Making the Switch

What does the transition from RT to LT entail for R.J. Dill?

Offensive tackle Stephon Heyer may be called on to play left tackle for the Washington Redskins Sunday because their first-round draft choice, Trent Williams, may not be available.

Heyers play both left and right tackle, something Terps offensive line coach Tom Brattan finds extraordinary. After all, it is two different positions.

On Saturday, Terps tackle R.J. will do the same for his team. With the loss of left tackle Justin Gilbert for the remainder of 2010, Dill will slide from right tackle to be the new anchor of Terps’ offensive line. And in his head coach’s words, Dill has made the move with aggression.

“[Dill is] doing fine. I’m very pleased with the way he’s approached [the position change]. I think he’s gone after it – very aggressive.”

Being aggressive is the approach is the approach unanimously endorsed by the Terps. Senior defensive end Drew Gloster, who faced Gilbert and Dill every practice, said the best left tackles all possess it.

“We need our offensive linemen to be nasty, and we need them to have that tenacity to come out and dominate that person across from them,” Gloster said.

But Dill is undergoing no simple position change. Many people are unaware of the differences in each position. Center Paul Pinegar, however, knows both positions well due to his travels along the offensive line.

“Speaking from experience, switching from right to left or left to right is no easy task,” Pinegar said. “It’s one of those challenges he’s got to rise to, and obviously [the coaches] think that’s a compliment to him.”

A compliment – sure, left tackle to the most important position on the offensive line because they have the responsibility of protecting the quarterback’s blindside. It’s not for just anybody; it’s a challenge that appears almost backwards.

“It’s like switching the pen from your right hand to your left hand,” Pinegar said. “You got to flip everything backwards.”

For Pinegar, moving Dill to fill in for Gilbert was the right decision. As the leader of the offensive line, he felt Dill brought Sherlock Holmes-like qualities to the position – intelligence and grace.

“I think [Dill’s] doing pretty good. I think he’s one our most capable offensive linemen,” Pinegar said. “I feel like he knows a lot more than people expect [being a sophomore]. He’s got good athleticism – moving to left tackle shouldn’t be too difficult for him.”

What will assist Dill in the transition are his sound fundamentals. What separated Dill from his predecessor, according to Gloster, is that “mean streak” Gilbert played with. But through practice and repetition, Gloster believes Dill can reach that level.

“R.J. is more a technician; his footwork’s good; he throws his hands well; he just has to get more of a mean streak going,” Gloster said. “With R.J. stepping in and moving over to the other side, he has to get adjusted and get more reps at it.”

Dill is already putting in extra time after practice to refine his craft. Friedgen had his offensive tackles and speed rushers compete one-on-one, helping Dill to acclimate to the pass rush he’ll face against FIU.

“I think he’s just trying to get his extra work because the team’s that we’re coming up against pass the ball a lot,” Gloster said. “He’s just trying to stay on top of his plays, make sure his footwork’s down pat so he’s not making mistakes because he’s trying to help out the team the best that he can. He’s trying to step in and make sure there’s no fallout.”

Come Saturday, Gill will step into the left tackle role against FIU will a lot to prove. It’s a test for him, as well as his entire team.

“We’re obviously going to rise to the occasion. We got some adversity here. I think everybody’s going to step their game up,” Pinegar said.

If he’s successful – well, it would provide a much-needed boost for the Terps dealing with a plethora of injuries. “[If we can] get through this crisis,” Friedgen insinuated, “Maybe Dill will be a player for it.”


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