Maryland right tackle R.J. Dill, a stalwart for the Terrapins over the last three seasons, said in an email Monday he will not return for his senior season.
The departure is not the first in the wake of a 2-10 season under first-year coach Randy Edsall, but it might wind up as one of the most unexpected and costly for the Terrapins as they head into 2012.
"I regret to inform the Terrapin faithful that my family and I have decided it would be best for me to move on with both my academic and athletic endeavors," Dill said in an e-mail. "Therefore I have requested and been granted a release from the Maryland football program. I leave here with great memories of the university and Terp Nation."
Dill, an economics major, declined comment beyond his email. He has one year of eligibility remaining, and he could play next year if he either transfers to a major-college school that offers a graduate program Maryland does not.
"We wish R.J. well in his future athletic and academic pursuits," Edsall said. "We appreciate the commitment and effort R.J. has given to the Maryland football program."
Dill completed the fall with the most career starts (33) and most consecutive starts (30) of anyone on Maryland's roster. Both numbers were the biggest for a Terps offensive player since center (and current Chicago Bear) Edwin Williams started 39 games in a row between 2006 and 2008.
He started on a bowl team in 2010 but also was a mainstay on the first two 10-loss teams in school history.
"Over my four years here we as a football program have been through a lot, both highs and lows," Dill said. "To all the members of Terp Nation I thank you for your unwavering support from the bottom of my heart. This year was not what we all expected or hoped for, but it has been truly educational and I leave here with no regrets of my time at this great university."
Dill's departure is a significant blow to an offensive line that was set up to be one of Maryland's strengths next season.
Left guard Andrew Gonnella was Maryland's lone senior offensive lineman last season, and he missed the final seven games — all double-digit losses — after suffering a dislocated knee Oct. 8. But the rest of the line, including center Bennett Fulper, left tackle Max Garcia and guard Justin Gilbert, figured to team with Dill in 2012 to be part of one of the ACC's most experienced lines.
Dill's backup at season's end was redshirt freshman Jacob Wheeler, who primarily played on the field goal and extra-point unit. The Terps' other reserve tackle with experience is Nick Klemm, who will be a junior next season. Neither Klemm nor Wheeler has started a game.
Dill is the third Maryland underclassman to announce his departure from the program since the end of the season. The Baltimore Sun reported last week defensive end David Mackall, who was suspended the final four games, was granted a release. Edsall had said it was unlikely the sophomore would return to the team.
Tailback D.J. Adams, who was used sparingly over the final eight games of the season, also said he would seek to transfer.
A well-regarded recruit (he was SuperPrep's 25th-ranked prospect in Pennsylvania in the class of 2008), Dill was pressed into action far earlier than expected thanks to injury and inexperience along Maryland's offensive line in 2009. He started eight games at right tackle that season, absorbing some hard-earned lessons as the Terps struggled to a 2-10 season.
The accelerated learning curve helped the next fall, when he entered the season entrenched at right tackle. But when Gilbert suffered a season-ending ACL tear in the season's third game, Dill switched to left tackle for the final 10 contests and helped the Terps improve to 9-4 and win the Military Bowl.
A native of Mechanicsburg, Pa., and the son of a Naval Academy grad, Dill was one of three offensive players to start every game this season as Maryland became the first team in a major conference to sandwich two 10-loss seasons around a winning season.
"I wish the Maryland football program nothing but the best," Dill said. "Good luck to everyone involved with the program, from my brothers on the team to Coach Edsall, [offensive line coach Tom] Brattan and the coaching staff. I will always bleed red, white, black and gold and most of all, I will always be a Terp."
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