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Maryland football spring positional preview: Damian Prince, Derwin Gray populate young offensive line

It's time for some of Maryland's highly-touted recruits to come of age.

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

The Maryland football program is eligible to start spring practices under DJ Durkin on March 8. Over the next few days, we'll be previewing where the Terps stack up at every position heading into the offseason's regular season.

The players

Returning starters: Damian Prince, Mike Minter, Michael Dunn

Other contributors: Derwin Gray, Brendan Moore, JaJuan Delaney, Maurice Shelton

Coming off redshirts or haven't played yet: Quarvez Boulware, Mason Zimmerman, Ellis McKennie, E.J. Donahue, Sean Christie

Incoming freshmen: Terrance Davis, Richard Merritt, Brian Plummer, Terek Zingale (Note: none enrolled early, so they won't be in College Park until August.)

The overview

Maryland's offensive line is coming off of an improved season, but the Terps enter 2016 with some major question marks. Redshirt freshman Brendan Moore is now the team's only scholarship center, and left tackle Michael Dunn will be the unit's only senior with consistent starting experience next season. 2015 saw one of the team's two heralded tackle recruits claim a starting job, as Damian Prince took over as Maryland's right tackle. Quarvez Boulware redshirted his first season with the program, but Andrew Zeller's graduation would seem to open up a logical starting spot at left guard for the former four-star from D.C.

The Terps got some much-needed reinforcements on the offensive line in class of 2016 guards Terrance Davis and Richard Merritt, but both will likely redshirt their first seasons at Maryland, and won't be on campus for spring practice anyway. Maryland's future on the offensive line is incredibly bright, but 2016 could end up being a gap year before we see a line full of blue-chippers in College Park.

Position battles

Michael Dunn vs. Damian Prince vs. Derwin Gray

Maryland has three tackles who might be ready for starting roles, but only two spots for them. Dunn and Prince finished last season as the starters, but Gray was seeing first-team reps at left tackle last spring before suffering a torn labrum in April. Gray and Prince are the highly-touted youngsters, while Dunn, the unit's veteran, is a former walk-on who was an All-Big Ten honorable mention in 2015. The coaching staff could also decide to move one of the three inside to guard.

Key question

How will the unit's talented youth perform?

With Prince, Boulware, Moore and Gray all at least fighting for spots, the Terps' starting unit will be a young one. This question especially applies to Moore. As the center, he'll be responsible for calling out protections in Walt Bell's new fast-paced, screen-heavy offense. And without a clear starting five established (at least that we know of), these guys won't have the advantage of playing next to the same teammates down after down. They'll have to get comfortable lining up next to and communicating with different players.

Breakout player

Derwin Gray

Now that he's healthy, the former four-star recruit could make a real push for playing time this spring. He's a physical specimen, evidenced by this piece from The Diamondback, where a teammate said he thought he saw Gray push a defender's "sternum through the back of their body" in practice. (We probably would have heard about it if he did, but you get the point.)

Spring depth chart projection

Let's call this a relatively uneducated guess. Lots of these players could swap sides and positions, so take this with a huge chunk of salt.

1st unit Michael Dunn Mike Minter Brendan Moore Quarvez Boulware Damian Prince
2nd unit Derwin Gray Sean Christie ?? Maurice Shelton JaJuan Delaney