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Maryland’s Bennett Fulper can take it if the joke’s on him

Bennett Fulper will depart the Maryland football program later this year, known to fans as a versatile offensive lineman who started for parts of each of his four seasons in College Park. 

Teammates, though, will recall the savvy senior for something else.

"There's no way you can pull a prank on him," center Sal Conaboy said earlier this season. "He always has an answer for everything."

Fulper no doubt hopes to provide some answers on the field as well for the Terrapins (4-5, 2-3 ACC), who visit No. 10 Clemson (8-1, 5-1) on Saturday. He could make his first start since Oct. 13, when he departed a game at Virginia with a turf toe injury.

His absence — missing two games altogether, then splitting time with Josh Cary at left guard in last week's loss to Georgia Tech — did nothing to change his well-earned reputation for craftiness.

"I like to pay attention to see what these guys have up their sleeves," Fulper said. "It's also knowing the different guys' personalities, you can pick up on what they're doing."

Few Terps have personalities quite as outsized as defensive lineman A.J. Francis, who would seem like an ideal candidate to try to fool the Gretna, Va., product. He's almost entirely unscrewed the top of a water bottle and handed it to Fulper, who in turn simply twisted it back in and taken a swig.

Perhaps Francis' most promising scheme was foiled as well.

"I've tried everything," Francis said. "I put salt and pepper in chocolate milk. We drink chocolate milk almost every day, me and him, and for some reason he just knew it was coming. I don't know what it was, but he's just hard to get."

Those who live with Fulper in an off-campus house have tried — and failed — to rattle the lineman. Fulper recalled noticing a teammate go upstairs unexpectedly. Rather than walk into a trap, Fulper simply waited it out for three hours until the teammate came back down the steps.

While time isn't always luxury, a good temperament usually is.

"We had little firecrackers and he was taking a nap," tackle Justin Gilbert said. "We threw one in his room and it went off and he just woke up. He didn't jump. He just woke up, like he knew the firecracker was there. He's just one of those guys who is simple, doesn't really let things bother him. You can't really antagonize him because he lets things go."

That said, Fulper is creative in concocting schemes of his own. Earlier this year, it struck him that one of his housemates was rarely home and there was a room mostly going unused.

The result?

"We put a [Craigslist] ad out for his room for rent," Fulper said. "He didn't like that too much. We had to take the ad down. He was getting phone calls for a day and a half asking how much he was charging for his room."

It's enough to make anyone wonder not only how the guy can not only create schemes, but insulate himself from some comical retribution as well.

"Stuff that would usually get me is how I try to set pranks up," Fulper said. "Once you've done one, you ought to not let that one get you back. It makes it a lot easier to defend yourself, too."

His return should also provide a boost as Maryland tries to protect linebacker-turned-quarterback Shawn Petty in the closing weeks of the regular season. He's made 27 career starts, more than double everyone else on the Terps' offensive line besides Gilbert (15).

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