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The woes of O-line recruiting

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If there is a topic worth revisiting about 73 times this season to explain Maryland’s scuffling football team, it is the recruiting that has led to the current state of the offensive line.

While last year’s unit underachieved relative to their expectations, it was still veteran laden. It still helped the Terrapins knock off some ranked opponents. It still paved the way for Da’Rel Scott to roll up 1,000 yards on the ground.

And what does Maryland have now?

One offensive lineman who was recruited as a scholarship player who is in either his fourth or fifth season in the program. That would be Phil Costa.

Some of the surprisingly vital figures in determining the course of this season aren’t necessarily the players in uniform now, or guys who spurned Maryland for other schools in the recruiting process.

It’s the Zach Marshalls and Evan Eastburns and Joe Faiellas and Bearthur Johnsons who spent a year or two in the program and gave Maryland nothing but a gaping hole in its offensive line development.

And this afternoon, coach Ralph Friedgen addressed exactly that.

“What’s happened is we had a class that we knew this year was coming,” Friedgen said. “We recruited five linemen that year and Tyler Bowen has a foot injury, Stephen St. John has had a shoulder problem. Faiella transferred because he knew he wasn’t good enough. Then you have Maurice Hampton and Lamar Young, and Lamar’s had some shoulder problems also.”

Friedgen left out Johnson, who arrived on campus massively overweight, memorably spent all of camp in 2008 trotting laps around the practice facility in a futile attempt to get in shape and ultimately flunked out.

That’s only a minor omission, though it’s worth noting Bruce Campbell was also part of that class after a prep school year.

Still, the point remains. The Terps haven’t entirely whiffed on offensive line recruiting in 2006 and 2007, but it isn’t a pretty picture. Of the eight guys signed in those two classes, only three have made a single start. Just as many never played a down for Maryland.

Regardless of skill position talent, no team is going to be good without a decent offensive line. And when there are such a large concentration of misses in such a short period of time, there are some things that will usually happen. Like:

* A quarterback who takes a beating because of lousy protection

* The perception that a running back is regressing because his yardage total plummets

* An offense with limited play-calling options because the line can’t give it time

Sounds familiar, huh?

It’s out there for all to see that many of the guys Maryland is playing have a ways to go to get better. But it is the players who aren’t with the Terps – or, more to the point, some of the poorly evaluated signees who never should have been in College Park in the first place – who have just as much to do with the 1-3 start as the guys now struggling to get by on Saturdays.

Patrick Stevens

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