy to get the coaching gig after a living legend at an institution moves on.

“It’s been really good,” Fisher said. “Bowden was a legend. He was a hero and he was my hero. We were very close, and it’s been very good.”

“When I look at the numbers, when you’re replacing a legend, you don’t want to be the first guy, but when you’re offered a job like that, you don’t go, nah.”

But so far, he has received the full support of the boosters and the fan-base and that’s all he can ask for.

“You’re still getting 70,000-plus fans a game,” Fisher said. “We are, and we had a super crowd last game, and it was a good atmosphere. The more games we win, the more support we will get from the fans.”

Tune into WNST and WNST.net as we continue to follow the Terps as we close out the season! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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Friedgen returning for 11th season as Terps coach

Posted on 18 November 2010 by Luke Jones

In a season many thought would be his last in College Park, Ralph Friedgen has led the Terps to a surprising 7-3 record and the precipice of the Atlantic Division crown with wins in their final two games.

And that was good enough for new athletic director Kevin Anderson.

In a statement released by the University of Maryland Thursday, Anderson announced Friedgen would return for his 11th season as Terrapins coach in 2011.

“Based largely on the improved performance of our team and student-athletes this season, Coach Friedgen will be our head football coach next year,” Anderson said. “Once this season is complete, [Friedgen] and I will sit down to discuss the current state and future of the program. Right now, the team’s focus will be on winning the 2010 ACC Championship and a bowl game, which our coaching staff and student-athletes have put themselves in position to do. We hope our fans, students, and alums will come out and support us in the effort.”

The near $2 million owed to Friedgen in the final year of his contract played a major part in the decision, as the school has made no secret about the program’s financial programs with unsold suites in the recently-renovated Tyser Tower and poor attendance in recent seasons. His contract expires on Jan. 2, 2012, the same date current offensive coordinator James Franklin will become head coach or receive $1 million from the school.

The Terps became bowl-eligible in a 62-14 victory over Wake Forest on Oct. 30 and clinched a winning season with a 42-23 win at Virginia last Saturday. Maryland will advance to the ACC title game with wins over Florida State and N.C. State in their final two games of the regular season, both at Byrd Stadium.

“I’m excited about the direction of our program,” Friedgen said in a statement. “We have a great bunch of kids and a tremendous staff. I’m thankful for all the hard work they have put into this season. Right now, we’re just concentrating on Florida State.”

The Terps will host Florida State 8 p.m. Saturday night in a game televised regionally on ABC.

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