The experience theorem is as follows:
The greater the number of regulars who return at a certain position for a college team, the less that position will be viewed as a concern.
This inversely proportional relationship doesn’t always make a world of sense. After all, sometimes those returning regulars aren’t that good, and proved it a year earlier. But people like to assume experience=good, as evidenced when “returning starters” rather than “talent” is used as a primary consideration for figuring out who will be good.
But if there is a position where experience (or at the least, age) really does matter a lot, it’s offensive line. And Maryland has plenty of it, with five fifth-year seniors and a fourth-year junior among its top six options.
But what of next year? Phil Costa will probably slide into one of the guard positions (or center), and Bruce Campbell will no doubt be the left tackle. But the only other lineman who has any non-garbage time experience is Paul Pinegar, so that would seem to make cycling some guys in this season to be an ideal goal.
“I don’t worry about next year,” coach Ralph Friedgen said. “I’m worried about this year. Right now, I’m not real pleased with the way our offensive line is playing. I don’t think they’re playing the way they’re capable of playing. I think they have to start picking it up.”
That might be a doubly troubling comment. A struggling line will torpedo an offense far quicker than a quarterback with an arm made of spaghetti or a wide receiver with hands of stone.
But here’s another truth: Somehow finding at least a series every game for Lamar Young, for Tyler Bowen (when healthy), maybe even for Stephen St. John and Maurice Hampton will alleviate some of the worries sure to come at this time next year. By then, current true freshmen Justin Gilbert (center) and R.J. Dill (right tackle) might be closer to contributing as well even if they manage to take a redshirt as expected.
So while this year is indeed worth thinking about the most, it might make sense for the Terps to peek ahead whenever possible to ‘09. At least where the offensive line is concerned, anyway.
—- Patrick Stevens