Jared Gaither has been placed on the preseason watch list for the Outland Trophy – given to the nation’s best interior lineman – and mentioned as a high first-round NFL draft pick as early as next summer.
The good news for Terps fans: Gaither isn’t getting caught up in any of that.
His thoughts about the NFL?
“No thoughts. I have no thoughts,” he said last week. “I’m in college right now and that’s my focus. I’m interested in getting the University of Maryland team better and getting us as far as we can in terms of the national championship and ACC championship, etcetera.”
Informed that The Sporting News preview yearbook had ranked him among the top 10 tackles in the country, he said, “Actually I didn’t even know that. I try to stay as far away from the politics and the rest of that stuff as I can. I just try to stay humble as a young man and get through college and get my education, and see wherever it takes me.”
The former basketball standout at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, Md., started eight games as a freshman and didn’t allow a single sack. Maryland fans can recall Gaither manhandling Virginia Tech star Darryl Tapp in a loss to the Hokies last October.
He’s spent this summer working focused on honing his technique.
“Just getting everything down pat, whereas it’s a second nature and I don’t have to think about a thing,” he said. “Strength and all, that is right where I want it to be right now, so I have no complaints about that. We’ve got a great strength coach, Dwight Galt, and he helped me come a long way.”
It’s difficult to fathom how much Gaither has progressed in three seasons of organized football -- his senior season at Roosevelt, a year at Hargrave Military Academy and then last season. The former low-post bruiser said the move from the hardwood to the gridiron was seamless.
“It’s nothing really, I mean it’s all athletics and that’s what I love to do. I love the feeling of competition. So it wasn’t that must different. A sport is a sport,” he said.
He’s excited about Maryland’s prospects this season, particularly the state of the offensive line, what with senior Stephon Heyer returning from a knee injury to give the team NFL-style bookends. Asked what the team’s goal is, he said there isn’t one.
“There’s no one thing we can do. As long as we bring all our horses to the race, we can get it done. We have all the components to do anything,” Gaither said.
“We’re just going to work within ourselves and we’re gonna get it done.”