A disintegrating line

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It’s time to elevate the threat level from Condition Yellow to Condition Orange with regard to Maryland’s offensive line.

Unlike the defensive line – which was undersized and undermanned from the start – the perception was the Terrapins‘ offensive line would be a strength.

Hey, five fifth-year seniors and a fourth-year junior taking most of the reps … that’s a recipe for success, right?

So far, not so much.

Ralph Friedgen made good on his promise to shuffle his line around in last night’s 31-0 loss at Virginia. Just as telling was the reality he only went seven linemen deep. Again.

But they’re experienced!

Maybe this is another one of those reminders that “experience” isn’t always a holy grail. There can never be enough of those. “Experience” is getting closer and closer to landing the Big Bag of Sportswriters’ Cliches, especially as team after team that is supposed to benefit from it in certain places actually enjoys no success.

But the thing is, there was reason to believe this was actually good experience.

Instead, it’s now safe to point to left guard Jaimie Thomas and right tackle Dane Randolph  as guys not playing especially well. They’re the ones who were shuttled out when Scott Burley shifted from left to tackle to right tackle, Phil Costa slid from right guard to left guard and both Bruce Campbell (left tackle) and Jack Griffin (right guard) some some serious work.

Center Edwin Williams was the constant fixture, and it doesn’t look like Costa will be getting time off any time soon. All the switching and moving made me wonder if any of the Terps’ many looks was even slightly better than the rest and could be used going forward.

“What do you think?” Friedgen glowered.

He probably doesn’t want to know what was going through my mind, which was something along the lines of “You’re the expert; tell me.” But my reply was to ask if perhaps one of the looks was salvagable.

“I’ll look at it and see,” Friedgen said.

Which, loosely translated, very well could mean “I might have a better chance drawing names out of a hat.”

The line was a worry in the first week of camp. It was a worry when the Terps were winning in September. And it’s a worry now.

And while an injury-riddled secondary and a defensive line assembled in a manner that won’t win Maryland any recruiting awards are dissected for their shaky play, the biggest issue for Maryland to contend with in the second half of the season is getting its offensive line to start coming close to its preseason hype.

Patrick Stevens

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