Injury pushes UM tackles up depth chart, onto steeper learning curve

Suddenly No. 1, Randolph moved to offense in spring

College Football

August 16, 2005|By Heather A. Dinich | Heather A. Dinich,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - When backup offensive tackle Dane Randolph unexpectedly rose to the top of Maryland's depth chart Saturday at the expense of a teammate, he wasn't exactly thrilled.

Nor does the 274-pound lineman, a redshirt freshman, think he's ready to be there.

"Oh, no, oh, no," Randolph said was his first reaction, followed by "This can't be happening."

Randolph, who has yet to play in his first collegiate game and moved to offense this past winter, has been asked to fill pro prospect Stephon Heyer's size-22 sneakers. Heyer, the Terps' most experienced starter on offense, partially tore his anterior cruciate ligament at Saturday morning's practice and is likely to miss the rest of the season.

Heyer's injury was a major setback to a young, injury-laden line trying to protect a quarterback with one start's experience and rejuvenate a team that ranked ninth in the Atlantic Coast Conference in total offense.

"When he got hurt, I was hoping it was just something minor," said Randolph, a former standout defensive end at Wilde Lake. "It turned out it was major. I'm very nervous. I really haven't played offensive line that much. When I was in high school I played, but that was just to fill a position. With college, it's a lot more difficult. There are a lot more plays I have to learn."

Randolph said he had a rough practice yesterday morning and couldn't think straight. He said he got a headache from the heat and was having trouble hearing and paying attention. Coach Ralph Friedgen has been installing a significant number of plays to improve last year's average of 298 yards per game, and Randolph said he's struggling to learn them.

"I'm really kind of stuck," Randolph said. "I'm thinking too much, just like in spring ball."

Randolph's backup is freshman Jared Gaither, a 6-foot-9, 330-pound tackle who only played football for two years. Gaither played basketball for three years before he went out for football for the first time as a senior at Eleanor Roosevelt. He then went on to start every game at right tackle at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va.

"We're asking a lot of them, but they need to be able to rise to the occasion for the rest of the team," Friedgen said. "Dane is much improved over what he was in the spring, from a knowledge standpoint, and Jared hasn't made a lot of mistakes the second time around. He'll make a mistake and then learn from it."

Heyer's injury also moved freshman Zach Marshall to second string. Marshall missed practice yesterday morning because he had a headache that might have been a slight concussion. Starting right tackle Brandon Nixon - the only tackle on the depth chart who has started a game - is backed up by Scott Burley, who received a shot yesterday for a bulging disc. He practiced yesterday afternoon, but guard Russell Bonham was out with a stinger.

"In athletics, many times it's said that you always prepare yourself when the opportunity arises if you're a backup," offensive line coach Tom Brattan said. "That's what we have right now. Some young kids need to step up. They'll get plenty of opportunity to prove their ability. Life goes on. It's very unfortunate, but we're pressing on."

NOTES: Isaiah Williams, a freshman wide receiver, had a magnetic resonance imaging exam on his shoulder yesterday that revealed a sprain, and he is day-to-day. Friedgen said Williams fell Saturday going for a pass. ... Cornerback Josh Wilson received nine stitches after a collision with Keon Lattimore that left a gash in his shin down to the bone. Friedgen said Wilson will be ready to go "as soon as he can tolerate it," but the medical staff is worried about an infection. ... Linebacker Erin Henderson sprained his left knee during a team drill at the end of practice. He will be re-evaluated today.

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