Maryland right tackle R.J. Dill, a stalwart for the Terrapins over the last three seasons, said in an e-mail Monday he intends to leave the program.
The departure is not the first in the wake of a 2-10 season under first-year coach Randy Edsall, but 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 further comment beyond his e-mail. 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.
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 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 played primarily on the field goal and extra point unit this fall. The Terps’ other reserve tackle with some experience is Nick Klemm, who will be a junior next season. Neither Klemm nor Wheeler has ever 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 of the season, was granted a release. Edsall had earlier 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.
The native of Mechanicsburg, Pa. was one of three offensive players to start every game this 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.”
—- Patrick Stevens