The Maryland football program is building a war chest of blue-chip offensive linemen.
Four-star guard Terrance Davis committed to the Terps on Saturday, choosing them over DJ Durkin's last two schools, Michigan and Florida. Fellow four-star guard Richard Merritt committed on Dec. 18, passing up offers from all four College Football Playoff teams and a bevy of national powers. Davis and Merritt are rated the No. 2 and No. 10 offensive guards in the 2016 class, according to the 247Sports Composite. That's eight stars worth of guard joining Maryland in two weeks.
Davis and Merritt are nice building blocks, but they're only going on top of what Maryland has already put in place. Class of 2014 tackle Damian Prince, a five-star prospect in his own right, got his first action last season after a redshirt year and held his own against the Big Ten. So did 2014 four-star tackle Derwin Gray, usually as Prince's backup. Meanwhile, class of 2015 guard Quarvez Boulware – rated the No. 18 guard in his year – will shed his own redshirt in 2016.
Make no mistake: Maryland isn't yet close to competing for a Big Ten championship. That's evident from last year's 3-9 record and 1-7 mark in league play, in which Maryland's quarterbacks were a disaster and and the entire team was racked with instability. But if the Terps are ever going to climb upward in the Big Ten, they'll have to win at the line of scrimmage.
Now, it's positioned to dominate it, at least on offense.
It's not exactly clear what Maryland's line will look like in 2016. The only two returning starters are set to be tackles Prince and Michael Dunn. Between those edges, though, there's uncertainty. The exciting thing for Maryland is that it now has two very appealing options for how to fill out the line: Either Davis and/or Merritt will be so advanced that he can start as a freshman, or, more likely, they'll both redshirt – setting them up well heading into 2017 and beyond. Because of Randy Edsall's staff's recruitment on the line in the past few years, that's just fine.
Maryland's line options next season look something like this, with 247Sports Composite recruiting rankings (with those for next season's commits) included:
|Maryland's projected offensive linemen, 2016|
The first thing that sticks out when glancing over Maryland's roster of linemen is how much better the Terps have recruited in recent seasons. Their four unranked linemen are all going to be juniors or seniors, while their four- and five-star linemen (rated 0.9 or better) all have at least three years of eligibility remaining. This means Maryland's least talented linemen next year will at least have experience, while its most talented linemen will either unseat those upperclassmen or take the year to develop into something greater.
Sorting that big pool of offensive linemen into an actual depth chart is a fool's errand. But let's have a little fun and assume that Prince and Gray stay around at least through the 2017 season and that Maryland decides to start Merritt, Davis and Boulware at the guard and center spots between them. Maryland could be looking at either one or two full seasons of an starting offensive line that shakes out like this:
|Damian Prince||Terrance Davis||Quarvez Boulware||Richard Merritt||Derwin Gray|
That's five players with a combined 21 recruiting stars between them. There's no one there who wasn't a blue-chip recruit, and every single one of them was recruited from a school within an hour of College Park.
This is what "The Movement" looks like. If Maryland can hold onto four-star quarterback commit Dwayne Haskins and get him just a little bit of help at receiver and running back, this is the sort of blue-chip-stacked offense that could credibly compete, even if just for a year, with the Ohio States and Michigans of the Big Ten East.
For Maryland, that's quite a start.