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Terrapins' Offensive Line Is Mostly Untested

Maryland offensive line coach Tom Brattan sat back and reflected the other day on just how many preseasons he's taken part in since he got into the profession. His final tally: 37, including his years in the high school ranks.

During that time, Brattan has overseen the development of offensive lines at Northwestern and Stanford. For the past eight seasons, he's had a similar job at Maryland. And while he's had lines that were better or worse than his current group, Brattan struggled Monday to recall on offensive line as green as the one with which the Terrapins will enter the season.

Senior Phil Costa and junior Bruce Campbell are the lone returning starters from last year's offensive line, which was considered a team strength heading into the 2008 season. Campbell is absolutely massive (6 feet 7, 310 pounds) and should be able to hold down the left tackle spot just fine. Costa, a guard last season, is moving over to center, but his experience should enable him to adjust quickly.

But the three other offensive line positions are up for grabs. Offensive coordinator James Franklin said left guard Andrew Gonnella, a redshirt sophomore, was impressive during spring and summer workouts. He played one game last season in reserve against Wake Forest.

Franklin also said the battle for the right tackle position between junior Paul Pinegar, sophomore Tyler Bowen and redshirt freshman R.J. Dill has been "intense." Bowen had foot surgery in the preseason last fall and did not play. Pinegar played in seven games as a reserve last season.

According to Brattan, the approach will not change simply because he's dealing with a younger group. Rather, he'll focus on emphasizing certain points that otherwise might have been glossed over.

"I don't think you change your approach so much as you emphasize the fundamentals a little bit more," Brattan said. "You never take anything for granted, but certain things that three-year starters do, you would assume they know it. You don't make that assumption now. On the flip side, when you deal with a new group, there's kind of a renewed sense of enthusiasm and purpose. It's still novel to them. It's still new to them. As compared to sometimes your older guys, they can sometimes have the old pro mentality where it's, 'We've done this before, Coach.' "

Brattan mentioned basic footwork in zone protection schemes as one example of an area where fundamentals will be preached. Over and over again.

Franklin said having four quarterbacks on the roster will enable the team to spread out more during practices. He said the plan is for there to be two separate groups practicing at all times.

"We're going to split the teams up into the ones and threes and twos and fours so that every period they'll be two groups going on at once so that everyone gets reps," Franklin said.

The offensive coordinator noted that if he was going to pick two positions along the offensive line to have returning starters, they would be at center and left tackle. As it so happens, that's exactly what this team has heading into training camp. Regarding the rest of the spots, well, Coach Ralph Friedgen said he'll just have to wait and see.

"I think the kids have worked extremely hard," Friedgen said. "I'm anxious to see if they've improved since the spring. I think they're hungry; I think they're energized. I'm going to be patient. And I think they're the key. If they can come along and play well for us, I think we can be pretty good on offense."

By Steve Yanda  |  August 10, 2009; 3:58 PM ET
Categories:  Football  
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