Editor’s note: This story, like this week’s series and all of our summer football coverage, feels uncomfortable and insignificant in the wake of Jordan McNair’s death. We’re still devastated, as is the entire Maryland football family. We will continue to cover new developments in this story, and we’ll also cover the current team as effectively as we can.
It’s time to continue our position-by-position rundown of Maryland football as we prepare for the 2018 season. We’ve gone in-depth on quarterbacks, running backs and the receiving corps already. Now let’s enter the trenches and take a look at the offensive line.
Maryland had five clear-cut starters up front in 2017, and they’re all back.
Through all the turbulence of the Terps’ 4-8 season, the offensive line seemed to be the one constant. For all the mysteries of who might be next in line at quarterback, Maryland fans could always count on seeing the same five linemen settling into their stances.
Offensive linemen don’t have easily digestable stats, which makes them difficult for casual fans to evaluate. Perhaps the closest thing we have is Pro Football Focus’ end-of-season grades, which suggest this was one of Maryland’s best units. Left and right tackles Derwin Gray and Damian Prince both registered above 80 on the 0-100 scale, while center Brendan Moore and right guard Terrance Davis eclipsed 70. Left guard Sean Christie checked in at 41, which was the worst of anyone to take a snap on the line.
The eye test showed an inconsistent group that could only do so much to mask the deficiencies in the backfield, but returning all five starters is never a bad thing, especially assuming none of the starting jobs are guaranteed. Gray and Prince were both on the NFL radar before deciding to return for their senior seasons, while Moore and Davis are entering their third year as starters. Christie might not be able to hold off younger talent and keep his spot, but he still brings extra experience to the meeting room.
We’ll see a lot more than this quintet in 2018.
It’s normal for teams to have a rotation of six or seven linemen, and this Maryland squad should have the depth go be as inclusive as it wants. This is the area in which the Terps have been effective and consistent on the recruiting trail, and that’ll show this season and beyond. Prince is one of Maryland’s two five-star signees this decade—Stefon Diggs is the other—and Gray and Davis were high four-star prospects in their respective classes.
Marcus Minor was one of the few freshmen to see time in 2017, and he might actually be the favorite to grab the fifth starting spot (be it at guard or tackle). Johnny Jordan is the backup center who can easily play his way into an even more prominent role. True freshmen Jaelyn Duncan and Evan Gregory weren’t early enrollees, but they’re talented enough to make a splash this summer. And let’s not forget about mammoth tackles TJ Bradley and Tyran Hunt, or true freshman Spencer Anderson, or redshirt sophomore guard Brian Plummer.
Gray and Davis were held out of spring practice as they rehabbed injuries, while Prince was limited throughout and shelved at times. They’ll all be ready to go when fall camp arrives, but their absences allowed several younger players to accumulate first-team reps. The cast is largely the same, but there are plenty of different combinations the coaching staff can put forth.
There was yet another coaching change here.
Maryland hired James Madison offensive line coach Bryan Stinespring in January after Tyler Bowen left his alma mater to become the tight ends coach at Penn State. He’s perhaps best known for his decades at Virginia Tech, where he was both an offensive line coach and an offensive coordinator under Frank Beamer.
Stinespring’s pedigree is impressive, and he seems to have the respect of everyone at the position, but he’s Maryland’s fourth offensive line coach in as many seasons. Bowen was preceded by Dave Borbely, who was preceded by Randy Edsall assistant Greg Studrawa. Combined with the change at offensive coordinator from Walt Bell to Matt Canada, the group will have plenty to adapt to.
This level of coaching turnover can make it difficult for a position group to thrive. But Maryland’s offensive line might be inspired and able to do just that.