Our summer football preview series is in full swing. After looking at the quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends, we’re spending this week on the offensive line. This week, we’ve already looked at the left tackles and left guards, and now it’s time for the men in the middle.
Brendan Moore spent three seasons as Maryland’s starting center, but he’s out of eligibility and getting a look from the San Francisco 49ers. In his place, though, is Johnny Jordan, who started six games at this position last year while Moore filled in at one of the guard spots. This group won’t have the depth of some others on the offensive line, but in Jordan and Ellis McKennie, there shouldn’t be too much cause for concern.
The starter: Johnny Jordan, No. 73
Hometown: Leesburg, Va.
High school: Gonzaga
Jordan was a three-star recruit in the 2017 class, rated as the No. 10 center in the country and No. 7 prospect in D.C. He committed to Maryland in July 2016 and enrolled the following summer. As a rookie, Jordan made six appearances on special teams; he served as the backup center to Moore, but didn’t see game action on offense.
Last season, Jordan was one of eight Maryland offensive linemen to start at least three games, making six starts and 11 total appearances. With three regular starters graduating, Jordan becomes one of the most experienced returners on the line. He’s finally got the center position all to himself, and appears primed to make the most of the opportunity.
The backup: Ellis McKennie, No. 68
Year: Redshirt senior
Hometown: McSherrytown, Pa.
High school: McDonogh
McKennie has been one of Maryland’s most versatile linemen since arriving on campus in 2015, and it’s led to a consistent role over the last couple years. After redshirting his first season, he made 13 reserve appearances in 2016 and six in 2017. McKennie played in all 12 games last season, making three starts.
With Moore gone and Maryland’s 2019 class not including any primary centers, McKennie now profiles as the top backup to Jordan at this position. However, he’s capable of filling in at any of the offensive line spots, and with the lack of experienced depth across the group, that versatility makes him one of Maryland’s most valuable linemen. However deep a rotation Mike Locksley and John Reagan use, McKennie will be in it.
Of course, McKennie has become even more notable for his off-field leadership. As the roommate and former high school teammate of the late Jordan McNair, McKennie emerged as a driving force in ensuring McNair’s legacy lived on. He didn’t shy away from sharing his opinion when head coach DJ Durkin was initially reinstated, and eventually spoke at an Aspen Institute panel on athlete activism. McKennie was also elected to the University Senate for the 2019-20 school year.
Tyler Hamilton, No. 53
Hometown: Bowie, Md.
High school: St. Vincent Pallotti
Hamilton was a two-time team captain at Pallotti High School and a Baltimore Sun All-Metro selection in 2016. He walked on last season and didn’t appear in game action. While it’s rare for walk-ons to surge into the rotation, Hamilton’s size makes him a viable option at center if something happens to one of the players listed above.