Profiles in Terpage is back for 2017. Over the last two weeks, we focused on receivers and tight ends; this week, we’re looking at Maryland’s offensive linemen.
Our projected starter: Derwin Gray, junior, No. 55
Gray played in all 13 games last season, starting three at left tackle. He was a key cog in a line that excelled at run blocking, but needed a lot of work protecting the passer. At left tackle, Gray’s primary job is protecting the blindside of whoever ends up playing quarterback—all the options are right handed, otherwise the responsibility would flip to the right tackle.
The former four-star recruit now enters his second year in the same blocking scheme, part of a potentially explosive offense. With elusive running backs Lorenzo Harrison and Ty Johnson running wild out of the backfield, Gray and the rest of the offensive line can turn their attention more toward their pass blocking, which ranked 124th out of 128 FBS teams in adjusted sack rate last season, meaning Maryland’s quarterbacks got sacked too often and too quickly. The thing with critiquing offensive linemen is each lineman’s performance is impacted by the guy(s) next to him, and it takes a trained eye to see whose fault a missed read really was, or who’s really got good technique rather than just being bigger than his opponent.
As long as Gray can play at an adequate level—which he’s shown he can—he should hold down the majority of the snaps at left tackle for the duration of the season. A best-case scenario is he helps Maryland improve on its already great running game and drastically helps improve the team’s horrid pass blocking. If Terp quarterbacks have some time to find an open receiver, perhaps we could see some semblance of a threatening passing game. If that happens, watch out.
Next in line: Brian Plummer, RS freshman, No. 74; Tyran Hunt, freshman, No. 67
A former three-star recruit, Plummer weighs in at 6’6, 305 pounds. His size is certainly intriguing for a left tackle, as his big frame should give him an advantage over pass rushers. Should Gray go down with an injury, or just need a breather for a few plays here and there, Plummer has the size to be an sufficient replacement.
Hunt, also a former three-star recruit, was an early enrollee in the Class of 2017, arriving in College Park in January, some five months ahead of most of his classmates. Hunt is listed at 6’7, 282 pounds, which is a more than ideal height for a left tackle, but is at least 30 pounds lighter than you’d like. Like Plummer, Hunt’s size at least gives him a shot at being successful on the line. With good technique and footwork, he can minimize how big an issue his weight (or lack thereof) is. Even though he was an early-enrollee, a redshirt may be the best avenue for Hunt so he can spend a full season refining his technique and adding weight, especially since Gray will have another year of eligibility after this season.
We’re just moving across the line. To the left guards!