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Maryland's most important unit: offensive line

The offensive line remains Maryland’s most important unit heading into the season.

Last season, it was expected to be suspect and turned out to be worse. Injuries and inexperience led to a disastrous performance; the line could neither create holes for running backs nor protect the quarterback.

This season, coaches not only are optimistic about the line, but Coach Ralph Friedgen believes it will be a cause for Maryland’s overall success.

“I am anticipating we are going to have a good season because of our offensive line,” Friedgen said.

The key, of course, is keeping the five starters healthy. The backups lack experience; all are either redshirt freshmen or sophomores. And the starters --- left tackle Justin Gilbert, left guard Andrew Gonnella, center Paul Pinegar, right guard Justin Lewis and right guard R.J. Dill --- would benefit greatly from playing together for an extended period of time.

“It’s like you have a dance partner, how is that guy going to react in certain situations?” Friedgen said. “It’s one of the reasons why the offensive line is one of the closest units on a football team, because they are so interdependent upon each other. If we can keep that cohesiveness, we’ll be fine.”

Three starters --- Gilbert, Lewis and Dill – are third-year sophomores. But despite the youth, all five have game experience, and only Gilbert has not started a game. Friedgen opened training camp impressed with the progress the linemen made over the summer.

Last season, some players had so much trouble remembering their responsibilities that Friedgen would give Lewis, Dill and Gonnella what he termed “remedial” football work in his office while the offensive staff pieced together the game plan.

“Not a lot of head coaches are doing that,” Friedgen said. “I have had them say [this season], ‘It is so much nicer knowing what we are doing.’”

By Eric Prisbell  |  September 4, 2010; 8:12 AM ET
Categories:  Football  
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