Orlando, Fla. -- Maryland quarterback Sam Hollenbach put his arms around the shoulders of strength and conditioning coach Dwight Galt and center Edwin Williams while they grabbed his feet and carried him through two rows of teammates like an awkward line dance.
As is tradition since Ralph Friedgen became football coach at Maryland, the players who have exhausted their eligibility picked teammates or coaches to carry them off the field yesterday at the final full practice of the season.
"It's kind of an appreciation of what they've done in the years they've competed here," Friedgen said.
It took three players to hoist burly 6-foot-6, 320-pound offensive lineman Stephon Heyer, and senior cornerback Josh Wilson requested to be carried by fellow DeMatha High alums Anthony Wiseman and Jeff Allen.
"There's no other way I want to go out than be carried off the field," Wilson said. "Hopefully I can make an incredible play and get carried off the field on Friday, too."
It was a sunny, lighthearted practice yesterday across the street from Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium, and a little less focused than Friedgen would have liked. The players wore the jersey numbers of their friends (Wilson blacked his out entirely just to be different), and media were allowed in for the first time since practices were closed during the regular season. The players will have a brief walk-through today, their last session before facing Purdue at 8 tomorrow night in the Champs Sports Bowl.
Three players who have not exhausted their eligibility also were carted off the field yesterday, but almost as an afterthought, as most of the players had already started to head back to the locker room. Offensive linemen Donnie Woods and Garrick Clig, who have decided to forgo their senior seasons, were trekked a few feet. Junior fullback Tim Cesa, who hasn't played since the first snap of the Florida State game Oct. 28 and wasn't dressed in practice gear, was picked up by one of his teammates. Friedgen said he isn't certain if this will be Cesa's last season.
Randolph to start
Friedgen said Dane Randolph moved ahead of Jared Gaither on the depth chart and will start at right tackle against Purdue. Gaither has started 17 of the past 20 games at right or left tackle.
It was just a week ago that Friedgen said he encouraged Gaither to fill out paperwork with the NFL to find out where he might be drafted, should he decide to leave school early. Gaither was not available to comment after practice yesterday.
Carroll `ready to play'
Friedgen said he thinks wide receiver Nolan Carroll is "ready to play," a possibility that could add much-needed depth to the Terps' thin receiving corps.
"He's been not missing assignments, running good plays, making great catches," Friedgen said. "There's a guy who really was struggling. Now I'm starting to see him run routes better because I think he's not thinking as much. I'm encouraged by him."