Entering the offseason, the Terrapins football coaching staff identified its offensive line as an area that needed to be patched up and strengthened as it moved forward.
The Terps struggled at times to protect quarterback C.J. Brown in 2013, and after remaining intact through the first eight weeks of the season, the line fell into disarray when left tackle Mike Madaras left the team and injuries hit some of the other starters.
So when recruiting, the Terps made the offensive line a priority. And after reeling in five offensive linemen, including five-star recruit Damian Prince, the Terps addressed that need. And with a wealth of talented skill position players on the outside, the Terps’ focus entering spring practice, which begins Saturday, is to shore up the line.
“We’re well aware that the one area for us to be good on offense and the type of offense I want us to be, that [coach Randy Edsall] wants us to be, it starts up front,” offensive coordinator Mike Locksley said yesterday. “Unfortunately, we didn’t have the depth up front that you need, and so we went out and spent some time recruiting offensive linemen, and were able to at least create some depth there for us.”
In addition to five new players joining the offensive line, the Terps also return six players with starting experience. Entering spring practice, Silvano Altamirano and Evan Mulrooney are listed as co-starters at left guard, while left tackle Ryan Doyle, center Sal Conaboy, right guard Andrew Zeller and right tackle Michael Dunn round out the rest of the offensive line. Moise Larose, who started at left tackle after Madaras left the team in October, is listed as the second-string left tackle.
But in the course of spring practice, through the summer and into the fall, that can all change completely.
“When the freshmen come in in the fall, some are very, very talented, and if they show that they’re the best guy, then they’ll win that position,” Edsall said. “But it’s going to be very competitive.”
In addition to Prince, a 6-foot-5, 300-pound product of District Heights, the Terps also added the 6-foot-8, 340-pound Larry Mazyck from Iowa Western Community College, Brendan Moore from Austin, Texas, local product Derwin Gray and Sean Christie from Medford, N.Y.
When the Terps move to the Big Ten, they’ll face teams like Wisconsin that have the reputation of boasting big and rugged offensive linemen. But Locksley said the looming move had no bearing on recruiting.
“I’ve coached in the Big Ten, so I hear all the time about the bigger players in the Big Ten, and I don’t necessarily think it’s that much different in the size of the line or the size of the players in the Big Ten and the ACC, having coached five, six seasons there at Illinois,” Locksley said. “So for us, it’s just good to be able to add the depth. And then we’ve increased our athleticism, so that depth is going to create competition.”
The Terps added offensive line coach Greg Studrawa shortly before signing day after he spent the previous seven seasons with LSU. He was able to meet with all of the recruits before they signed to get to know them, and he knew exactly what he was looking for.
“With the linemen, you want to get big and strong and powerful,” Studrawa said. “Those are things, but also being flexible and being athletic.”
The Terps are entering the third year of Locksley’s system, so the coaching staff knows what the team needs to thrive. After a year that occasionally featured some struggles up front, the Terps reacted to prevent the same issues in the fall in the Big Ten.
Between returning starters and an influx of young talent, Edsall has plenty of options to create the front five that gives the Terps the best chance to win.
“Those are guys that we feel have the size, the athletic ability, the mentality that we want in our offensive line,” Edsall said on signing day earlier this month. “When you’re watching, they’re move well, they’re athletic. They’re tough, they can bend. That was something we wanted to address, and I thought we addressed it in a very big way with all those five guys.”