COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) -There's something familiar about the Maryland offense this year, beyond the return of fifth-year senior Jordan Steffy as the starting quarterback.
After playing the role of head coach and offensive coordinator for the past two seasons, Ralph Friedgen dipped into the past and put James Franklin in charge of the Maryland attack. Franklin - Maryland's wide receivers coach from 2000-04 - has installed a derivative of the West Coast offense, which should help the Terrapins take full advantage of their talented receivers.
While serving as offensive coordinator at Kansas State over the last two years, Franklin turned the Wildcats into a pass-happy scoring machine. K-State averaged 35 points in 2007 and had a 3,000-yard passer, a 1,500-yard receiver and 1,000-yard rusher in the same season for the first time in school history.
He sees no reason why the same thing can't happen at Maryland.
``We have what a lot of people are looking for at wide receiver. We have depth and speed. So that makes your running game better because they can't load the box,'' Franklin said. ``I think we have a veteran line. That really helps. We have inexperienced tailbacks, but I think they're talented.''
The key is having the right person behind the center, and the Terrapins are convinced Steffy is equipped to handle the chore.
A year ago, Steffy beat out Chris Turner and Josh Portis to earn the starting job. But Steffy received a concussion in Week 5 against Rutgers, and Turner subsequently carried the Terrapins into the Emerald Bowl. Turner's seven touchdown passes were offset by seven interceptions, and Steffy regained the starting job with a steady performance in summer practice.
Running Franklin's offense requires more than a consistent arm and the ability to buy time in the pocket. Thinking quickly and rationally are essential, and Steffy's four years of experience gave him the edge.
``We've got to get a guy that doesn't have to carry the team, he just has to manage the game, make smart decisions and put his teammates in position to be successful,'' Franklin said. ``He just has to realize we have enough talent around him, and all he has to do is distribute the ball and take what the defense gives him.''
Steffy has two career TD passes compared to six interceptions, but he blames that on youth. The 6-foot-1, 209-pounder has never been more ready to run an offense.
``For me, it's just been taking small steps. I played as a true freshman, didn't play my sophomore year and then played last year as a junior,'' Steffy said. ``Now I'm looking forward to taking the next step.''
Sophomores Da'Rel Scott and Morgan Green take over at running back for the departed Keon Lattimore and Lance Ball. This year, however, the focus could well be on wide receivers Darrius Heyward-Bey, Danny Oquendo, Isaiah Williams and LaQuan Williams.
``Having a good receiving corps makes this whole offense change,'' said Heyward-Bey, who has 96 catches and eight touchdowns in two seasons. ``When I got here, we had six or seven guys in the receiving room. Now we're packed. We have to bring extra chairs in there. It gives this offense a lot of speed on the field at once. You can dump it off, you can throw it deep, you can do a lot of different things.''
The defense lost several key players, including linebacker Erin Henderson, tackle Dre Moore and cornerback Isaiah Garder. But Friedgen is convinced this year's unit can stymie some of the better teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
``I'm really anticipating our defense playing pretty good this year,'' he said.
With Franklin aboard, Friedgen can step back and look at the team as a whole instead of focusing most of his energy on the offense.
``Last year, I was running around at 100 mph, really trying to do three different jobs,'' Friedgen said. ``Now I realize how much I appreciate having him back. My life almost has some sanity to it.''
Said Franklin: ``When we started meeting as an offense, Coach was in those meetings, and he made the comment he felt comfortable in how the offense was being run and he had some other things to do and felt he could leave. And then I was talking to (Friedgen's wife) Gloria one time, and she mentioned to me that he's happier and healthier than he's been in years.''
Happier and healthier are words that can also be used to describe the 2008 Terrapins.
``Our team is very excited about this season. They put in a lot of energy and a lot of work throughout the year,'' Friedgen said. ``I think this team is in the best physical shape of any team I've had coming back. I have a feeling they're ready to go, ready to meet the challenge.''

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