COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- They range from no-stars to three-stars, and its unlikely any will be playing on Sundays.
But Maryland's starting offensive line, long the object of scorn at College Park for pushing a decade, has been Randy Edsall's biggest surprise this season, so said the head coach this week at his Tuesday lunch presser.
And they will need to keep surprising with No. 18 Ohio State coming to town Oct. 4 for the Terps Big Ten home opener, and against what Edsall calls the best defensive front Maryland has faced this season.
From left to right, the yeoman group of tackle Michael Dunn, guard Silvano Altamirano, center Sal Conaboy, guard Andrew Zeller and tackle Ryan Doyle, have cobbled together Maryland's most solid unit up front in probably five years, one that has overachieved in pass pro and continues to improve week to week in run push.
This week the challenges rise to another whole level, with OSU tackles Michael Bennett and Adolphus Washington, as well as end Joey Bosa, among others coming to town for the Buckeyes. Against Indiana last week, Maryland got more offensive balance including some bigger lanes to run through for the backs. This week the Terps' front must keep either banged-up senior starter C.J. Brown, or red-hot junior reserve Caleb Rowe, upright against the greatest pressure they have seen all season.
Edsall said on Oct. 2 that the O-line group is clicking and coming together more each week. They've also played every significant down, knock on wood, with no injuries yet on a unit that has a history there. Dunn was a walk-on, Altamirano a JuCo afterthought who has finally seen the field in this, his final season, Conaboy, Zeller and Doyle all three-star recruits with modest offer lists.
"I think this will be the best defensive line that we have played this year," Edsall said. "I think this is the biggest challenge to this point in time we have faced as a team, and we understand that. But it gets back to guys just making sure that they are fundamentally sound and they are communicating and they are using good technique."
Edsall said the practice week has gone well so far, the players "focused and working hard," Edsall said.
On that line, Edsall added when asked if it is a yeoman, blue-collar group that has bonded well:
"You could call them that if you wanted to," Edsall said. "I think it is a group of guys that have a lot of pride in themselves. They are a group that's getting better, communicating very well, and they want to be good. You can see each of them getting better individually and gaining more confidence with every game that they play."
Meanwhile, Edsall named as game captains Marcus Leak on offense, Cole Farrand on defense and Anthony Nixon on special teams.
Scout Team Players of the Week were Joe Riddle on offense, Abner Logan on defense and Zac Morton on special teams.
This week's flag bearers will be Kenny Goins (U.S.) and Roman Braglio (state).
The Terps are wearing their "Pride 2.0" uniforms with the hand-painted helmets.
The game is Maryland's first sellout since 2008.
Edsall said he has changed nothing this week during the preparation, regardless of opponent and some of the hype coming in. Of the first sellout he said:
"I think it is great. Hopefully we can continue to do it," Edsall said. "I really appreciate all the people coming out, I appreciate the hard work of the people here at the University doing what they have done to make it happen. Hopefully we can start to do that on a consistent basis."
Edsall said the full house helps from everything from recruiting to a louder environment, while the "excitement and energy continues to fuel our guys to push through when maybe some things happen that are unexpected, sudden change situations or different situations throughout the ballgame," Edsall said.
Edsall noted again that his quarterback decision will be a game day one as the Terps continue to work through the injury bug, which has hit them every game including Brown (left wrist) last week at IU.
He said most every true freshman is on the table this season to burn their shirts if the injuries continue.
Edsall is not required to file an injury report in the Big Ten, but as with each week, game day will reveal who is in and out. Last week the Terps were without the services of running back Albert Reid, as well as linebackers Matt Robinson and Alex Twine. Brown was injured in the first half at IU and did not return.
"Everything is on the table. Everything is on the table," Edsall said of the rookies.
Edsall Lauds O-Line, But OSU's A True Test
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