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Maryland football’s offensive line looks to build key consistency in 2020

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The Terps’ line protection needs to improve in order for Locksley and company to get back in the win column.

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Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics; taken by Maddie Kyler

The high-flyers in Maryland’s new-look 2020 offensive regime, including the likes of wide receivers Jeshaun Jones, Rakim Jarrett and either Taulia Tagovailoa or Lance LeGendre at quarterback, mean nothing without a strong foundation.

This season’s offensive line is without some familiar faces from the past few seasons with the loss of Terrance Davis and Ellis McKennie, leaving plenty of holes to fill ahead of the team’s first game, but is looking to garner consistency as a unit behind position coach John Reagan.

The second-year coach ends the streak of one-and-dones for Maryland at the position, which has had a different leader in each of the last five seasons.

“Now I know, based off the last year, what he enjoys, what he taught us, just his terminology,” offensive lineman Marcus Minor said. “So I’m able to not only keep the knowledge of that, but able to see young guys that come in and help them understand what he truly wants, knowing the drills that he enjoys, knowing his concepts. So it’s just an easier move based off of what we had in the past few years.”

In a disappointing 2019 campaign in which the Terrapins finished with a 3-9 record, their offensive line conceded 38 sacks, the second highest total in the Big Ten behind just Illinois — though the Fighting Illini played one more game. The team allowed 3.2 sacks per game, which was dead last in the conference. And the line ranked 118th overall nationally in 2019 out of 130 eligible teams, dead last in the conference.

Head coach Mike Locksley placed an emphasis on strengthening the trenches this offseason, bringing in two JUCO offensive lineman, as well as nine freshmen at the position.

“I think we did a really good job last year of recruiting the position, and we brought in a whole lot of guys, offensive coordinator Scottie Montgomery said. “We wanted to grow that position. We thought that we’ve grown it with athleticism at the guard position, some length and girth at the tackle position. So we’re looking forward to it.”

Locksley has consistently praised the two JUCO additions, Johari Branch and Amelio Moran, in media availabilities ahead of the season’s kickoff on Oct. 24.

Branch, a 6’3, 330 pound junior out Independence Community College (otherwise known as the school from Last Chance U), is expected to start at left guard after coming into the program ranked as the No. 2 JUCO guard in the country, according to JCGridiron.com.

“The addition of the JUCO players like Johari Branch and Amelio Moran bring guys that can maybe add some immediate help to the position group,” Locksley said. “But I’ve been just as pleased with young players like to Ja’Khi Green and [Delmar] Glaze, who both have really shown some maturity in how fast they’re developing.”

Green and Glaze both came into the program ranked as three-star recruits in the 2020 class and bring much needed size to the position as well — Green is 6’6, 315 pounds and Glaze is 6’4, 316 pounds. The room is now stacked with bigger players in hopes of better competing against the bodies of other Big Ten programs.

2020 Offensive Linemen

Name Height Weight
Name Height Weight
Evan Gregory (So.) 6'4" 310
Spencer Anderson (So.) 6'5" 330
TJ Bradley (Sr.) 6'8" 325
Khristopher Love (Fr.) 6'3" 345
Brian Armentrout (Fr.) 6'3" 306
Tyler Hamilton (Sr.) 6'2" 300
Marcus Finger (R-Fr.) 6'5" 318
Johari Branch (Jr.) 6'3" 330
Sean Wilkins (Fr.) 6'4" 290
Mitchell Gorgas (Fr.) 6'4" 295
Amelio Morgan (So.) 6'6" 330
Jaelyn Duncan (So.) 6'6" 315
Marcus Minor (Jr.) 6'4" 310
Johnny Jordan (Sr.) 6'1" 305
Delmar Glaze (Fr.) 6'4" 316
Ja'Khi Green (Fr.) 6'6" 315
Zach Perkins (Fr.) 6'5" 335
Mason Lunsford (R-Fr.) 6'6" 310

Head coach Mike Locksley said he is pleased with his offensive line, but that they are still a “work in progress.” The loss of sophomore Austin Fontaine, who started six games for the Terps last season, due to an opt-out leaves the team with one less veteran in the locker room.

Junior Marcus Minor, sophomore Jaelyn Duncan and senior Johnny Jordan all started at least six games a season ago and will return on the line for the 2020 season. Jordan, a senior set to play his first full season at center, opted out back in August, but rejoined the team in September soon after the Big Ten announced a season would take place.

Minor, who started 10 games for Maryland last season on the outside as a right tackle, will make the move inside as a guard for his junior year, a position he is familiar with.

“It’s different but is definitely something I’ve done before,” Minor said. “I’ve played all positions basically since I’ve been playing this game, so it’s a lot faster.”

For the Terps, one key to consistency is good, quality communication up front. With Minor having played outside at tackle and moving to guard, his ability to bridge communication clearly will play a big role in the unit’s success.

“Communication is probably the biggest deal in the offensive front,” Montgomery said. “Being able to communicate outside in from the tackle to the center, and then being able to communicate inside out from the center, back out to the tackle.”

Montgomery added that the unit spent time over the summer on Zoom calls to work on such communication skills and improve its knowledge of the playbook. Since the start of fall camp, the focus has shifted to how the group can grow its physical skill set.

“One of the areas we put a big onus on is we gotta improve our pass protection,” Locksley said. “[We] gave up way too many sacks last year, and most of them weren’t by scheme, some of it was break down in fundamentals and techniques. And so we really put a big onus on developing and creating the skill set from a past protection standpoint to effectively be able to take care of our quarterbacks — that’s critical.”

Sophomore Spencer Anderson, who played in 11 games during the 2019 season, has received praise from his teammates and coaching staff, who have mentioned his progress over the past year and his role in helping mentor the young talent Locksley and his staff have brought in.

“He’s been a lot more vocal,” Minor said about Anderson. “His playing time has shown he’s playing hard, playing rough. So, it’s just all going to the field based off the film that we’ve looked at...he looks great.”

The unit as a whole has worked to support one another and build good habits, as that is important for long-term success.

“If somebody’s having a bad day, we’re able to pick them up,” Minor said. “Even if it’s me, if I mess up, somebody is able to grab me together, tell me like, ‘we good and keep pushing, keep our heads up’. So it’s just a bond that we’ve been able to create within our live room.”

The Terrapin success on offense will be a direct product of the consistency of its front four. Tagovailoa and LeGendre, both of whom are playing in their first full season at Maryland, will rely heavily on a sustained line that can carry them through games as Maryland looks to get back on track in an abbreviated Big Ten season.

“We have to lead as the offensive line because without us it’s gonna be hard,” Minor said. “Being up front, being in the trenches, we could show the pace...it’s gonna be hard if we don’t bring our a game every day.”