Big Ten football is won and lost in the trenches. It always has been and always will be.
Even though Maryland has put an emphasis on spreading teams out and stretching the field horizontally in recent years, recruiting big, athletic offensive linemen has been a priority and strength. Even dating back to the days of Randy Edsall, when recruiting classes would have needed a telescope to see the top 20, it hasn’t been out of the ordinary for a highly rated offensive lineman to sign with the Terps.
Unfortunately for Maryland, the team hasn’t fielded a great quarterback in quite some time, but that looks like it could change soon. The team has found some pretty good running backs to put behind its touted linemen, and things look to be setting up nicely for the next few years.
Gray is the only one of these guys who’s still on the roster, and he had to prep a year at Fork Union before he finally made it to College Park for the 2014 season. Despite being the lowest rated of the bunch and going to a junior college for two seasons, Altamirano actually started 12 games at left guard in the 2014 season. Dulaney, Larose and Jones all transferred despite appearing in a handful of games as reserve linemen. Jones’s recruiting profile has him listed at 6’3, 230 pounds, so he may have been more effective as a linebacker than an offensive lineman anyway.
The 2014 class of four offensive linemen all project to be starters on the 2017 offensive line. This was, by far, the most successful haul of the past five years. Prince also committed on ESPN on National Signing Day, becoming the first five-star prospect to commit to Maryland since Stefon Diggs. Moore’s been named to the Rimington Award spring watch list for two consecutive seasons and been a standup teammate during his tenure in College Park. Christie has paid his dues, redshirting a season before not seeing game action as a redshirt freshman and playing primarily special teams as a redshirt sophomore. After all that, he’s our projected starting left guard for the 2017 season.
Boulware was the second-highest rated recruit in the entire class and was viewed as the potential center of the future at the time of his commitment. That clearly never came to fruition, and he’s since left the program in search of a better opportunity elsewhere. Donahue and Zimmerman have also left the program before ever playing a live down, while McKennie and McClain could play key roles as reserve linemen this season.
The only one of the quartet to play as a true freshman, Davis made the most of his opportunity to rotate on the offensive line early in the season, earning the starting job after just four games and keeping it for the rest of the season. Both he and Merritt were nationally recruited prospects and after a redshirt season, Merritt could be in line to follow in Davis’ footsteps, seeing rotational time before potentially claiming the starting job. At 6’7, Plummer’s size makes him an intriguing tackle prospect down the road. He may not crack the starting lineup this season, but the Terps are thinner at tackle than at any other position on the offensive line, which works in Plummer’s favor.
Minor followed in his high school teammate’s steps, joining Davis in College Park after a year apart, bringing a mean streak with him as the nation’s No. 16 guard. It was an uphill battle to get McNair to College Park, but DJ Durkin secured the savvy McDonogh lineman’s commitment the weekend of the spring game in 2016 and kept it all the way through Signing Day. Jordan is one of the nastiest offensive linemen to sign with Maryland in quite some time, which could get him on the field sooner rather than later. Hunt was an early enrollee and is a project at tackle, but at 6’7, he’s got the length to be a premier tackle if he can gain enough weight and refine his technique accordingly.
Duncan is arguably the best offensive lineman in the state, despite being ranked No. 2, reportedly holding upwards of 30 offers. His commitment is obviously important in its own right, but could also help the Terps recruit his high school teammate, Eyabi Anoma. Gregory is one of the nicest recruits out there, but is downright mean on the field. Perhaps most importantly, he’s kept the DeMatha-to-UMD lineman pipeline open for another year. Anderson may be a project at tackle, but between his quick feet and overall athleticism, he has high upside.
With probably only one spot left on the offensive line for the Class of 2018, Maryland is still squarely in play for four-star tackle Rasheed Walker (.9467), three-star tackles Qadir White (.8892), Justin Johnson (.8509), Junior Uzebu (.8640) and junior college prospect TJ Bradley (.8850). There are a few backup plans in case none of these guys want to be Terps, but one of them will, guaranteed*.
*not a guarantee