One day, when Ryan Doyle finally tired of microwaving generic cans of cheesy ravioli, he decided to look up a recipe for chicken Alfredo. He whipped up the pasta and it tasted pretty good, so from that day on the sophomore offensive lineman vowed to learn how to cook.
“Simple stuff now,” Doyle said. “Working my way up.”
Growth defines not only Doyle’s culinary skills, but his offseason football work. A sophomore offensive lineman, Doyle has accelerated up the depth chart, challenging incumbent starter Nick Klemmat right tackle. Though Maryland Coach Randy Edsall insists the competition remains open, declining to choose with the season opener two weeks away, Doyle spent all of Saturday’s intrasquad scrimmage blocking with the first team. Another sweet and savory moment for the budding chef.
“When you’re out there, and you’re playing with the ‘ones’, you definitely feel a confidence boost,” Doyle said. “The coaches trust you, you know what you’re doing, you kind of see a lot of hard work pay off, and it feels great.”
Among the training camp battles in College Park, the outcome of Doyle vs. Klemm might have the most ramifications. Backup quarterback remains a hot-button issue, but so long as starter C.J. Brown remains healthy, it likely won’t matter whether Perry Hills, Caleb Rowe or Ricardo Young is second in line. The same goes for free safety; A.J. Hendy and Sean Davis will both enjoy extensive playing time, regardless of who appears first.
Along the offensive line, arguably the team’s biggest unknown, Maryland needs stability at right tackle. That’s where Doyle and Klemm enter the picture. Neither stood out on Saturday, both taking their lumps against a vicious front-seven that stormed the backfield with heavy pressure all afternoon. Linebacker Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil had four sacks, blitzing off the right edge and burning past whoever happened to be blocking on that particular series.
Barring injury, left tackle Mike Madaras, left guard De’Onte Arnett, center Sal Conaboy and right guard Andrew Zeller will start on Aug. 31 against Florida International. Doyle, who played just once during his redshirt freshman season last fall, seems to have gained the upper hand by virtue of his preseason strides, cooking nothwthstanding.
“I think it’s probably a product of what Ryan’s doing,” Edsall said. “I think he’s doing better than he did before. And again, the thing too is sometimes people open the door for you as well. It’s probably a combination, but it’s more for what Ryan’s doing than anything.”
As for Klemm, a senior who started four games at left tackle in 2012 before Madaras replaced him, he’s taking the upheaval in stride. The offensive linemen fancy themselves a tight-knit group of bearded protectors, ones who toss aside practice competition for video game controllers in their dorm rooms. Klemm helped Doyle last season, and remembers that feeling: young and hunting for the job of someone older.
“You want to work hard, and you want to take that guy’s spot,” Klemm said. “I know he’s working hard every day to be the best he can be.”
“He’s a great guy,” Doyle said of Klemm. “We’re definitely friends off the field. He’s taught me a lot when I got in here freshman year, and it’s been nothing but a positive relationship since.”
Here he paused, if only for a moment. The idea of starting seemed to marinate with Doyle.
“But as far as the position battle goes, I definitely want to play this year.”