More on the line

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At long last, the promised follow up on the offensive line.

Yes, it took all day to get to this, though server issues are partially at fault here. It also happens to be a surprisingly busy week, and things just got lined up poorly on my end.

Anyway, I made it a point to ask offensive coordinator James Franklin yesterday about his thoughts on the offensive line, and in what is not at all a shock, he pretty much echoed coach Ralph Friedgen on the subject.

“Just inconsistent,” Franklin said. “I think they practiced as good [Tuesday] from an effort standpoint, an energy standpoint, from attention to detail. It wasn’t perfect. I watched a few guys, and there’s a couple guys I think can be really good players for us, and they need to step up and be consistent. Jaimie Thomas and Scott Burley and guys like that, and they’re playing well at times. We need them to play more consistently. It’s those guys as a group. I’m not trying to single those guys out.”

Like I said, much the same as what Friedgen had to say yesterday.

At the same time, it’s clear at this stage Maryland doesn’t have that much more line depth than last year – or at least more depth it’s comfortable using. The Terps trotted out seven offensive linemen on Saturday, and that is a pretty good test as to how deep they’re willing to go in a tight game.

Paul Pinegar’s the next man up after the top seven, and he’s appeared enough to make you believe he would be reasonably effective in a pinch. But there’s questions after that, and it makes you wonder if Maryland could seriously withstand more than one injury to its line.

“I think we probably could and there’s a couple guys we’re really excited about,” Franklin said. “Justin Lewis right now is doing a very good job and is very talented, but if we can save his redshirt, we’d like to do that. He’s a big physical, strong kid who can run and he’s smart, and he’s been practicing with the varsity all year. We have some other guys if we need them to they could play. If we don’t have to, we’d prefer to save them.”

There’s both good and bad in this comment. First the good: Unlike Friedgen, Franklin has come out and said he’d like Lewis to redshirt if at all possible. With linemen, it’s almost always better to go the redshirt route, especially without a prep school year in the mix. If Maryland can help it, it would be wise to keep Lewis on the bench this season.

Now the bad: A lot of “the other guys” don’t have a redshirt year to use anymore, which basically means they’re not quite ready yet. The Terps have a posse of redshirt freshman linemen, but injuries (Tyler Bowen, Joe Faiella and, if you count spring ball, Maurice Hampton), conditioning (Bearthur Johnson) or simply not progressing as quickly as anticipated (Lamar Young) have limited their development.

Stephen St. John is the other guy in that mix, and while he’s been on the travel roster and played briefly against Eastern Michigan, probably isn’t an immediate answer at tackle right now.

So it looks like a seven-, maybe eight-man show on the line. And all that depth Friedgen is fond of dreaming about at this crucial position will wait for another season.

Patrick Stevens

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