COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Ryan Doyle and his Terps offensive line-mates did what every good, close offensive line unit does on the eve of fall camp.
"We gave Ledo's a run for their money down the road on Route 1 right before camp," the Terps junior right tackle said of the downtown College Park pizza institution, long frequented by Terps and fans alike, and that night the entire group for their pre-camp pow-wow and meal.
And building that camaraderie and cohesion is what the line, which in years past has come under fire for myriad reasons, is all about right now as the Terps prepare for their first season in the Big Ten.
Yet another patchwork unit (presumed left guard starter Evan Mulrooney is still out following an early-camp viral infection, while last month Doyle himself moved from the left side, trading spots with Mike Dunn) has weathered some of the storms and appears a year smarter, stronger, and playing faster under first-year offensive line coach Greg Studrawa, who has breathed new life into the unit.
Left to right, senior Silvano Altamirano is at guard, Dunn left tackle, senior Sal Conaboy at center, and then junior Andrew Zeller at left guard and Doyle at right tackle, comprise the group, which hopes to give senior quarterback C.J. Brown and the offense more time and room to operate the read-option this season.
Enough pieces seem to be in place, though depth is still a concern with at least two true freshmen in the two-deep. And Doyle said Aug. 16 only a little more communication is key for the newly composed group to take the next step.
In the Aug. 16 scrimmage the unit held up well enough, but under a torrent of quarterback turnovers the offense stalled. The line is a year more physically mature, while playing with more aggression after not getting a ton of physical run-push last season.
"I thought it was pretty good, I thought there were a lot of good things on both sides of the ball," Doyle said on Aug. 16. "I thought there are definitely areas of improvement, so we get to see that, and with two weeks left before our first game, now we kinda focus in on the little things and make sure that our units are operating to the best of our ability."
Getting back to that building cohesion, and the team meal at Ledo's, Doyle added:
"I think our communication is the thing we need to work on most," Doyle said. "It's improving, definitely, but we are still working to a point where everyone is on the same page throughout the entire practice in terms of calls and going where."
Doyle moved to the right side last month, and despite the fact he is left-handed, it has made little difference. He has played every position at College Park, or experimented at it, with the exception of center.
"I tell you, ever since getting to College Park I have jumped back and forth and side to side. It's kinda old hat to me," Doyle said. "The adjustment it definitely takes a couple weeks to get everything switched around in your mind, but once you get it down it's pretty easy."
Doyle said Altamirano is the hardest worker on the line, and getting better every day.
"In terms of effort, that guy gives 110 percent every play. He really doesn't want to quit, ever," Doyle said.
Terps head man Randy Edsall was a man of few words after Saturday's scrimmage, and had this to add of Doyle's overall camp.
"He's had a good camp as I have said. He's made the switch from left to right. And again, same thing: just got to get more consistent and get better with the fundamentals and technique," Edsall said.
Of the youngsters, like Derwin Gray and Damien Prince, breaking in this month at tackle and guard, Doyle said:
"They want to learn, they are hungry for information, and they are definitely trying," Doyle said. "They are in the playbook as much as you can. As an older guy looking at younger guys coming in, that's something you look for and appreciate. I advise them as much as I can, whenever they come to me with questions and what not."
Doyle said he worked hard in the weight room this summer, especially on his power clean as the Terps head to the Big Ten. He shot up to 385 pounds there, while his weight is up 10 pounds to 310. His power clean a year ago was 350.
Doyle, like his linemates, has a chip on his shoulder for being counted out as one of the lesser touted Big Ten O-lines. He knows a few offensive linemen from back home in North Carolina now playing in the Big Ten at Illinois, who told him they are curious to see how Maryland adapts in Year One.
It's a quiet, modest group, with only Mulrooney outspoken and chatty and the a prankster. Conaboy is the stoic leader who is working to become more vocal. The bookend tackles Dunn and Doyle are smart and cerebral, and obviously versatile given their many moves.
"We feel good," Doyle said. "I like it when people don't give us a chance. I think that's the greatest feeling in the world. I had that in high school and it just makes winning that much better."
Doyle Making Strides On The Right Side
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