In each of the past two years, the Terrapins football team has ended up in a less than desirable situation: starting a true freshman at left tackle, arguably the most important position on the offensive line.
Mike Madaras started the final eight games last season and was entrenched in the position for all eight games this season. But Madaras left the team and the university last week, so the job now falls to Moise Larose, a 19-year-old freshman out of Wilde Lake High School in Odenton.
“He’s the next guy, and nobody really gives a crap that he’s a true freshman,” offensive coordinator Mike Locksley said. “We’ve got a big game coming up this week in Syracuse at home that we’ve got to get him prepared to play in. The kid’s done everything we’ve asked of him. It came at a good time for us, if there was a good time, in that we had a bye week, and we could spend the extra time we needed to do things to prepare.”
Larose stands 6-feet-6, weighs 305 pounds and starred on both the offensive and defensive lines in high school. He was a standout left tackle but was shuffled around to the right side when he came to College Park to provide depth, and he was listed as starter Ryan Doyle’s backup for a good portion of the season.
Now, Larose will move back over to the left side, where he’ll start Saturday against an aggressive Syracuse defense. And while his appearances in the Terps’ matchups with Florida International, Old Dominion and Florida State have helped him acclimate to the college game, moving back to left tackle presents yet another challenge.
“Your footwork, your landmarks, your hand placements, your kickback, all of that,” Larose said. “It’s a big difference and switching your feet to do a position. You’re familiar with it, but you’re not used to it. It’s not comfortable yet.”
The Haitian found out about his role last week, when he became yet another young player forced into action by injuries this season.
“I was just like, ‘Dang, now I got to adjust again,’” Larose said. “For being to the twos to the ones, and now I got to flip over to the other side, so I was mentally, ‘You got to be in there.’ I just got to stay in there mentally, and then I’ll be OK.”
While injuries have ravaged the Terps this season — five key offensive skill players missed the Oct. 26 loss to Clemson — the offensive line remained intact during the first eight games of the season. But Madaras’ sudden departure changed that, though the Terps will keep most of their continuity by inserting Larose instead of rearranging the starters.
“Situations come up, and you deal with them. And Moise is the best guy to play that position for us, and so he’s out there and know he’ll do a good job,” coach Randy Edsall said. “He’s been working very, very hard, and he’ll give everything that he has. And again, I’ve been impressed with him since we’ve seen him come in here, and sometimes people get pressed into service a little bit quicker than you would like to. That’s part of the game, and you’ve got to adapt and overcome those situations.”
Larose steps into the key role of protecting quarterback C.J. Brown’s blindside. In the Terps’ past four games, Brown has missed two starts and exited the other two games early because of an assortment of injuries. Locksley said Larose received about 40 percent of the reps in practice with the second team and should be ready to go against the Orange.
Locksley said the Terps don’t plan to leave Larose in too many one-on-ones or other situations that could be difficult for a first-time starter to handle. But the Terps remain confident in Larose as the team looks for its offense to regain some of its early-season form, when it scored more than 30 points in each of its first four games.
While it’s a sudden change for Larose, he’s not prepared to get too caught up in it. He said Doyle has served as a mentor for him, and he knows what’s expected.
“Take it one play at a time,” Larose said. “Make sure you listen and know your calls, definitely, or you’re going to get yelled at, and you’re not going to know what to do.