Behind new position coach, Terps’ offensive line enjoying stability

terpslogoThe human can of Red Bull marches into the film room at 6:30 a.m., wide awake and ready to go when his groggy-eyed offensive linemen are in desperate need of a jolt. “It makes it exciting,” tackle Ryan Doyle said of the Maryland football team’s newest assistant coach.

When Greg Studrawa accepted the offensive line coaching job at Maryland late last month, he inherited a situation entirely unfamiliar to the Terrapins in recent seasons. They actually had some returning starters, and experienced ones at that, players who had been mainstays along the front five for an entire season or, in center Sal Conaboy’s case, 22 career games.

“I’m excited, watching the guys, getting to see them working out in the morning,” Studrawa said last week. “I’m excited about the talent we’ve got here. I’m excited about the guys we’ve got up front. Those guys are having a good winter so far, working hard to get better.”

Maryland has striven for front-line stability over the past two seasons, but problems kept getting in the way. In 2012, the Terps ranked 112th nationally in sacks allowed, watching their revolving door of quarterbacks get dropped more than three times per game. A true freshman closed the season starting at left tackle and only right tackle Justin Gilbert started more than 75 percent of the team’s 12 games.

In 2013, Maryland shaved more than a sack per game from its thorny average and finished 66th nationally in the category. Despite the midseason departure of Mike Madaras and the one-game starting stint of freshman Moise Larose at left tackle, the Terps closed the season with roughly the same personnel as when they started, albeit shuffled slightly. Doyle had moved from right tackle to left tackle but started all 13 games, as did Michael Dunn in moving from right guard to right tackle. De’Onte Arnett, now graduated, was a staple at left guard all season. Conaboy is tied for the team lead in career starts.

“I think we made tremendous strides last year and I think we made even more in the offseason,” Conaboy said. “It’s good to have guys coming back with experience. That’s something we haven’t really had. That’s exciting for me, guys filling their roles.”

This spring, everyone is healthy and reinforcements are on the way. Conaboy, Dunn, Doyle and right guard Andrew Zeller will begin practice Saturday entrenched as starters. Silvano Altamirano, and Evan Mulrooney, a rising senior and junior, respectively, are competing for the left guard job.

“The injuries, that takes a toll on everybody and they’ve had some bad luck with some injuries,” Studrawa said. “Injuries is something you have to be able to overcome. That goes back to me, recruiting and developing depth. That’s the key to this spring, getting these guys in there, not only finding the best five to start but finding quality backups and preparing those guys. At some point in their schedule, they’re going to be called upon at a critical time to play.”

Once the summer dawns, the Terps will add junior college transfer Larry Mazyck, five-star recruit Damian Prince and, provided his shoulder heals in time, prep school addition Derwin Gray. Maryland hasn’t revealed where they will slot, but all should ramp up the competition and challenge for first-string spots.

“I think the competition is going to be extremely fierce,” Doyle said. “I actually think that the best thing for our offensive line, because inevitably that will push everyone harder. They’re all going to want to get out on that field, and I think that will put the best five guys on the offensive line. I think that’s what our team needs.”

That and an SEC-caliber jump-start in the meeting room, which Studrawa, who came from LSU, has happily provided.

“A lot of intensity,” Conaboy said. “I’m interested to see how he is in practice. In practice, I can already tell, he’s an intense guy.”

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