Maryland received a peek at Max Garcia’s talents under emergency conditions late in the 2010 season.
The left tackle intends to show them quite a bit more starting this fall.
Garcia, who took over as the Terrapins’ starter this month when junior Justin Gilbert suffered another injury to the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, had a now-you-see-him, now-you-don’t cameo late last fall.
Maryland’s already-thin offensive line lost Bennett Fulper and Justin Lewis to injuries in the first half of the team’s game against Florida State. It was the 11th game of the year, and Garcia took 16 snaps before he, too, was injured.
Just like that, Garcia’s chances of redshirting were gone.
“At first, I was a little bitter about it,” said Garcia, who later played in the first half of Maryland’s Military Bowl rout of East Carolina. “But I’m a real team player. I feel like that’s what I came here to do. When I look at it, I still have three years to perfect my craft.”
Besides, Garcia is well-versed in Maryland’s recent history of exporting offensive linemen to the NFL. His high school was a rival of former Terp Stephon Heyer’s alma mater. He hoped when he committed to Maryland he would get to work with Bruce Campbell (a wish that didn’t come true since Campbell turned pro before Garcia arrived on campus).
And he also knew he was one of only five offensive tackles to play as a true freshman under former coach Ralph Friedgen. Of that group, Campbell, Heyer and Jared Gaither all made it to the NFL.
“All of those guys are in the league now,” Garcia said. “I don’t know. Maybe that’s a sign.”
Even before his debut, Maryland’s coaches gushed about Garcia’s development and skill set. In a different year, the 6-foot-4, 290-pounder would have played extensively as a true freshman. Instead, he committed himself to being ready when needed despite the anxiety of not knowing if the time would come.
There won’t be any question when that will be this season.
When Maryland plays its spring game Saturday at Byrd Stadium, Garcia will be the top left tackle. With Gilbert, who started three games in 2010, likely out until October, Garcia also is the likely starter for the Sept. 5 opener against Miami.
“He’s impressed me since his true freshman year,” quarterback Danny O’Brien said. “When he came in as the No. 1 guy getting all the [first-team] reps, we just kind of kept rolling where we left off.”
Garcia received a boost when new coach Randy Edsall retained offensive line coach Tom Brattan. It was Brattan who recruited Garcia out of Norcross, Ga., and quickly developed a bond with the prospect.
Edsall is impressed with the second-year player he inherited, appreciating Garcia’s toughness, aggressiveness and good feet. There’s only one obvious regret: the lost year of eligibility.
“He’s got a physical presence, and he’s got the tools,” Edsall said. “I just wish he was a redshirt freshman as opposed to a sophomore.”
Garcia, though, isn’t dwelling on it. He is proud to have played for Friedgen, who was fired after last season, and figures there still is plenty of time to leave his imprint on Maryland’s offensive line legacy.
“I’ll just take those three years and maximize those three years,” Garcia said. “I would love to have another year back, but that’s just not going to happen now.”