Franklin brings fresh look

James Franklin called out a set of plays, each appearing to be simple runs to the left, then to the right, then up the middle. One after another, a brisk set and reset. He peered down at the practice script and, with a calm yet urgent voice, yelled out the next play, a hand off to Da'Rel Scott.

Soctt ran through defenders' arms and slowed. The whistle hadn't blown.

"Da'Rel, run the last 10 yards," Franklin said. Scott, the speedy No. 1 running back, began to jog.

"Da'Rel, sprint the last 10 yards," Franklin yelled this time. Scott did, begrudgingly. And then Franklin moved on.

"Yeah it was a little rough," Scott said.

Franklin, Maryland's new offensive coordinator, is emphatic in just about everything he does—he rarely stands still on the practice field, and his voice ceases only for a few seconds at a time. Yet in film sessions and meetings, where he works to implement the nuts and bolts of his new offense this spring, Franklin is cool and calm, even if he's still demanding.

"In a word, he's a perfectionist," quarterback Chris Turner said.

But that hasn't made him the bad guy. Not at all. He has quickly become a favorite among the players with his effervescent personality, and has brought a fresh outlook to the offense.

"He's just wild and crazy, upbeat," wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey said. "I think that's something that this offense needed; just needed a guy who has confidence in us off the jump and we can show that back to him."

Maryland's offense was inconsistent last season, and some players expressed frustration with conservative play calling. Coach Ralph Friedgen, who acted as the offensive coordinator the last two seasons, said he felt overwhelmed at times and it inhibited his ability to oversee the team and spend extra time with players.

He hired Franklin before Maryland's bowl game, and the pressure Friedgen felt wearing two hats dissipated.

"It's taken a lot off, it really has," Friedgen said. "I really found that I can spend more time with the players. I think that's something that I wasn't able to do and I wasn't doing a very good job of it."

Friedgen's role is to oversee more than before when he was offensive coordinator. Instead of standing behind the quarterback with a play sheet, he watches the offense work at all different angles from his golf cart. Instead of being in the offense meetings, Friedgen swings by each room. His offense is in good hands, though—"[Franklin] actually would run the meetings better than I did," he said.

Franklin, who ran a modified version of the West Coast offense at Kansas State, has brought elements of it to Maryland. There's new terminology, new formations, some new plays. He's implementing its nuances now, but more importantly, he's learning his players' abilities and how he can get the most out of each.

"My biggest thing right now is to build confidence in the individuals and the system. If we can do that through spring, I think we're going to be in good shape," Franklin said.

He's also tweaking aspects of his offense to fit his personnel.

For example, Franklin didn't use a fullback at Kansas State. Now he has two with experience—Cory Jackson and Haroon Brown. So Franklin is adjusting, and he plans to design plays for the two to touch the ball.

"Where I had to use another tight end at K-State, I think I'm going to be able to use those guys as a true fullback in the backfield and also use them as a wing and some other things as well," he said.

He also has more speed, especially at wide receiver. A lot of it is inexperienced, but Franklin wants to get them on the field, so he's made the offense easier to grasp.

"It's more simplified," tight end Dan Gronkowski said. "Things really run together from play to play… It's a get out there, play fast kind of attitude. Making things a little simpler so guys can get out there and play instead of think."

Said center Edwin Williams, "I think coach Franklin's ideas are kind of like what we want to do. It's a lot more based on playing to our strengths and just trying to get the ball to the play makers' hands."

There's added excitement in the offense this spring, and there's an extra hop in the players' step. Franklin is all about excitement-- he wants to make it more fun for the players.

So long as they sprint those extra 10 yards.

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