More often than not with the Maryland offensive line, it's one step forward, two steps back.
If ever there was a year to be stout up front it's this season, with Maryland joining the Big Ten and a murderer's row of Big Ten competition staring them in the face in the back end of the 2014 schedule.
With Ohio State, Michigan State, Penn State, Iowa, and the like looming, the Terps thought they had finally built up to the kind of talent and depth they needed along the front line with some enhanced recruiting the last two years. For a decade-plus the Terps' line had been the elephant in the room, with misses the Terps took who couldn't play or left school, or just plain misses, top locals that went elsewhere. But of late they had enjoyed a breakthrough.
But gone is four-star left tackle Mike Madaras (Albany), the first commit of the Randy Edsall era, and then in a two-week span this spring, both 6-foot-7 tackles Larry Mazyck, a junior college All-American now at Kansas, and Moise Larose, a true freshman tackle of a year ago that logged a start. Larose was dismissed from school for a year for disciplinary reasons, but is not expected back. There went at least one starter and two surefire two-deep towering tackles in this fall's depth chart. So it goes on the Terps' O-Line, which has seemingly been snake-bit for years.
But picking up the pieces is a yeoman, overachieving group which has remained intact and is a year better for it now.
The group is led by the Terps top lineman, sophomore Michael Dunn, who because of his value the Terps moved to the all-important left tackle spot this summer. And to think he is a former walk-on out of Walt Whitman High School, hardly a football power. However, he sums up the cerebral, hard-working group that doesn't have much flash but a good bit of grit.
But it will also take talent to win in the trenches in the upcoming schedule, and the Terps and Dunn need someone to emerge next to him at left guard, where no one separated themselves this spring. The job was there for the taking all spring between former JuCo transfer and senior Silvano Altamirano and converted junior center Evan Mulrooney. But neither seized the opportunity. They still remain knotted at the top heading into fall camp. Altamirano has yet to live up to expectations since arriving two years ago from California, and he barely saw the field last season. Mulrooney is experienced and versatile, and could be the favorite when the dust settles.
But pushing both could be touted incoming freshmen five-star Damian Prince and four-star Derwin Gray, who if they ascend the intellectual/playbook ladder quick enough in camp, could shake up the lineup where players could be on the move, thus opening things at guard as well. Both look the part and are of the highest pedigree among Terps linemen in the last decade.
But the former Friendship Collegiate (Washington, D.C.) standout Gray, who did a prep school year last season at Fork Union, missed valuable field time in the spring while recovering from shoulder surgery. Prince, the prize of this past year's recruit class and an Under Armour All-American, arrived this summer and hopefully will ramp up quickly. They represent a promising future for the Terps' offensive line once they get their feet wet.
Meanwhile, the Terps leader is senior center Sal Conaboy, the only Terp trenchman that made a preseason honors list. Conaboy returns as the anchor of the line, a year wiser and now much inspired by new offensive line coach Greg Studrawa, who seemingly has everyone playing with an extra bounce in their step. Conaboy will be backed by junior Stephen Grommer, who has bounced around positions and has rarely seen the field during his Terps career.
On the right side, junior guard Andrew Zeller remains a physical specimen, and he has a nasty streak. But he must keep progressing in the playbook and with technique to take the next step and lock down the position. He will have talented redshirt freshman JuJuan Dulaney, out of Powder Springs, Ga., breathing down his neck if he slips. The Terps have great expectations for Dulaney, who was felled by knee surgery early last year and is only now getting started.
At right tackle is another Terp on the move, junior Ryan Doyle, who was converted from the left side this summer. Doyle is an athletic, much-improved technician who like Dunn has begun to hit stride as fixtures up front. Derwin Gray will be his backup, and will no doubt push if there is any slippage.
The Terps' O-Line was solid in pass protection last season, but needs to continue to get more physical and downhill in the run game. Another year together, what with the added strength and chemistry, should bode well, not to mention Studrawa's presence reenergizing the group. But will it be enough from this unheralded group to survive in the Big Ten, not to mention is depth enough to survive injuries? And how quickly will the newcomers assimilate? Those remain the keys heading into the 2014 season.
Fall Camp Positional Preview: Offensive Line
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