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July 26, 2010

ACC notes: Future uncertain for Friedgen

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Just about any coach coming off a 2-10 season is going to face an uncertain future.

That's doubly true for Maryland's Ralph Friedgen.

Not only is Friedgen trying to recover from the worst season of his nine-year tenure, he also is working at a university that still needs to hire an athletic director and a president. Of course, no matter who's in charge, Maryland likely needs to perform better for Friedgen to keep his job.

"If I do well in the next two years, I think I'll be at Maryland," Friedgen said. "If I don't, I probably won't, so it really won't matter about the administration. I think we have an opportunity at Maryland right now to really get the right people, to really reach our potential. That's what I'm hoping we're going to do."

Maryland must hire a new president to replace C.D. Mote, who announced in February that he would step down at the end of August. The Terps also are seeking an athletic director to replace Debbie Yow, who left earlier this summer to take the same position at N.C. State.

While announcing at the end of the 2009 season that Friedgen would return this year, Yow noted that she expected Maryland to have a winning record in 2010. Friedgen admitted rival coaches have discussed Maryland's uncertain situation to potential recruits.

Friedgen noted that the presence of offensive coordinator James Franklin as the "coach-in-waiting" actually creates more stability at Maryland than at other schools that don't have a succession plan in place. Friedgen also remains confident his situation will work out, even as he awaits the identity of his next boss.

"If we do well the next two years, I think regardless of who it is, I think we have pretty good support from my alumni and they'll want me as coach," Friedgen said. "If they don't, then I'll go somewhere else. But I don't think that will happen."

What does he define as "doing well?"

"Going to bowl games and winning them," Friedgen said. "I'd like to get back to being a top-25 team. That's always my goal. And winning the ACC championship again. I think we're building toward that. We'll have to wait and see."

Friedgen is 66-46 in nine years at Maryland and is the first coach in school history to win four bowls, but most of his success came early in his tenure.

Maryland captured an ACC title in Friedgen's debut season and won at least 10 games in each of his first three seasons. But after going 21-8 in those first three seasons, Friedgen is 45-38 in the six years since. Maryland's 2-10 record last season was the Terps' worst since a 0-9 mark in 1967.

Although the ACC media picked Maryland to finish last in the Atlantic Division, Friedgen has reason for optimism. Jamarr Robinson has more mobility than most recent Maryland quarterbacks. Da'Rel Scott and Davin Meggett give Maryland a pair of dynamic running backs. The Terps also may have been a little better than their record last season, as four of their losses were decided by a total of 10 points.

Friedgen has taken steps to try turning some of those close losses into victories. He has emphasized finishing games by playing better in the fourth quarter. He even hired a yoga instructor in an attempt to add flexibility and speed while reducing injuries.

He's too busy focusing on the present to worry about the future. His players feel the same way.

"Coach Friedgen is preparing us to win," wide receiver Torrey Smith said. "He's our coach. We know he's our coach in 2010. Whatever happens past that, we're not focused on. We're focused on right now and winning right now."

Same old story
Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer should be used to this by now.

For the third time in the past four years, the ACC media picked the Hokies to win the conference title. Virginia Tech received 50 of the 98 votes, while Florida State was second with 26 votes.

"I was very surprised," Beamer said. "I think there are a lot of good football teams in the ACC. We've got a chance to be a good football team, but we've got a lot of things we've got to fix. We've got some inexperience. We've got two new kickers.

"Being picked No. 1 surprised me, but the margin surprised me [even more]. That's a sign of respect for our coaches and for the players in our program."

In the Coastal Division, Virginia Tech was followed in order by Miami, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Duke and Virginia. The predicted order in the Atlantic was Florida State, Clemson, Boston College, North Carolina State, Wake Forest and Maryland.

This marked the fifth time Florida State has been picked to win the Atlantic Division in the six seasons since the ACC went to the divisional format. But the Seminoles haven't finished first in a division since winning the inaugural league championship game in 2005.

"That's expectations," Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. "That's part of being at Florida State. That's why I wanted the job. You always say you want to win, but then people say, 'I don't want expectations.' Well, here's this big job. You have to embrace expectations.

"Now here's the thing you've got to understand: Expectations don't win games. It's just like talent. Talent doesn't always win games. It's the attitude of those guys and how they play. That's what we've got to remember."

The ACC media also picked Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder as the preseason player of the year. Ponder got 45 votes, while Virginia Tech running back Ryan Williams received 16 and Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor got 11.

Virginia Tech's 2007 squad is the only one of the past four preseason media picks that went on to win the conference title.

Seminole suspended
Florida State had enjoyed an offseason free of negative off-field headlines until linebacker Nigel Carr was arrested Sunday on two counts of auto burglary and one count each of criminal mischief, credit card theft and fraud in Tallahassee.

Under university rules, any player facing felony charges is suspended from the team.

