Freshmen offensive tackles Derwin Gray and Damian Prince sat about 20 feet away from each other during Maryland football’s media day on Monday, and both were swarmed with questions about hype and the transition from high school to the college game.
It’s only been one week, and yet both Prince and Gray didn’t look out of place among the team’s veterans, both hulking in their red team polo shirts and deferring questions about whether they could win a starting role on the team right now.
“I can only do my job….I leave that up to the coaches, they make the final decision,” said Gray, who is competing with junior Ryan Doyle at right tackle.
Both were highly touted blue chip prospects coming out of high school, and although both are listed as true freshmen, Gray is a year ahead after attending Fork Union Military Academy last year. He had not been able to qualify academically to attend Maryland after graduating from the District’s Friendship Collegiate Academy in 2013 but remained loyal to Randy Edsall last summer, vowing to go to a regional prep school to mature both in the classroom and on the field.
“When I first had to go to Fork Union, I looked as like, ‘Man, why do I have to do this,’” Gray said. “It helped me grow as a player and as a man off the field. It helped me take more responsibility for my actions.”
He enrolled at Maryland last January, and although he wasn’t able to practice with the team because of a shoulder surgery, Gray began absorbing the playbook and braced for a change to the right tackle position (he had played at left tackle at Friendship and Fork Union.) The move has been a smooth transition, said first-year offensive line coach Greg Studrawa who said Gray has exceeded expectations the first week of camp.
Studrawa said that the team will start the best five linemen and didn’t decline the possibility of moving players around to different positions. With junior left guard Evan Mulrooney still out after suffering from a viral infection last week, the team could move a lineman to that position to create competition for left guard Silvano Altamirano. Both Gray and Prince said they would be prepared to play anywhere on the line.
Studrawa also said Prince is ahead of the curve at left tackle. Prince said that the hype from his recruitment out of McNamara High in Forestville and subsequent decision made on national television has placed higher standards upon him entering camp, and getting the first week under his belt was crucial.
“They’re both quick learners, which sometimes young guys aren’t,” Studrawa said. “There’s a transition being away from home for the first time. Not only learning football-wise, but socially…you never know the first time away from home how those kids are going to pick things up. Those kids are both quick learners. They’re picking up things great.”
Prince held his own in several one-on-one drills during the middle of the week, but was also floored on one particular play by linebacker Yannick Ngakoue. He made several nice blocks during 11-on-11 drills Friday, but said the biggest accomplishment during the first week was learning how the offense fully functions and learning to make his calls.
“Honestly, it was a little bit scary…it was like ‘Wow, I went through all those years of recruiting, and now I’m finally here,” Prince said of starting camp. “I’m just going to do whatever the coaches ask me. I’m going to get into my playbook. I feel like anybody that is competing on this team wants a chance to start.”