Gaither getting started

Move allows Miller to return to tight end for UM against Wake

Maryland notebook

College Footbal

September 21, 2005|By Heather A. Dinich | Heather A. Dinich,Sun reporter

COLLEGE PARK -- Only after watching 6-foot-9, 330-pound Jared Gaither on film can offensive lineman Donnie Woods truly appreciate the size of his teammate.

"He's humongous," Woods said. "He makes me look like a little baby out there."

Gaither's size advantage is just one reason the true freshman will make his first collegiate start at left tackle Saturday at Wake Forest. The move will allow senior Derek Miller to return to his original position of tight end. The two split game time in Maryland's 31-19 loss to West Virginia.

"We do this not because of Derek Miller," Terps coach Ralph Friedgen said. "He did a very good job at offensive tackle, but we liked the way Jared played on Saturday. If we could get Derek back at tight end, it would strengthen us in two positions. We hope that will help the whole team get better, by that move."

Scott Burley, who Friedgen said has regained about 90 percent of his technique and conditioning since surgery on a bulging disc this summer, will move up to second string.

Woods said he was impressed with how quickly Gaither learned Friedgen's complicated offense.

"It took me over a year," he recalled. "He's picked it up real well."

Still grounded

Now that the offensive line is coming together, Friedgen is hoping it will help the Terps' anemic running game. Friedgen said senior tailback Mario Merrills "does the best job" running the ball, but the competition is open after the Terps were held to 50 yards rushing against West Virginia and 56 against Clemson.

"We're going to see who practices the best this week," Friedgen said. "I think they're all very close. ... What we have to do as coaches is play to all of their strengths. We may look at another change here or there, but we'll see how it goes during the week before we make that decision.

Looking for a boost

Friedgen has a saying for practices: "Do it right, do it light. Do it wrong, do it long."

Recently, that philosophy hasn't seemed to help, so he said he's going to try to shorten practices this week with the hopes his team will have more energy in the fourth quarter.

Last week, Friedgen aimed to stop practice after 75 minutes, but when the players don't execute a play correctly, he makes them repeat it.

"If I can contain myself - which is very difficult to do sometimes - I'll tape it on video and try and show them their mistakes," he said. "What I'm trying to do is inspire them to do it right."

Down on third down

Maryland ranks last in the Atlantic Coast Conference in third-down conversions, successful on only 22.9 percent of its chances. Against West Virginia, the Terps were successful on only two of 13 third-down conversion attempts. Friedgen and his staff broke down every situation and why it was not successful. Friedgen said there were many different reasons, including missed assignments and play-calling.

"There's a couple of those in there, but overall, it's not just the play-calling," he said. "A lot of times we leave it to the quarterback to make the decision. There, when you come up to the line, to me that's the final say."

Staying together

Friedgen's eyes welled with tears at his weekly news conference as he talked about pushing his eldest daughter, Kelly, away from him as they were walking off the field after the Terps' 31-19 loss to West Virginia.

"I shouldn't have done that," he said.

It didn't deter the 28-year-old Friedgen, as she continued to follow him to his office, where she and the rest of the family traditionally meet with him after games to talk. This time, they both stayed longer than usual.

"I give her a lot of credit," he said. "After I watched [the game film] the first time, I put it on again. She stayed with me the whole time and we finally went home together."

heather.dinich@baltsun.com

Maryland @Wake Forest

Saturday, 3:30 p.m., 1300 AM, 105.7 FM Line: Wake by 3. Records: Maryland (1-2, 0-1); Wake Forest (1-2, 0-0)

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