TT's Summer Thoughts: Offensive Line

It seems like forever and a day that the Terps have had a consistent, veteran (shoot, throw in elite as well) offensive line, what with the many recruiting hits and misses, departures, and overall lack of "umph" up front. Whether it was the Ralph Friedgen or Randy Edsall era, for the most part it has been slim pickings over the last decade with such patchwork units.

It seems like forever and a day that the Terps have had a consistent, veteran (shoot, throw in elite as well) offensive line, what with the many recruiting hits and misses, departures, and overall lack of "umph" up front. Whether it was the Ralph Friedgen or Randy Edsall era, for the most part it has been slim-pickings over the last decade with such patchwork units.

But after making some recent progress via recruiting, now four and five-stars are gradually starting to replace the walk-ons and mid-major types Maryland has had to get by on for years. Maryland is getting there, but they are not all the way there yet. The process began last year in earnest when five-star Damian Prince and four-star Derwin Gray, two local standouts Maryland had to have, came on board. And after showing promise early in the spring settling into their new roles at left and right tackle, respectively, Gray's debut may have to be delayed a bit this fall. After two shoulder surgeries in the last two years, a second mid-way through spring ball to clean up some remaining issues, Gray could possibly miss the first game or two this season.

Meanwhile, Prince, who came in well overweight, has gotten down to a more manageable number, and is beginning to take off on the right side with his massive base, good feet and improving grasp of the playbook.

With the uber-athletic and long-armed Gray still coming around at left tackle (he also struggled a bit in the playbook this spring), look for junior Michael Dunn, the Terps most heady, consistent lineman to man the left side as the season starts. Dunn is still not going to wow/overpower you each time out, but he is solid, consistent, and makes few mistakes. Dunn was shut-down late in spring camp as a precautionary measure for his back, but will be good to go in camp. Gray still needs more reps as he masters things, so the injury was untimely indeed. We'll see how long, or when, he can unseat Dunn, a former walk-on who has overachieved, after things get up and running this fall.

Inside at left guard, senior jack-of-all-trades Ryan Doyle returns as the Terps most versatile talent (having played both positions and sides), and the shift in the weight room to more bulk/strength has aided his ability to play more physical. Maryland got away last winter from its formula of more agility/finesse in the weight room, once they got a dose of the run-heavy Big Ten, and all the linemen look noticeably stouter eight months later. Both these steady-Eddies are three-year starters, two of the three the Terps have returning up front. Doyle struggled at times outside at tackle last year, so is a better fit in the interior.

In the middle, senior utility man Evan Mulrooney emerged late in spring camp as the guy at center, lapping senior reserve Stephen Grommer, while holding off promising redshirt freshman Brendan Moore. While the athletic and cerebral Moore appears to represent the future at the position, Mulrooney, a hard-working senior who knows all the calls and tricks of the trade, appears to be the opening starter, though it should be a battle throughout. Mulrooney is another veteran with experience, having started previously at both center and guard during some injury-prone years on the Terps' offensive line. Also he is another with solid but unspectacular athletic measureables, but he has a "streak" and appears to have toned his body a bit this off-season as he prepares for his final go-round.

On the left side at guard, another newly-minted "man-mountain," thanks to the shift in the weight room, is senior Andrew Zeller, who is the Terps most aggressive trenchman up front, and another three-year starter coming back. He has cut down on missed assignments and the like that dogged him in his early years when he was all aggression, so now has a more complete package as a physical talent, one that began to shine last season as he got more comfortable.

The Terps have been trying to get the line better each year, and that includes becoming more aggressive and meaner -- having that mentality -- with better ability to get downhill in the run game, which has been so paltry at UMD of late. Last year the line took a step up as far as pass-protection, but run-push still lacked as they were rarely a threat on the ground beyond C.J. Brown running wild at times. The new additions, not to mention the bulkier three-year starters, should help aid the process this year, as well as the fact the Terps should have more help at tight end for more in-line help.

Among some of the key reserves on the line, the Terps are still waiting on sophomore Jajuan Dulaney to take the next step/add more of a base to get in the rotation, while others that Randy Edsall noted in the spring include redshirt freshman Sean Christie, who blew out his knee last fall in his first Terps camp but is back. The Terps also return reserve sophomores Mike Minter and Joe Marchese.

The Terps lost three starters off their late-season line last year (Sal Conaboy, Silvano Altamirano and Jake Wheeler), but it appears the infusion should take them a step further towards a Big Ten line, despite some youth. And there will still be a learning curve with the rookies, but it is high time to throw them in the fray and build away.

Maryland enjoyed a strong 2015 recruit class haul linemen as well, with perhaps of the five former four-star guard Quarvez Boulware the best shot of getting in the two-deep this fall. The rest are likely to redshirt, barring injuries, etc.

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