Maryland coach Randy Edsall sat in his office Friday and ticked off a list of skill position players at his offense’s disposal next season.
Brandon Ross. Wes Brown. Albert Reid. Stefon Diggs. Deon Long. Marcus Leak. Nigel King.
Those were the highlights, though not the entire list. There will be experience at quarterback next year as well.
It all leaves one obvious place where improvement is necessary.
“Offensively, it’s going to be the offensive line,” Edsall said. “We have to get a whole lot better in the offensive line.”
Nice of him to say so, since this will be the first of about a dozen times the subject is analyzed and scrutinized and sliced and diced between now and the Aug. 31 opener against Florida International.
The Terps (4-8 in 2012) lose a pair of offensive line starters in guard Bennett Fulper and tackle Justin Gilbert. They return a plethora of players with some starts up front.
But a lot of starts? That’s another matter.
Guard Josh Cary owns 12 career starts. De’Onte Arnett has 10, Sal Conaboy nine, Mike Madaras eight, Evan Mulrooney five, Nick Klemm four and Andrew Zeller three. Peter White has six career starts, though all came in 2011.
So that’s eight linemen with starting experience, which sounds good. But none has started wire-to-wire for a season, and all of them were competing for time on an offense that ultimately ranked last nationally in total yards per game.
That’s not entirely on the line; after all, Maryland’s quarterback situation was a mess, its tailbacks were inexperienced and there were enough injuries to generally limit what the Terps could do. But the line was certainly part of the struggles.
That’s why it was little surprise that Maryland sought out a junior college option to fortify things up front, adding Silvano Altamirano earlier this week.
“He’s going to be a guard,” Edsall said. “I think he brings a toughness. he brings an athletic ability, a pulling ability that you like. he’s someone that’s got some extra experience besides high school experience. Being able to come in mid-year is something that’s advantageous from what we want to get done.”
The standard operating answer from Edsall will surely be the Terps are seeking to put their best five offensive linemen on the field. That is, generally speaking, what most coaches try to do.
As for how those guys might be divvied up by position? Here’s an educated guess:
TACKLES: Madaras, Klemm, Ryan Doyle and Jake Wheeler
GUARDS: Arnett, Zeller, White and Altamirano
CENTERS: Conaboy, Mulrooney and Stephen Grommer
There’s also reinforcements on the way among Maryland’s commitments, and if 2012 taught anything, it’s that Edsall is not remotely hesitant to use true freshmen (even on the offensive line, where Madaras took over as a starter during the bye week and never relinquished his spot).
One thing’s for certain: With two obvious openings (left guard and right tackle), one spot that was in flux (right guard) and one position with a couple of somewhat seasoned options (center), the questions about the line will neither be answered quickly nor go away.
For his part, Edsall knows finding solutions will go a long way in determining if his third season in College Park can go smoothly.
“To me, offensively, what we have to do is get that offensive line [built] up and ready to go,” Edsall said.
—- Patrick Stevens