- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 13, 2007

Maryland middle linebacker Wesley Jefferson likely will not return to the team next season and pursue a career as a state trooper, coach Ralph Friedgen said yesterday.

Jefferson received special permission to take two courses during Maryland’s winter session to complete his degree in criminology and criminal justice.

“I find things like that are hard for me to believe,” Friedgen said. “I asked him ‘Is there anything we did’ and he said ‘No, coach, this is something I’ve always wanted to do.’ As long as they’re getting their degrees, I can’t argue with what a kid wants to do.”

Jefferson was Maryland’s second-leading tackler last season and made a team-high 10 tackles for loss, and could be replaced by freshman Alex Wujciak, who redshirted this season.

Friedgen said he believed Jefferson could wait another year, but acknowledged Jefferson probably was more interested in becoming a state trooper than playing in the NFL.

“That’s been a passion of mine since I was five years old, before I even knew about football,” Jefferson said last month. “I’ve always wanted to do that. I like to help people, and I think I can help a lot of people.”

Jefferson is one of a handful of juniors leaving the program. Left guard Donnie Woods plans to pursue a career in the military or law enforcement, and guard Garrick Clig also is moving on. Friedgen said fullback Tim Cesa, who did not play after the latest in a series of concussions Oct. 28, is on track to graduate in the summer and will not return.

No word on Gaither

Friedgen said he was under the impression defensive tackle Dre Moore and tailback Lance Ball requested evaluations from the NFL to gauge where they stand in the eyes of pro scouts. However, he is not sure if right tackle Jared Gaither will declare for the draft before Monday’s deadline.

A neck injury plagued Gaither this fall and he was eventually relegated to backup status behind Dane Randolph. However, at 6-foot-9, 350 pounds, he is considering a jump to the NFL, and Friedgen is uncertain of his status.

“I don’t know. I was supposed to see him today but he didn’t come by,” Friedgen said.

Meanwhile, fullback Chris Gronkowski transferred to Arizona to play baseball, while it appears tackle Brandon Nixon will be an academic casualty. Nixon practiced but did not play this year, but Friedgen previously said there was a possibility he could return next season.

“The last I talked to Brandon he was trying to get a grade changed, but I don’t know if that will do it anyway,” Friedgen said. “He’s kind of flunked out of school and he’s not in winter session. Unless he gets a grade changed, I don’t think it’s going to happen.”

Coaching shuffle?

Secondary coach Tim Banks left to become the defensive coordinator at Central Michigan, leaving Friedgen a job to fill at the height of recruiting season.

Another possible hire could come at offensive coordinator if Friedgen decides to relinquish those duties. However, he stressed the need to “find the right guy” — much as he did last spring after Charlie Taaffe resigned. Friedgen ultimately remained the offensive coordinator, and could do the same this offseason.

“What I don’t want to do is undo what we’ve kind of established and start all over again. …,” Friedgen said. “There won’t need to be an interview. I’ll know the I guy I want.”

Steffy the starter

Friedgen re-iterated rising junior quarterback Jordan Steffy will begin the spring as the starter over Florida transfer Josh Portis.

Steffy took only 14 snaps last season, all in the Terps’ season-opening victory over William & Mary. He was 0-for-5 with an interception, but has spent three seasons in Maryland’s system and took second-team snaps throughout last season.

“I think it’s Jordan’s job to lose,” Friedgen said. “Jordan has paid his dues here and he’s improved quite a bit. … I think he’ll be ahead of Josh just by being in meetings and taking the reps. I don’t think we could go any other way right now.”

Extra points

Defensive end Jeremy Navarre, who underwent surgery on a meniscus injury, should be ready for spring practice, Friedgen said. Linebacker Rick Costa, cornerback Isaiah Gardner and wide receiver Isaiah Williams all underwent shoulder surgery and will miss the spring. …

Friedgen said it was unlikely tackle Scott Burley would receive a redshirt for last season because he was healthy enough to play late in the season. Burley only played in the Terps’ season opener, eventually falling off the depth chart before practicing well in November and December.

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