COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- More often than not, high school offensive linemen entering the college ranks need an initial redshirt year, or at least some time on the sidelines, in order to acclimate themselves to the speed; power; and technique needed to deal with Division I defenses. But through both necessity (read: Maryland lacked offensive line depth) and steady individual progress, Terrance Davis defied convention and partook in all 13 of UMD’s games last season. To boot, the 6-foot-3, 315-pound right guard ended up starting the final nine contests -- all against Big Ten opponents -- doing his part to spur a Terps’ rushing attack that racked up more than 2,500 yards.
“Playing in the Big Ten as a true freshman, that’s pretty hard. Getting that experience under my belt is going to be beneficial. I feel like me playing a lot last year against older guys is really going to help me moving forward,” Davis said. “At first, starting off, I wasn’t the starter so I didn’t have as much pressure going into a big game… But playing as much as I did, it surprised me a little bit, just because of the conference we’re in. But once you get into it, football is football, and I did the best I could.”
He might have done his best, but now that Davis has played a year, the Temple Hills, Md., native will have to show even more in 2017. He’s one of the key cogs up front on a young line that, at first blush, looks thinner than the 2016 version. Center Brendan Moore is the steady anchor, but beyond him, left tackle Derwin Gray; left guard Sean Christie; right tackle Damian Prince and Davis are all first- or second-year starters.
Much of that group saw significant time last fall, and while they had some success, they didn’t exactly alleviate UMD’s pass-protection woes. The Terps’ linemen did a solid enough job creating running lanes, but ranked at the bottom of the Big Ten with 49 sacks allowed.
“I feel like we’ve made huge strides. We’ve improved our technique and the mentality we have,” Davis said. “Definitely, we’re coming in with a huge chip on our shoulders. We definitely want to correct our pass protection this year. It’s definitely a driving force for us this spring.”
Although he moved well in space and performed admirably as a hole opener for running backs Ty Johnson and LoLo Harrison, Davis admitted he was up-and-down in the pass-pro category too, succumbing to quick-twitch edge rushers and disguised blitzers. Moreover, like most first-year linemen, his fundamentals lapsed at times.
“I want to allow less penetration and just make strides with my technique and my footwork,” Davis said. “And I feel like I’ve gotten a lot quicker and faster thanks to Coach [Rick] Court in the weight room this winter, and that’s translated into the spring. And Coach [Tyler] Bowen, just the technique he [teaches], it’s been a great help to me.
“I feel a lot more comfortable this year, just with the whole playbook. As a freshman, you have to learn everything, and that really slows you down, because you’re thinking most of the time. You’re going off instinct, because you don’t know what you’re doing. But now I’ve gotten in-tune with the playbook, and that’s helped me play quicker and faster.”
The star runner Johnson has been impressed with Davis’, and the rest of the line’s, progress this spring. He said it could be the best O-line group since he arrived in College Park three years ago.
“There’s still little nicks here and there, but they definitely have potential. They’re transitioning, running downfield, making blocks, making their calls loud and clear, fighting off guys like Cavon [Walker], Kingsley [Opara] and Jermaine [Carter],” Johnson said. “They’re just stonewalling everyone on the line during practice. There’s probably some things I haven’t seen, but from what I can tell they’re doing a really good job.”
Thus far during spring ball, Davis has been rock steady, per the coaches. Head coach D.J. Durkin noted his, and his linemates’, progress earlier during camp, and the offensive line coach Bowen did the same at a later date.
“Terrance Davis is working his tail off,” Bowen said. “He’s really coming along and doing a great job.”
Of course, this is Bowen’s first live look at Davis. Last year, Dave Borbely oversaw the offensive line, but he stepped aside and took a special assistant’s role back in February. Bowen, a Maryland alum who was coaching at Fordham at the time, quickly filled the void.
“Just the energy he brings,” Davis said of Bowen. “And the age difference [between Bowen and Borbely], mainly. Being a younger guy, he’s more in-tune to technology and stuff like that. He’s more relatable. I’ve learned a lot from him.”
If Davis continues responding under Bowen, the former DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) four-star and Under Armour All-American might be one of the conference’s surprise performers this fall. The Big Ten is known for producing burly trenchmen, of which Maryland has traditionally had few, but Davis could solidify himself as a stalwart up front.
“Individually, I’d like to make the All Big-Ten team,” Davis said. “But I just want to be an all-around good player and help the team win.”