Paul Pinegar might be the only offensive lineman with a solid hold on his job. I wonder if his salutes have anything to do with it. Image via farm4.static.flickr.com
We already went over the various position battles; or, at least, the battles that were actual battles (sorry for the phrasing, Dex). The offensive line? That's not a battle. That's a streetfight.
Maryland's offensive line was undoubtedly one of the worst in the country last season, a result of questionable line recruiting for several years. While they've seemingly learned their lesson, the recent recruiting classes won't take effect for another year or two.
Until then, we're left with...this. Basically no one has a set position, as line movement was common during the season and has been throughout the spring as well. It seems that the starting lineup has the potential to change daily. Eventually, however, they'll have to hammer out something that looks like a starting lineup. Let's try to make some sense of this mess.
Paul Pinegar - Possible Positions: C, RG, RT, LT
Pinegar is the veritable jack of all trades for Maryland's offensive line. A former walkon, he saw occasional time as an emergency backup, which essentially equates to being in the two-deep considering Maryland's depth. He earned his scholarship last season and became a regular starting, focusing mostly on the tackle spots with a short stint as a guard. He's currently projected as the starting center, but with the state of the offensive line, he could end up anywhere. With his versatility, the question isn't really if he starts, but rather where.
Andrew Gonnella - Possible Positions: LG, RG
Gonnella has a very similar story to Pinegar. A former walk-on, he was extremely impressive in practice early last year, and earned both his scholarship and a starting spot on the guard-starved offensive-line. He actually wasn't half-bad, and ended up not only as one of the better feel-good stories of the year, but also one of Maryland's better offensive linemen. Like Pinegar, the question is whether he starts, but on which side of the line.
Bennett Fulper - Possible Positions: RG, LG, C
Fulper was one of the lone bright spots on either line for Maryland last season; one of the few true freshmen to start for Ralph Friedgen on the offensive line (possibly the only one), Fulper well exceeded expectations. Unfortunately, he suffered a season-ending soldier injury after his fourth start. Although most of his playing time was at the left guard slot, he was supposed to succeed Phil Costa at center. For whatever reason, that's not happening, and he's instead looking at one of the guard spots. Given his play last season, my money is on him starting somewhere, and possibly moving back inside if Pinegar struggles.
R.J. Dill - Possible Positions: RT
One of the few linemen for Maryland that really has just one true position, Dill has a ton of potential with little results to this point. He has prototypical size and athleticism, but has struggled with his technique and was frequently beaten badly by seasoned defensive ends. The good news is that last season was his redshirt freshman year, so a poor performance was to be somewhat expected. If he can capitalize on his potential, he can be an adequate tackle in the ACC. If he doesn't see any major improvement, well, the right side of the line won't be pretty.
Justin Gilbert - Possible Positions: LT
Dill's single-position counterpart is on the other side of the line at left tackle. Gilbert received a solid amount of playing time when Bruce Campbell was hurt, but he certainly didn't stand out from the rather awful crowd, except for the occasional holding penalty. Like Dill, however, he was a redshirt freshman - he was expected to struggle to some extent. But he received much less playing time than Dill, and was less impressive in it. It'll be interesting to see if he can hold onto his job.
Pete DeSouza - Possible Positions: RT, RG
DeSouza was part of the final duo of "big linemen" that Friedgen recruited. He played at nearby DeMatha and was relatively highly-touted coming into the program. Just a redshirt freshman, though, he lacks any experience whatsoever. He's much less of a sure deal than a guy like Dill or Fulper. Then again, how much worse could he be? To me, he's a big sleeper in this battle.
Pete White - Possible Positions: RG, LG
If you want a potential four year starter or even eventual offensive line star (as oxymoronic as it may be), it's probably going to be Pete White. Unfortunately, he's a natural guard, which is where the stiffest competition on the line may lie. He's an absolutely massive guard, and as he slims down a little he'll become a major force on the line. I don't know if he'll start this year, but he'll probably receive playing time.
Lamar Young - Possible Positions: LG, RG
Last season's Terrapins Rising actually had some interesting, useful information in it: Lamar Young doesn't exactly take criticism particularly well. Phil Costa tried to point out a mistake to Lamar, and he simply walked away. That, combined with other rumors of poor work ethic, might explain why the talented Young received inconsistent playing time last season. Despite a few starts early in the year, his playing time severely dropped off later in the year. If he can improve in practice, he can certainly reclaim his spot.
Nick Klemm - Possible Positions: RT
Klemm might end up being a major sleeper here. He didn't receive much recognition last season, but he reportedly came close to seeing playing time in his true freshman year. Justin Gilbert isn't anything close to being a lock at right tackle, so the big, raw Klemm might have the easiest path to playing time among the new redshirt freshmen.
Justin Lewis - Possible Positions: RG, RT
A surprise starter last year, Lewis wasn't exactly outstanding in his time as part of the starting eleven. He received only 3 starts, and lost his job before the end of the year. That said, he didn't do anything poorly enough to make me opposed to him starting if Brattan, Friedgen, and Franklin determine he was good enough to end up a starter. Something makes me thing that won't happen, but you never know.
I told you, it's chaotic. Only Pinegar and Gonnella have probabilities to start, let alone guarantees, and it could be a multitude of positions. There would be a massive amount of guesswork going on for anyone outside the coaches' office to predict any sort of starting lineup. For something that will almost certainly be the deciding factor for Maryland's success in 2010-11, it's not an encouraging sign.