For Washington Redskins offensive line coach Joe Bugel, College Park has been a treasure trove.
In 2007, the Redskins signed former Maryland tackle Stephon Heyer as an undrafted free agent. Heyer started that preseason on the left side in place of the ailing Chris Samuels and finished the season as the regular on the right side in place of the injured Jon Jansen. Heyer started last season as Washington’s top right tackle and holds that position again this summer.
Following Heyer’s success, the Redskins signed ex-Terps guard Andrew Crummey after the 2008 draft. He was on Washington’s practice squad until the Cincinnati Bengals signed him to their active roster in October.
Which leads to Bugel’s latest projects, center/guard Edwin Williams and tackle Scott Burley.
“They get after it over there,” Bugel said of Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen and offensive line coach Tom Brattan. “They’re down and dirty. Any time you get a kid from Maryland you take him because they’ve been well-coached and they’re tough kids.”
Brattan first got to know Bugel in the mid-1980s - back when Bugel had developed the undrafted Joe Jacoby and Jeff Bostic into Super Bowl starters and Pro Bowl linemen. Then-Redskins coach Joe Gibbs’ son J.D. was playing at William & Mary. Tribe coach Jimmye Laycock suggested Brattan, his assistant, visit training camp and learn from Bugel.
“We’re a blue-collar team, and they respect that,” Brattan said. “We run a lot of that same West Coast scheme and terminology. When you’re a free agent, you want to find the right place. Signing our guys has borne fruit for the Redskins.”
That certainly is the case with Heyer. Williams, who earned kudos from Brattan for his savvy, is competing with Will Montgomery for a backup role inside. Burley, extolled by Brattan for his athleticism, is a true long shot, given the ever-enthusiastic Bugel’s assessment of him heading into Thursday’s preseason opener against the Baltimore Ravens and another ex-Maryland lineman, Jared Gaither.
“Burley needs a lot of work as an offensive tackle in this league because of [his struggles with] the speed rushers,” Bugel said. “Edwin, he made an about-face [since his] rookie workout. He’s a smart kid. In the long run, he’s going to be a good football player.”
Heyer is doing his best to help his proteges follow his path to NFL employment on an aging line that badly needs some other credible young players in the pipeline.
“Stephon helps me and Edwin tremendously,” the 6-foot-5, 335-pound Burley said. “You can call him any time of night with anything. He’s there to help us just like he was with me in college when I was playing behind him. I feel like I’m making progress here, but I’m still trying to grasp Coach [Bugel’s] technique with the punch. It’s different from the punch we used at Maryland. Every opportunity to show a coach what I can do, I grasp it.”
That’s how the 6-3, 315-pound Williams, who was signed as a center, reacted to his recent move to guard, a position he played - along with tackle - at DeMatha High School.
“I definitely feel like I’m getting better at guard after four days there,” Williams said. “I’m learning a lot. If I’m on the practice squad, I would just feel blessed to be part of this organization. Hopefully I can get in the mix as soon as possible, but I know have a very long road to go.”
By Mark Mix
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