COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- The booming voice of Terps' fiery offensive line coach Greg Studrawa echoed throughout Byrd Stadium: "Job well done Sal. Job well done."
Terps senior center Sal Conaboy has just cleared a gaping hole in the middle of the line for a Terps running back to scamper untouched into the end zone during a goal line scrimmage in one of the final spring practices this month, as the offense came out on top on this heated day of competition. Studrawa, taking over an oft-maligned group of a year ago, didn't always offer up a lot of "sugar" this month in camp (more so the opposite), but Conaboy got a rare dose.
And giving and receiving was what Conaboy was all about this spring, the leader of an improved group under the first-year line coach as the Terps prepare for their transition to the Big Ten this fall.
The three-year starter, who locked down the full-time center spot last season, Conaboy had a busy spring, be it rising to Studrawa's challenge to get more physical, to enjoying one of the more unique spring breaks of any Terp in years.
"For myself, it was about getting more physical with everything that I do," Conaboy said. "Whether its pass protection, blocking, just anything. That was the big emphasis with me and I did that a lot."
Conaboy said it, "Was coming out to practice every day with that mindset. And sometimes that's tough to do." Conaboy said Studrawa has fired up the group as "he's going 110 miles per hour every day."
Conaboy said Studrawa's mantra is to think less and play faster, and it showed this spring with better run block/push in the ground game. Last year's young and green group is a year bigger, stronger and smarter, and has honed in collectively on a more physical style of play.
The only thing unsettled by the end of spring camp was the left guard spot, where Evan Mulrooney and Silvano Altamirano will take a tight spring competition into fall camp.
And, of course, Maryland welcomes three heralded talents in the fall in JuCo All-American tackle Larry Mazyck, prep school four-star tackle Derwin Gray and prep five-star tackle signee Damian Prince, which will give Maryland's line some of its best depth in over a decade.
But for now, a group that played more back on its heels a year ago has a lot more confidence, be it in run push or pass pro.
"In the past guys were worried about kinda messing up and not doing the right thing. But now it's more, "Let's just go,'" Conaboy said. "And guys have really gotten into the playbook and really just grabbed the bull by horns, and I think they are doing a great job of just playing faster, going out and just 'doing' instead of stopping and thinking."
Conaboy said technique and fundamentals have been stressed, and stressed again, and the players are taking to it more than in the past. "And they really want to get better. You can see it even in the weight room and everything," he said.
He said his footwork is another area he and Studrawa honed in on specifically to help Conaboy play faster. Also, the soft-spoken lineman has worked to become a more prominent leader, though his style is usually more by example than words.
Said Randy Edsall during the final week of spring camp:
"I think our offensive line has progressed a lot this spring. We still have a lot of work to do, but I like where they are at right now. And now they are going to have to go on their own this summer and do a little bit more, but they have come a long way. And Sal is kinda the leader of that group. He has gotten better, and he has taken a bigger leadership role than he has."
Conaboy said he has seen improvement across the line in the two-deep. He singled out the tireless Mulrooney, a more physical Andrew Zeller, and an improved Michael Dunn. He said promising redshirt freshman talent Moise Larose has also caught his eye.
"He has got that quick spark to him," Conaboy said of Larose. "And he's a big guy. But I could go right down the line. Guys like [Ryan] Doyle, he's taking his coaching and really doing well, even better than before."
Conaboy said depth has improved as well, with backup center Stephen Grommer, another career reserve, stepping it up a level as well.
Conaboy is always giving as a senior leader, and this month he has been busy off the field as well with the annual Uplifting Athletes team fundraising event approaching.
"It benefits [former Terps' quarterback] Boomer Esiason's foundation for Cystic Fibrosis, and this year we are trying to get the team more involved in fund-raising and awareness," Conaboy said.
At both the Spring Game last week, and Maryland Day later this month, a group of players led by Conaboy and senior quarterback C.J. Brown will promote it through different activities with youth, while this summer the players will participate in the 'Lift for Life' weightlifting event to raise money for the charity as well. Conaboy is president, Brown vice president, while the sophomore Zeller is shadowing this year to take over next year.
"Our goal this year is $20,000," Conaboy said. "We have with each player a goal of $100, so if we get that and we got our sponsor...each player has their own donation page on the website and you just go on the website [Maryland's Facebook page], and it works out really nice."
Last year the event raised $10,000 for Esiason's foundation, which was started after his son was afflicted by the disease.
But that's only the start off the field for the busy Conaboy, whose family performs charity and relief help around the world and have adoptive children.
Conaboy returned to his Clarks Summit, Pa., home over spring break and got engaged to his high school sweetheart, Kaitlyn Lahey, who he has dated for eight years.
Lahey is two years older than Conaboy, and she works at National Rehabilitation Hospital in Washington, D.C., and lives nearby in Silver Spring.
"It was back home. It was kind of a big deal," Conaboy said of the night he proposed. "So what I did was I made some big signs in the front yard, probably six-foot signs, and I put them down my driveway, and as she drove up I lifted them up. And I was at the last one. And the signs all read, 'Kaitlyn Will You Marry Me?"
Both families were on hand for the surprise proposal, and Conaboy has been beaming ever since.
"I don't know, the idea of the signs just came to me, and my friends helped me put them all up. But we're not sure yet when we are going to get married," Conaboy said.
Meanwhile, Conaboy hopes to finish his Terps career strong in his first and only season in the Big Ten, and then pursue a career with a Federal Agency following completing his criminology degree.
Senior Conaboy Leads On and Off The Field
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