"It is a reminder that you can be right 364 days of the year," Fisher said. "It only takes one. It only takes one incident in your life. You've got to make choices, and there are repercussions -- good and bad. We'll wait and see how all the things pan out for Nigel. I'm not here to pass judgment. I don't know enough about the whole situation yet."

Close doesn't count
Three years after winning the ACC title, Wake Forest went 5-7 last season. Some people might see that as evidence of a program in decline. Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe instead considers it an example of the thin line that can separate a losing season from a championship season.

The Demon Deacons went 0-5 last season in games decided by three or fewer points, including overtime losses at Boston College and Georgia Tech. The 2006 ACC championship team was 5-0 in games decided by seven or fewer points.

"If you look at it, there was very little difference between last year and the year we won the ACC championship except last year we had five games where if we made one play late in the fourth quarter, we win each of those five games," Grobe said. "The year we won the ACC, we made those plays. The kids realized there's not a lot of difference between last year [going] 5-7 and the year we won the ACC championship except that in five games that went to the last possession, we found a way to make the play.

"The lesson to our kids is when you get late in the game, don't sit around wishing and hoping something will happen. Go make a play."

Familiar foe
Any new FBS coach is going to feel nervous before his opening game. Virginia's Mike London has even more reason for anxiety.

Virginia opens the season Sept. 4 against Richmond, the team London coached for two seasons before the Cavaliers hired him away. London, a former Virginia defensive coordinator, was 24-5 at Richmond and led the Spiders to the 2008 FCS title.

"Human nature is that there are going to be emotions," London said. "I know those guys. I won championships with them. I recruited them. I know some of the coaches on their staff. But my allegiance now is to the orange and blue [Virginia's colors]. It's an opportunity to win a game. Our seniors have not won a home opener since they've been there."

Cooper's comeback
Seven months after he seriously injured his right knee in a Champs Sports Bowl loss to Wisconsin, Miami running back Graig Cooper is participating in the same offseason workouts as his teammates.

"He's been doing everything," Miami coach Randy Shannon said. "When the guys run 110s, he does 110s. When the guys squat, he squats. When the guys do cutting drills, he does cutting drills.''

Does that mean Cooper will be ready for the start of the season? Not necessarily.

"We're not going to throw him out there," Shannon said. "We're going to take it slow and give him certain drills to build his confidence up and get him going where he needs to be."

Cooper has run for at least 682 yards and has led Miami in rushing each of the past three seasons.

The field at the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando was a contributing factor to Cooper's injury, and the grass has been replaced by Astroturf this summer.

It's a whole new situation
One day after Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich confidently talked about trying to regain his 2008 form, Eagles coach Frank Spaziani took a much more cautious approach.

Herzlich, the 2008 ACC defensive player of the year, sat out the 2009 season to recover from Ewing's sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. Herzlich participated in non-contact drills this spring and said he intends to be ready for the start of the season.

"It's the first time for this," Spaziani said. "It's virgin territory. Every day that he involves himself in football is new. There's nothing we can fall back on and say, 'Oh, by the way, this guy had Ewing's sarcoma three years ago and came back.' There's no record of anything. We'll just take it the proverbial one day at a time and make judgments as we go."

Divided loyalties?
Kyle Parker turned down a seven-figure signing bonus from the Colorado Rockies to return for a second season as Clemson's starting quarterback. But now that a baseball organization has drafted him in the first round, Parker knows he's a blue-chip prospect in that particular sport.

Could an early-season slump hurt Parker's focus and cause him to start thinking about a potential baseball career? Clemson coach Dabo Swinney doesn't think so.

"Kyle Parker's a winner," Swinney said. "He's never done anything halfway. He has too much pride in his performance and cares too much about Clemson and his team to just say, 'All right, I'm just going to not play well.' He'll be held accountable just like every other player at his position."

Swinney said this issue came up when Parker was deciding whether to play football this fall.

"He's committed," Swinney said. "In fact, that was one of the questions I challenged him on. 'Listen, are you 100 percent committed to being the very best quarterback you can be?' He was almost peeved that I even asked him that. He said, 'Listen, I ain't coming back to lose.'

"That's just classic Kyle Parker. I wouldn't expect anything less from him."

No kid gloves here
Duke coach David Cutcliffe worked as Tennessee's offensive coordinator during Peyton Manning's college career. He coached Eli Manning at Ole Miss. He spent the past few seasons helping Thaddeus Lewis develop into one of the most prolific quarterbacks in ACC history.

All those credentials have earned Cutcliffe a reputation as one of college football's top quarterback tutors. As he prepares to break in a new starting quarterback at Duke, Cutcliffe discussed why he believes sophomore Sean Renfree has what it takes to succeed.

"He has to be tough mentally and tough physically," Cutcliffe said. "We coach our quarterbacks like we coach left tackles -- no differently. People kind of find that surprising, but I don't baby quarterbacks. They're used to getting coached hard, and Sean has that. He's a tough guy. You're trying to create an edge. I think he's capable of having that special edge."

Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com.



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