Maryland's first bye week of the season is in full swing, and it's not hard to notice the difference.
Today's scheduled activities in College Park include weightlifting, film study and a team photo shoot. Tonight, Maryland's assistant coaches will hit the road for several days of recruiting. When practice resumes Thursday -- a week before the Terps face No. 3 Virginia Tech in a nationally televised home game -- Coach Ralph Friedgen said he would keep the first few sessions as brief as possible.
The week will include less practice time than when Maryland played on Thursday nights in previous years, which Friedgen said was part of his changing philosophy.
"The more I'm a head coach, the more I think sometimes it's better to back off than to pile on," he said yesterday afternoon. "Sometimes you reach a point in your season where you can overdo it, and as a head coach you have to judge your team and know where they're at."
Moments after improving their record to 4-2 with a 38-7 thrashing of Temple on Saturday afternoon, Friedgen's players voiced approval of the schedule.
"I'm going to go home and sleep for the rest of the week," promised cornerback Josh Wilson, before noting that he would, of course, go to class between reposing.
The pause will give recuperation time to a few injured players. D'Qwell Jackson had been second in the nation in tackles before sitting out Saturday's game with an undisclosed leg injury; it was the first Maryland game he hadn't started since 2002, and the first full game he had missed since arriving in College Park. Friedgen said the senior linebacker would be at full speed by this Friday. Nose tackle Dre Moore (ankle) and kicker Obi Egekeze (quadriceps) were also kept out of Saturday's soggy contest, and Friedgen said he expected both to be ready for the Virginia Tech game.
But as Friedgen also noted, the bye week comes at a somewhat inopportune moment, with Maryland having won three straight games and coming off its most dominant showing of the season.
"But what am I going to do," he asked. "Schedule a game?"
And in fact, the break actually began sometime Saturday afternoon for most of Maryland's starters, as a parade of reserves received their most extensive time of the season.
On the game's first series, freshman guard Jaimie Thomas lined up in place of injured starter Donnie Woods (neck), who later played. On Temple's first offensive series, sophomore linebacker Wesley Jefferson took the field instead of Jackson. Friedgen pronounced himself mostly pleased with the play of Thomas, who saw time at both guard positions, and Jefferson, who tied for the team lead with nine tackles.
There were also promising appearances from freshman linebackers Chase Bullock and Dave Philistin, while freshman receivers Danny Oquendo and Isaiah Williams recorded the first receptions of their careers.
"Later on, this is going to help us tremendously," Jefferson said. "It's giving younger guys experience that they may not be able to get in a tight, closer game."
Still, many of those youngsters will take a back seat next Thursday when Maryland's season resumes with a vengeance. Of the Terps' five remaining games, three are on the road and three are against teams ranked in the top 25 by the Associated Press, giving Friedgen one more reason for this week's scaled-back approach.
"What you like to do is give them a break, and then they come back hungry to play football," Friedgen said. "You don't want them tired to play football when you go into the last half of a season -- especially a last half like we have."