Maryland seniors' roller-coaster ride coming to an end

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Sports,College,Kevin Dunleavy

Terps host Seminoles in last home game of '12

Maryland coach Randy Edsall didn't recruit the 17 seniors on his roster. They played for him for only two seasons. But he made it clear on Tuesday how much he appreciates them.

When responding to a question about the game-day experience at Byrd Stadium, he veered off into a tribute of his senior class, players who stuck with the program while many others bailed before and after Edsall's tumultuous first season in College Park. Saturday when Maryland (4-6, 2-4 ACC) hosts No. 10 Florida State (9-1, 6-1) the seniors will play their final game at home.

"It is always a sad day as a coach when you have that last home game. It gets emotional because of the attachment and ties that you build with these young men," Edsall said. "You feel for these guys who have spent so much."

Up Next
No. 10 Florida State at Maryland
When » Saturday, noon
Where » Byrd Stadium
TV » ESPNU

The quote could be inserted into any senior day story any season. But the emotion in Edsall's voice was anything but routine.

Though the program was focused on the long-term future, players such as Joe Vellano, Justin Gilbert, Kenny Tate, A.J. Francis, Kevin Dorsey, Darin Drakeford, Demetrius Hartsfield, Eric Franklin and Matt Furstenburg played major roles returning the Terrapins to respectability and putting the program back on course.

"I think that these guys have really done a good job of heeding the message of what this program is about and what we want to do here," Edsall said. "They might not get all of the wins that they would have liked, but the one thing that I think they should feel good about and be proud of is that they have really laid the foundation for what this program is going to be about going forward."

More wins and a bowl game would have been appropriate rewards for the seniors. But injuries intervened -- including a ridiculous spate at quarterback -- and the senior class wasn't spared. Linebacker Hartsfield, wide receiver Kerry Boykins and kicker Nick Ferrara have already played their final game in College Park. Guard Bennett Fulper and linebacker Tate also fought through injury-riddled seasons.

From 8-5 and a trip to the Humanitarian Bowl in 2008, to 2-10 in 2009, to 9-4 and a trip to the Military Bowl in 2010, and then a 2-10 disaster in Edsall's first season, it's been a roller-coaster ride for the seniors, most of them in their fifth year.

The highest and lowest moments for the seniors came late in 2010 when the Terps finished up their most successful season, but then saw former coach Ralph Friedgen lose his job after being named ACC coach of the year.

Francis said on Tuesday that the favorite moment of his career was sending Friedgen out with a victory in the Military Bowl. After a tough transition, he and his classmates -- such as offensive tackle Gilbert -- grew to appreciate his successor.

"We were all Coach Friedgen's guys. Being recruited by that old staff, I had some allegiance to them," Gilbert said. "As Coach Edsall came around, I started to see what he was trying to do here. I really bought in and knew he was trying to turn this place around and make it a better program. For that I respect him."

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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