Ralph Friedgen is facing an all-too-common problem: conjuring depth on the offensive line.
While the crux of the Terrapins” camp is identifying a starting quarterback for the Sept. 1 opener against Villanova, there might be one idea even more dominant: make it through August without losing any offensive linemen.
The starters aren’t a concern so much as who is behind them. There’s converted defensive lineman Jack Griffin and Phil Costa.
That’s it for game experience.
We don’t have a lot on the second team, Friedgen said last week. I’m just telling you, we have a long way to go there. The cupboard is thin right there. When you get past Costa and Griffin, we’re probably dealing with guys that are hard to win with.
Little has changed. Freshman tackle Bruce Campbell, a 6-foot-7, 285-pound specimen who attended Hargrave Military Academy last year, is inching closer to playing. Friedgen swapped positions in an attempt to push walk-on Paul Pinegar and redshirt freshman Evan Eastburn closer to playing.
Years of careful recruiting left the Terps poised to enjoy depth this fall. But two would-be senior guards left after last year, and tackle Jared Gaither was declared academically ineligible in June.
We have to do some developing, and some guys have to step up, offensive line coach Tom Brattan said. We’re not pulling any guys off the waiver roster or trading away future draft picks. We are what we are, and I like our attitude now.
Much of that comes from an embrace of the situation. Veterans assume they will be needed for full games, typical throughout Friedgen’s tenure.
Meanwhile, both Griffin (at right tackle against Dane Randolph) and Costa (at left guard against Jaimie Thomas) are pushing for starting jobs.
We’re warriors, center Edwin Williams said. In a football game, it’s five guys out there. If you get a rotation out there, then you get the rotation. That’s just how it goes. I don’t think any of the guys are saying ‘We don’t have enough depth.’
An injury or two would prove problematic. Backups would have to juggle more positions, and the Terps would need to find more capable options in case of further emergencies.
Friedgen is optimistic he can find some help among his true freshmen by midseason, notably Tyler Bowen and Maurice Hampton. Yet it is only natural for young linemen to struggle to learn the offense and build strength in their first year.
All these gentlemen are very gifted, have some good size, all are good kids and all are willing to work hard, but they all have some areas they need improve on a great deal, director of strength and conditioning Dwight Galt said. No matter how hard they’re working and how much we give them, it’s going to take some time.
That could place a greater onus on Pinegar and Eastburn. Pinegar is learning guard, but Friedgen cautioned his bench press of 300 pounds is not close to the 425-plus pounds each starter lifts. Eastburn’s development is just as vital; if he can play center, Costa could remain exclusively at guard.
It leads to a tricky situation: Young linemen need time to mature, but the course of the season could force them to grow up faster than expected.
It’s not an overnight deal, Eastburn said. You’re not just going to wake up one morning and the game’s going to be real slow for you and you’re automatically going to be an All-American. It’s a process.
Notes — Tailbacks Morgan Green and Da’Rel Scott missed practice for the third straight day. Friedgen declined to describe their status beyond injured. …
Freshman wideout Lansford Watson underwent surgery for a meniscus injury and will be out four to six weeks.