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Friedgen emphasizing togetherness as West Virginia game nears

Flipping through my crinkled notebook this morning, I was struck by how many times Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen has used the word "togetherness" recently in reference to this team. Look, lots of coaches talk about togetherness and boast about improved team chemistry. Lots of times it's all hogwash. But Friedgen is nothing if not blunt, and if there were issues, he would likely mention them in vague terms. This team has been through a lot, and a 2-10 season will deflate the biggest egos. These players seem intent on getting the program back on course together. Even an intriguing public quarterback debate has done little to divide the squad so far.

“There’s a closeness,” Friedgen said. “Not a lot of cliques on this team.”

It hasn’t always been like this. I remember two years ago when some players liked quarterback Jordan Steffy and others preferred Chris Turner (and there was Josh Portis fighting for playing time, as well). Thirty-one seniors played on that team, and Friedgen entrusted those seniors with a lot of freedom and leadership responsibilities. It didn’t quite work out. The team earned a doctorate in inconsistency, beating ranked teams then falling flat against Middle Tennessee, shutting out Wake Forest then getting shut out at Virginia. The team went belly-up at home against Florida State late in the season and settled for a trip to Boise for the Humanitarian Bowl. A postseason berth is never a bad thing, but even Friedgen has since admitted that the team underachieved. And players have said there were too many voices, too many players trying to be leaders on a team that needed a collective voice.

Last season was an on-field debacle from its unsightly start in Berkeley, Calif., to its merciful ending in a partially filled Byrd Stadium against Boston College. But this much should be said: The team never lacked effort. Friedgen always knew how hard they would work, even though the execution was never guaranteed. That's why he was left nearly speechless in the locker rooms following one heart-wrenching defeat after another. Young players learned on the fly, and some needed what he refers to as “remedial” football work after practice. Some players had some issues with playing time or were confused about roles. (Friedgen made clear in the offseason what each player’s responsibility was in each game this season.) I also felt some players had far-fetched expectations in 2009 before that season. Players talked about BCS games, talk that made you want to say, "Huh?"

“There are no issues like there were last year,” Friedgen said.

This team strikes me as humble and hungry. Friedgen applauds the commitment the players have shown since the beginning of winter workouts. After a fortunate and important victory against Navy and a suspense-free rout of Morgan State, players are starting to build confidence. Coordinator Don Brown is confident in his defense.

“You have to be confident to win in Morgantown,” Friedgen said.

I’ve heard all the stories and seen some things myself: West Virginia fans feasting on kegs and eggs before howling at Maryland's players as they step off the team bus, Terrapins fans getting harassed on their way to their seats, etc. However unified this team appears now, they will be tested in the most hostile environment they play in all season. And if the Terrapins can emerge from Saturday with a win – a giant if -- the quality of this so-called rebuilding team will need to be re-evaluated.

By Eric Prisbell  |  September 15, 2010; 2:02 PM ET
Categories:  Football  
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Next: Former Terps join Gary Williams celebration

Comments

I think we'll have a healthy QB controversy after WVU regardless of the results.

have been to a few games in Morgantown and the fans are certainly no worse than CP. Most are friendly and welcoming. Its gotten worse since the Slaton curse reversed the McBrien curse.

Glad to see the series extended. Its good for MD to play tough, relatively local BCS conference foes. The ACC took a serious beating OOC last weekend so hopefully MD can reverse that.

Regards -

-hgr

Posted by: HughGRection | September 15, 2010 7:31 PM | Report abuse

Glad to resume this series with WVU--home to some of the most classless idiots this side of Columbus, OH. Granted, a state like West Virginia doesn't have a whole lot of star power, so it's denizens take to their ol' State U football with the same passion they have for huntin' and trappin' season.
Go Terps! Let's roll to Morgantown and kick the Mountaineers around a little and get back home.
This is a good young Terrapin team headed to a solid bowl game.

Posted by: hollingertx | September 15, 2010 8:11 PM | Report abuse

hollingertx, I think bashing the whole state because you don't like the football team is a bit much. West Virginia is a wonderful state with alot to offer. Just look a little.

oh, and GO TERPS!

Posted by: bentoenail | September 16, 2010 8:42 AM | Report abuse

I agree with Toenail...West Virginia has some of the best Banjo players in the country!...make them Mountaineers squeal like a hog!

Posted by: mydogsnameisdixon | September 16, 2010 9:18 AM | Report abuse

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