COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- At 6-foot-6, 296-pounds, Terps offensive tackle Moise Larose is a big man. But as he sat down with reporters yesterday at the Gossett Football Team House, in his first group media session as a Terp, the true freshman was a gentle giant.
The former Wilde Lake High School (Columbia, Md.) two-way lineman, who was expecting to redshirt this season but now will start at left tackle on Saturday against Syracuse, had a soft tone, an easy smile and introduced himself to the gathered press. He shook hands and looked reporters in the eye, more like a senior than a rookie during his first session.
But Larose will have his hands full come Saturday. Not only is he moving from the right side, where he has played in three games this fall, but he is replacing sophomore starter Mike Madaras at left tackle after the latter left school last week.
The good news for the Terps is Larose is smart, athletic, has long arms and good feet -- and he's a fast learner. All of that was key given the crash course he's had since the Madaras departure from a thin, young line to begin with. And when you consider Syracuse brings pressure on "60-70 percent" of its plays, according to Terps offensive coordinator Mike Locksley, the spotlight will be on Larose, who is this week's version of "next-man up" for the Terps.
Locksley said there's been no time for "woe is me around here" this week, which turned out to be a good one to prep Larose given the bye week.
"I think he's obviously ...for us to recruit him, he meets what we are looking for from a skill-set standpoint," Locksley said. "He's a guy that played as a freshman even prior to these injuries, so he is a guy that we have held in high regard in terms of his ability. I think he will do well."
Locksley said Larose has picked things up quickly at practice and has logged meaningful reps so far.
"So we'll support him and do things we can to protect him as much as we possibly can as well," the offensive coordinator said.
Locksley then got a bit animated in describing yet another setback for the O-line, which started a redshirt freshman walk-on, Michael Dunn, who in camp was elevated to scholarship player; while dealing later with a broken foot to senior tackle Nick Klemm; and finally the Madaras departure, among other issues.
"And the way I look at it personally, nobody really gives a crap that he's a true freshman," Locksley said. "We've got a big game this week with Syracuse here at home that we've got to get him prepared to play in, and the kid has done everything we have asked of him."
It's been a compelling road for Larose to this point. He was a late offer last year in the recruiting process and was first slotted for the defensive line. At Wilde Lake he played on both sides of the line, as well as left and right tackle, so it's not totally new to him.
Larose had played already in the Florida International, Old Dominion and Florida State games this season, so he has some early experience on the right side.
Larose said the news that he would start "came out of nowhere, honestly. But I felt like at this point in time I was ready to step up and take one for the team." Now, he's just fast-tracking and learning everything from the other side. He said the bye week was big mentally for him.
"During that bye week we went with the ‘ones,' and we had like a full practice. It was physical, it was hard, but I fit in there and I did what I had to do," he said.
Going from the right to the left side was the biggest challenge what with fine-tuning his footwork, landmarks and kickback, which he said is hard on-the-fly. But Larose said sophomore right tackle Ryan Doyle has taken him under his wing as a "mentor" and taught him plenty. "And because of him I think I am very comfortable with how I am today," Larose said.
Madaras was head coach Randy Edsall's first commitment, and a former four-star Under Armour All-American. Despite some of his struggles this season, his are big shoes to fill protecting the backside of quarterback C.J. Brown -- especially for a true freshman in his first start.
"I take it one play at a time, and try to listen. You are going to be yelled at and not know what to do [if you don't listen]," Larose said of his attitude this week.
Larose said he knows Syracuse's defensive front will be gunning for him, and he recognizes the added responsibility of protecting the blindside of the oft-injured Brown, who missed last week with a trunk/hip injury and hasn't been 100 percent since the early going.
"Now I got to really bow up and make sure I get my job done because it's C.J. blind side," Larose said. "I got to make sure that he's not pressed. I think it is more mental, knowing what I am doing, and have the proper landmarks, footwork, and techniques. And knowing where I need to be."
Locksley said the Terps considered different scenarios in replacing Madaras on the left side, but believed Larose was the best move. He said Larose being a part of the second team already enabled him to get 40 percent of practice reps this season, so it was not as big of a deal.
"So it's not like taking a guy like Shawn Petty, who's played linebacker for us, and moving him to quarterback where there weren't any reps whatsoever," Locksley said. "So he's a guy that's been involved in game-planning throughout the course of the past 8-9 weeks, so there's some retention there."
Said sophomore running back Brandon Ross -- who is working his way back this week from a shoulder injury suffered at Wake Forest -- of the rookie left tackle who hopes to clear some holes for him: "It's not like they have to learn the offense or something like that. My thing is I am just trying to make sure they [the young linemen]know all their assignments, what they have to do. And we may have a few mistakes but we just want to limit it as best we can."
Ross said he has been talking up Larose before and after practices to get him on the same page with the rest of the unit.
"He's already a big, strong guy, so once he learns what he's doing he'll be fine," he said. "He's been holding up well at practice, so that's definitely a good sign."
Locksley said that, overall, the offense has to sustain more drives and cannot be so "big play or bust," to get back on track this weekend for the stretch drive. And Larose will be a big part of that beginning Saturday, as the Terps look to notch win No. 6 and become bowl eligible. Syracuse is big up front and brings plenty of heat from the front seven.
"They bring a lot of pressure almost every down, and you got to be alert for who you have to block," Larose said. "If you don't then you probably are going to have some trouble."
Larose told his father the news this week, and he said he will have a large contingent of family and friends at the game Saturday to see his first start. And Locksley said there's no looking back.
"We can't worry about they want to attack Moise; we have to put together a plan that protects Moise and allows him to do the things he does well," he said. "For us to sit back and put him in a bunch of one-on-one situations where he's got to execute without help or without doing things to help him as a first time starter for us wouldn't be smart on our part. As much as they'll do things to attack him, we'll do things that fit what we want and what we need to do to protect him."
For Larose, that start Saturday means he will have accomplished part of his college dream already -- for both himself and his family:
"I feel great because that's what [my family] wanted for me," Larose said. "As long as they're happy, I'm happy. I will do this for them, not only myself, but for them. So I am glad they are happy."
Larose is Next Man Up at LT
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