Maryland football lost to Boston College in the Quick Lane Bowl on Dec. 26. With the regular season now firmly in the rear view, it’s time to enter postseason analysis mode. We’re doing a position-by-position evaluation of the team. Let’s check in with the offensive line.
Offensive line stats
|Adj. Line Yards||114.4||15|
|SD Line Yards per Carry||2.72||107|
|PD Line Yards per Carry||3.93||12|
|Adj. Sack Rate||56.7||123|
|SD Sack Rate||7.60%||114|
|PD Sack Rate||18.80%||128|
What we thought was going to happen
Alex Kirshner figured we’d see at some solid improvement from Maryland’s line.
Mulrooney sat for most of his career behind starting center Sal Conaboy. He finally became a full-time starter there last year, and he did well with it. Doyle had a bad 2014 and was victimized a bunch by edge rushers, but he showed his mettle at a few positions last year. Maryland will miss both of their contributions. Zeller had a strong career, but guards are the most replaceable members of any offensive line.
Yet, things should be fine. Durkin has offered repeated, beyond-normal-talking-points praise for Moore all offseason, hailing him as a new leader on the line. And between Prince, Gray, Boulware, Mike Minter, JaJuan Dulaney and Maurice Shelton, someone can replace Doyle. There are lots of options here.
What actually happened
Well, Maryland did have a lot of options. And Durkin, offensive coordinator Walt Bell and line coach Dave Borbely decided they weren’t going to limit themselves to five guys up front. They rotated guys up front during games throughout the season, though this was the starting five:
Maryland’s starting O-line
|Michael Dunn||Mike Minter||Brendan Moore||Maurice Shelton||Damian Prince|
|(later Terrance Davis)|
The stats paint a very positive picture of Maryland’s run blocking. The linemen helped clear holes for Ty Johnson and Lorenzo Harrison to gash opposing defenses for long gains. Here’s Damian Prince and Terrance Davis opening up Boston College’s line on Johnson’s 62-yard touchdown run in the Quick Lane Bowl:
Maryland’s linemen were great at getting up in defenses on obvious passing downs, evidence by their No. 17 ranking in passing down line yards (it measures how many yards the linemen accounted for when the team ran it on obvious passing downs). But on standard downs (when it wasn’t obvious whether Maryland would run or pass), the line’s play suffered to the tune of a No. 107 ranking. That’s one outlying statistic though, and the line as a whole looked good in run blocking.
Pass blocking was a problem for the Terps all season. They let up 49 sacks, second-worst in all of FBS. Sacks aren’t the be-all, end-all stat by which to measure a line’s production, but there’s no shying away from it: Maryland was bad at protecting quarterback Perry Hills.
It’s also true that Hills wasn’t great at protecting himself. And it’s true that Maryland’s tight ends and running backs helped contribute to that sack count as well. Those aren’t details to just gloss over. But the linemen need to get better at this. With another season under their belts, they undoubtedly will.
Next year’s line will return probably four starters, so there’s every reason to think the players should get better at communication and fundamentals.
Michael Dunn, the line’s one departing starter, was a solid option all season, playing well enough that he could earn some NFL interest. He was reliable in every game he played, earning all-conference honorable mention from the media and from Pro Football Focus. An unspecified injury kept him out of the Quick Lane Bowl, where Derwin Gray filled in admirably.
What might happen in the future
Let’s check on who Maryland’s bringing back:
- Derwin Gray, who played well in the Quick Lane Bowl and will finally get his shot to be a starter as a redshirt juinor.
- Mike Minter, a former walk-on left guard who now has a couple years of starting experience.
- Brendan Moore, who just finished his first year as a starter during his redshirt freshman season.
- Terrance Davis, who stole the starting job at right guard halfway through the year as a true freshman.
- Damian Prince, a former five-star recruit who performed well in his first season as a starter.
(It’s also possible five-star tackle Calvin Ashley joins this group. Maryland’s been pushing him to flip from Auburn, and with three high school teammates already committed to the Terps, it’s an option. But for now at least, he’s still committed to the Tigers.)
Expectations will and should be high for next season. The offensive line will be the most talented position group Maryland has, starting at least three blue-chip recruits. With 2016 as a learning year, there’s no reason these guys shouldn’t be able to push around most defenses they go up against.