There were no complaints from Maryland offensive lineman Justin Gilbert this week.
Yes, he’s playing a different position this season. That’s nothing new.
Besides, learning right tackle is a whole lot better than rehabilitating back-to-back ACL tears.
Gilbert’s five-year odyssey with the Terrapins comes to an end this season. He initially played center, then soon moved to left tackle, where he started the first three games of the 2010 season. The first of the knee surgeries cost him the rest of his sophomore year, and the second forced him to miss the first two months in 2011.
When he came back, he played right guard since R.J. Dill and Max Garcia were entrenched at the two tackle spots. Both transferred in the offseason, allowing Gilbert to try the fourth position of his career.
“It’s pretty good,” Gilbert said. :It’s tackle. I’m definitely a lot more comfortable at tackle just because that’s what I’ve played my whole life. It’s easier being that I know how to play it and I just have to switch myself. I spent the end of the spring and the whole summer focusing on getting in a right-handed stance, my steps out of a right-handed stance. Now I feel great. It feels like I’ve been playing it the whole time.”
That’s welcome news for the Terrapins, who were fortunate to have a reasonably well-known quantity to plug in after enduring so much attrition in the last offseason.
With Gilbert at right tackle, Maryland will likely have only one starting offensive lineman without at least one career start when it opens Sept. 1 against William & Mary.
By then, Gilbert will be 17 months removed from his last surgery and with about 40 practice days (including 15 in the spring) at right tackle.
“It helped out a lot just showing I could play,” Gilbert said. “It was more ‘I could go out there, my knee’s stable, my knee’s good, I can play against other teams.’ I came into the spring and played the whole spring, whole summer workouts, never missed a rep.”
Assistant coach Tom Brattan said he hoped Gilbert would be a “very big stabilizing force” for the Terps, who lost 29 of their 60 offensive line starts from last season. Gilbert is one of two scholarship seniors on the offensive line, along with Bennett Fulper, and the Terps will surely need him to help hold things together up front.
“He looks to be more confident right now,” coach Randy Edsall said. “His technique isn’t anywhere near where it needs to be right now but I see a guy who’s a little bit more confident now than he was in the spring. If we have that, we can focus and concentrate on the technique for him.”
—- Patrick Stevens