Terps senior Dave Stinebaugh ‘the only one standing’ at tight end

For four years, Maryland’s tight end collective was a brotherhood. On the field or off, it really didn’t matter. They lived together, joked together and played football together.

Three have since graduated. Matt Furstenburg might get picked in the NFL draft this April, as high as the fourth round. Ryan Schlothauer and Devonte Campbell worked out at Maryland’s pro day, searching for a similar opportunity at the next level. So after learning and taking cues from his older, now-departed brethren, Dave Stinebaugh suddenly becomes the elder statesman, forced to carry the torch alone.

“Yep,” he said, nodding along. “It’s funny. I’ve been with those guys for four years. Now I’m the only one standing. I’m like the older guy of the group. It’s definitely different than it was last year. After being around for four years, those older guys showed me the way. We were always together, always had a feel of what the other person was thinking.”

The Terrapins list four tight ends on their roster. Three are either redshirt sophomores (Daniel Adams) or redshirt freshmen (P.J. Gallo and Brian McMahon). And then there’s Stinebaugh, the group’s Methuselah, a walking game of “Operation.” After redshirting his freshman year, Stinebaugh missed seven games in 2010 due to medial collateral ligament and shoulder injuries. He sat out all of 2011, first in the spring while recovering from shoulder surgery, then again in the fall. Last season, Stinebaugh appeared mostly on special teams in 11 games. He made three tackles and blocked one kick. So yes, it’s been some time since he’s been “that guy.”

“Probably not since high school,” Stinebaugh said. “It’s always exciting to get back out there and know your team’s counting on you and you got to be the guy to step up and make plays. On the other hand, I’m the guy who the younger guys are looking up to in the locker room and around the offense, because we are a young team. It’s a little bit of both, but mostly excitement to get back on the field.

“Here and there, you always have flashbacks of doing things. I think being able to play in a limited role last year helped me get away with the jitters and catch back up with the speed of things. I’m just excited to get back up and out there.”

Now the clear-cut starter, Stinebaugh has to work quickly, balancing his leadership duties with first-string challenges this spring.

“For those four years, the tight ends have always been the solid, core group you can count on,” he said. “Now we have almost three freshmen, it’s definitely something different. I just try to take what I’ve learned from the older guys in my time here and pass it down to them. A lot of times, as a young guy, you’re going to mess up here and there. The biggest thing is just to move past it. As long as you can move on from day to day, that’s the biggest thing. That’s what I’m trying to teach and instill in the young guys. You’re going to mess up. I’ve been there before. You just have to move on and get better each and every day.”

Thanks to the constant upheaval under center, Maryland’s tight ends didn’t produce much last season. Furstenburg finished with 16 receptions for 206 yards and two touchdowns. Campbell caught three passes for 37 yards, and Schlothauer was mostly a special teams asset.

But with C.J. Brown preparing for a healthy summer, a loaded wide receiving corps and a backfield with enough experience, tight end could be a major question mark, especially given Stinebaugh’s injury-laced track record.

“It’s definitely an adjustment period, because of injuries and not being able to play up until last year,” he said. “Trying to find myself on the football field, being the guy who takes all the reps, it’s definitely an adjustment, figuring out how to be the older guy and leader, while also being the guy who produces on the field and helps the younger guys out.”

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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Alex Prewitt | March 28, 2013