How has the first week back at Maryland been?
It's been really interesting because I was there before and I'm coming back so obviously there's a lot of things that I'm very comfortable and familiar with. But on the same hand, things have changed—different faces and things like that. So it's been a little bit of an adjustment but one that I'm excited about and ready for.
Have you been able to get a feel for the guys on the team yet?
What I think a lot of people forget about too, though, is most of the junior and senior class I was very involved in recruiting or recruited myself. So there's about 40 percent of the team that I still know and even some of the young guys that committed after I was gone [I know].
For example, Da'Rel Scott—I had been recruiting Da'Rel since he was in ninth grade and had been on campus probably three or four times, and then he committed the year after I left. But I had been recruiting Da'Rel forever. Josh Portis, I went in home and visited Josh Portis. [Chris] Turner, I went out and visited Turner in California. Jaimie Thomas, I recruited him. Dane Randoph, I recruited him. So there's really a bunch of guys—Trey Covington—there's a bunch of guys on the team that I was involved in recruiting or was there when they were recruited or just knew them when they were young guys and knew they were going to be hot commodities in the future.
So what I have to do is do a really good job of getting to know the young the guys and then also have the older guys that I know and have relationships with them--have them kind of spread the word about who I am as a man and the things that are important to me and let those young guys know that I'm a good guy and that I'll take care of them and put them in a position to be successful.
Have you been able to meet with the team yet?
No, as you can imagine we've been running like crazy. Now the guys that are taking winter session classes were there and they had a meeting, so I got to meet with I'd say probably 30 of the guys to say hi and introduce myself and shake some hands with some guys, give some hugs to some guys that I haven't seen here in the last year or two and then I got a chance to meet some of the new guys. It was just a brief encounter with those guys and got a chance to say hi, but we've been running. My wife is seven months pregnant, we have an eight-month-old, so obviously she wants to be in a house as soon as possible so we've been scrambling, running around looking at homes, trying to get everything organized as quick as we possibly can.
Have you kept up with the team the last couple of years?
Well obviously part of my heart has always been at Maryland so I would always kind of check and see and look at the box scores or the highlights on ESPN. But I was very, very focused on doing my job with the Packers or very, very focused on doing my job at Kansas State and I really didn't have time to really check into the particulars of what was going on. But from an overview standpoint, yeah, I knew what was going on and I followed all of Ralph's success and team's success.
When you met with coach Friedgen, what did he say he wanted you to bring to Maryland as offensive coordinator?
I think the biggest thing is Ralph wanted somebody to come back that has similar philosophies in offensive play as he does, that has values—what type of person you are, family and all those types of things.
Really what we talked about more than anything [was] just overall philosophy—what we did at Kansas State, what I believe in. I just told him, I said, "Ralph, really a lot of the things I believe in are the things that I learned when I was at Maryland here with you." You're going to have to be able to run the ball, have a power-running attack and be able to attack people and keep them on their toes and be able to run the ball and pick up the hard yards when you need them. But also be able to spread the field, pass the ball for a high percentage and basically make the defense defend the entire field.
We have a lot of similar philosophies. There's a little bit different approaches to how we do things but really the most importantly part is the end result and really the most important part is the overall philosophy, not the particulars and how specifically you do it.
How will you balance the play-calling duties between yourself and coach Friedgen?
Well, that was part of our discussion. Obviously Ralph is going to be very [visible] in what we do offensively. It wouldn't make any sense [for him not to be involved], he's a tremendous resource and one of the brightest minds in college football, if not the brightest mind in college football. So for me to not take advantage of that would be ridiculous…
But Ralph's been great with me, he's basically given me the opportunity to call the plays and install the offense and do all the things that we need to do. Obviously he's going to be involved because he's the head coach, but that's really why I'm coming back to Maryland—to get a chance to do some things offensively and open it up and he's been great about it, he really has.
I think part of it is for the last two years calling the plays and really running the program, it's taken a toll on him. It's a huge responsibility. Actually, each job separately is a huge responsibility. So trying to do both as Ralph stated several times before has been demanding. So I think he's looking forward to it. It's an opportunity to give somebody else an opportunity to do some things, and like I was mentioning before, he will be involved, but I will be calling the plays.
What changes do you envision bringing to the offense?
I think the biggest thing is this:
At K-State we were predominantly one-back, did a lot of those types of things. But at Maryland we've got really good fullbacks, so it wouldn't make sense. I think any coach, what you want to do is have enough diversity in your plan and enough flexibility in the things you believe in that you can take advantage of the strengths of the team you have and be able to hide the weaknesses.
So with us having two really good fullbacks, for me to come in and run the one-back offense doesn't make sense. So I like to be really multiple in our formations and personnel that we're going to do.
The biggest thing I'd like to do is maybe simplify some things a little bit that maybe we're able to get some young kids on the field earlier in their career and also allow those same kids to play fast because they're not thinking about so many things.
When I was at Green Bay, we signed Rod Gardner, the kid out of Clemson. We signed him basically off the wires, and he showed up on Tuesday and played 42 plays on Sunday. So I think that's what you want to try to do. You want to create a system that allows people to get on field, play fast and make plays. It's a little bit like Ralph's system, it puts a lot on the quarterback, and he basically tells everybody else what to do. So the quarterbacks are used to doing that anyways so I don't think that'll be an issue.
Some of the criticism of coach Friedgen's offense has been its complexity and steep learning curve. Has he brought that up yet—trying to simplify it?
First of all, criticizing Ralph Friedgen about offense is ridiculous. Because I don't know if there's been a guy more well-respected across the country than Ralph Friedgen and what he's been doing offensively. So I don't like that and I don't understand that. I'd like to find anybody that can sit down and talk Xs and Os with Ralph Friedgen, so that doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. But I do understand what you're saying.
The biggest thing, like I mentioned before, is we just want to simplify it as much as we can. But you have to be careful if you simplify it too much that you're too predictable. So we want to simplify things as much as we can [while] still being able to keep the defense on their toes and second guessing themselves constantly.
Have you talked with coach Friedgen about taking on a position coach role as well?
Yeah, that's really going to be based on—I'll be more comfortable answering those questions once the staff is in place. It's really all going to be based on who we hire, what their strengths are and what they can bring to the table. So that will depend on where everybody's coaching and how everything fits together. Once the staff's put together and everything's in place, obviously things will clear up.
Q&A With New OC James Franklin
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