Grades block UM's Gaither from field

The Baltimore Sun

Jared Gaither, a starting offensive lineman on Maryland's football team the past two seasons, has been declared academically ineligible this season.

A spokesman at Maryland confirmed Gaither's ineligibility yesterday, after an report.

Gaither, a rising junior from White Plains and Eleanor Roosevelt High, could return to the Terps in 2008 if he regains his eligibility.

Gaither, 6 feet 9 and 350 pounds, considered leaving for the NFL draft earlier this year after starting at both tackle positions in his two seasons at Maryland.

With only one year of football at Eleanor Roosevelt and another in prep school, Gaither still played well enough in 2005 to earn third-team freshman All-American recognition from College Football News.

Plugging in for veteran Stephon Heyer at the left tackle position, he did not give up a sack the entire season.

But with Heyer returning to his natural position in 2006, Gaither moved to right tackle. More significantly - according to his high school coach, Rick Houchens - he was on the field less as the season progressed, sharing time with former Wilde Lake star Dane Randolph.

That situation made Gaither unhappy and he didn't cope well, Houchens said, and his grades suffered.

"Things didn't go well, and I think that affected his attitude," Houchens said. "He got caught up on how much he lost by not playing as much."

Gaither's grades were poor enough that Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen kept him out of spring practice, a significant move considering the offensive line became dependant on walk-ons.

Scott Burley, a senior from Woodlawn, will begin fall camp atop the depth chart at the left tackle spot Gaither was expected to fill.

The Terps open their season Sept. 1 against Villanova at Byrd Stadium.

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