It’s a term that has long since passed cliche, so please provide a little forgiveness for trotting out “old school” to describe anyone.
But that’s a fairly accurate accounting of Maryland offensive line coach Tom Brattan, one of Ralph Friedgen‘s original staff members and a guy who seems to plug away year after year with the same steadiness.
Some years set up more favorably than others. And when left tackle Bruce Campbell went down with a turf toe injury last week, the situation Brattan faced became decidedly less appealing.
And yet when he was summoned to the interview room this week, he seemed downright giddy. OK, maybe that’s not the best description, but he was certainly excited. Brattan is a guy who is normally courteous, polite and tolerant of all sorts of questions, which is really all you can ask for.
But he’s also, well, old-school —- an even-keel, hard-working guy. Which is why seeing him so fired up in trying circumstances was interesting.
So after the crowd dissipated, I asked about his upbeat approach.
“What are you going to do? What are you going to do?” Brattan said. “You’re not going to pick up anybody from waivers. There’s nothing —- these are the cards that we’re dealt. Two years ago, when we lost Jaimie Thomas and Andrew Crummey, there’s nothing you can do. You have to coach them up to the best of your ability and they have to see the opportunity that’s ahead of them. They can reach out and grasp it and go.”
And there are no shortages of opportunities. Beyond center Phil Costa, there could be a lot of shifting around throughout tonight’s game against James Madison:
* Five guards could easily play extensively for the Terps. Andrew Gonnella‘s a given, but Bennett Fulper, Maurice Hampton, Justin Lewis and Lamar Young all will figure in.
* At tackle, Paul Pinegar and R.J. Dill are the likely starters, with Tyler Bowen and Justin Gilbert also potentially factors.
“You can sit and feel sorry for yourself, but we don’t have Bruce this week,” Brattan said. “OK, no Bruce, OK? What are we going to do? Are you going to quit and not show up? Let’s go play.”
Brattan’s approach is complemented by a memory of seven years ago. Using what he described as a pro line —- basically eight or nine interchangeable parts —- the Terps were in a tough spot when both Matt Crawford and Kyle Schmitt were hurt.
It turned out to be an eye-opening experience for Brattan about who he had at his disposal, even though the game was in November.
“This is how Stephon Heyer got his start,” Brattan said. “A guy went down and he had to go in and play at North Carolina. It was like ‘Whoa, pretty good.’ Now someone else is going to get an opportunity. R.J. Dill gets his opportunity. You wish he was a year older and all that, but that’s not reality. The reality is right now, it is what it is. You have to function.”
—- Patrick Stevens