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. First up is a trio of tackles looking to protect the weak side.
Maryland will look to replace two-year starter and seventh-round NFL Draft pick Derwin Gray at left tackle with a group of rather inexperienced linemen. Mike Locksley and new offensive line coach John Reagan will turn to Jaelyn Duncan, TJ Bradley and Mason Lunsford. It’s a large group physically, as each member stands at or above 6’5, but the trio brings just four combined games of college experience into 2019.
The frontrunner: Jaelyn Duncan, No. 71
Year: Redshirt freshman
Hometown: Owings Mills, Md.
High School: St. Frances Academy
The redshirt freshman was the highest-rated commit in DJ Durkin’s last recruiting cycle, clocking in as a consensus four-star and the No. 11 offensive tackle in the class of 2018, per 247. With much of offensive line returning from the prior year, Duncan was able to redshirt as a true freshman. Now, he'll be thrown into the fire.
Duncan clearly made an impression on the new coaching staff, emerging as the frontrunner for the job in spring camp. At the spring game, the lineman caught a pass as an eligible receiver to help secure the media-voted Most Valuable Lineman of the game. He’s ideally sized for the position, and put on 35 pounds during his redshirt year. This season will give him the chance to proclaim the starting left tackle slot as his for the foreseeable future.
The wild card: TJ Bradley, No. 57
Year: Redshirt junior
Hometown: Leesburg, Va.
Previous School: Lackawanna CC/Tuscarora
Bradley is the hardest to project of the trio. With Gray off to the draft, the redshirt junior was in good position to compete for a starting tackle spot. Bradley is the only member of this trio with college game experience, having appeared in four games last season as a reserve lineman. Instead, the former Lackawanna Community College product will have to battle his way back from injury before he can fight his way up the depth chart.
Bradley tore his patellar tendon during the first week of spring practice and could miss part of all of the 2019 season. That particular injury requires at least six weeks in a brace after surgery and between six to 12 weeks after surgery before returning to sports begins with walking on level surfaces, according to Boston Sports Medicine. It's projected to take 5-6 months for Bradley to get to progressively ramp up running, speed and agility drills, and he won't be able to start rehabbing his jumping ability until after over six months.
With that timetable, it’s possible Bradley is able to contribute during the season, but it won’t be easy.
The newcomer: Mason Lunsford, No. 78
Hometown: Olney, Md.
High School: Good Counsel
Offensive linemen typically redshirt their first year to bulk up, but Lunsford has the size to compete right away. The three-star Good Counsel product was Locksley’s second commitment and one of just six recruits to sign at the early signing period, showing how the staff prioritized him.
With Bradley likely to miss a large portion of the season, Lunsford will likely get early reps as a relief lineman. Locksley and staff will have the ability to play Lunsford in up to four games without losing his redshirt. If the newcomer looks out of place or not up to speed, Maryland might have to shift some tackles around. However, on a team without a lot of proven tackles on the outside, Lunsford could make an impact early.