We’ve reached the fourth week of our position-by-position preview of Maryland football. After previously breaking down quarterbacks, running backs and the receiving corps, this week is all about the offensive line. Yesterday was a group overview, and today it’s time to look at the group’s most important position, left tackle.
The starter: Derwin Gray, No. 55
Weight: 330 lbs.
Year: Redshirt senior
Hometown: Washington, D.C.
High School: Friendship Collegiate
Like many college lineman, it took a while for Gray to make an impact—except in his case, there’s an extra layer involved. He committed to Maryland in June 2012 before his senior high school season, but spent 2013 at Fork Union Military Academy and redshirted in 2014 while recovering from an injury. He appeared in two games in 2015, then in every game the next year, including three starts at left tackle.
Gray started every game at left tackle last year, and should again after he decided to forgo the NFL Draft and return for his senior season. Gray graded at 80 on Pro Football Focus’ 2017 season grades, which is deemed “very good” according to their 0-to-100 scale. Even with Maryland’s revolving door at quarterback, he was named an All-Big Ten honorable mention last season.
The backup: Marcus Minor, No. 72
Weight: 294 lbs.
Hometown: Lanham, Maryland
High School: DeMatha
Minor committed to the Terps in the summer of 2016, and recovered from a November spinal contusion injury to earn playing time as a true freshman. He appeared in nine games last year, making his first career start at right guard against Michigan State.
Minor is the Swiss Army knife of Maryland’s offensive line, which means he has the talent to rotate around the line wherever he’s needed. Although he was recruited as a guard, it’s unclear where he’ll end up spending most of his time at Maryland. He could beat out Sean Christie at left guard for the final spot on the starting unit, or he could start at right tackle with Damian Prince moving inside. He could also remain a rotational utility lineman all season. Either way, we’ll be bringing up Minor’s name a lot this week.
The wild card: TJ Bradley, No. 57
Weight: 285 lbs.
Year: Redshirt sophomore
Hometown: Leesburg, Virginia
Previous School: Lackawanna CC/Tuscarora
Bradley is perhaps the biggest wild card on the entire offensive line. He played high school football as a freshman and didn’t return to the sport until 2016, when he redshirted at Lackawanna Community College. But he helped lead Lackawanna to a 7-2 record last year, and now will have to make another transition to Division I.
Although little is known about how Bradley will turn out, it’s clear he was a highly sought-after JuCo talent, receiving offers from Penn State, Virginia Tech and West Virginia. His 6’7 frame is ideal for the tackle position, though he will probably have to bulk up before he’s ready to play against Big Ten defensive linemen. Bradley got a head start by enrolling in Janaury, and has the potential to make a major impact before his time in College Park is over.
The future: Jaelyn Duncan
Weight: 300 lbs.
Hometown: Owings, Maryland
Previous School: St. Frances Academy
Duncan is Maryland’s highest-rated recruit in the Class of 2018, and looks like the Terps’ future left tackle. 247Sports lists him as 6’6 and 300 pounds, which means he already has the ideal height and almost the ideal weight to be a collegiate left tackle.
Incoming offensive lineman usually redshirt their first year in college, but DJ Durkin hasn’t been afraid to play them right away. Terrance Davis was starting by the end of his freshman year, and Minor and Johnny Jordan worked their way into the rotation last year. If Duncan makes a strong impression this summer, he could follow in their footsteps.
Other tackles who might play either spot but we’ve decided to formally introduce later: Spencer Anderson, Tyran Hunt, Brian Plummer