Injuries Giving Terrapins' Pinegar a Shot
Friday, November 9, 2007
Offensive lineman Paul Pinegar entered his second season at Maryland with a modest goal. After walking on and spending a redshirt season on the scout team, Pinegar figured that a good season would perhaps earn an invitation to the travel squad. Though he figured, realistically, he would spend another season working with the scouts.
After all, as Coach Ralph Friedgen told him when he joined the team, learning the craft of playing on the offensive line is typically a two-year process. But when the Terrapins face No. 8 Boston College tomorrow, there's a chance Pinegar could earn his first career start at left tackle.
Starting left tackle Scott Burley has been hobbled by a left ankle injury. Freshman Bruce Campbell, Burley's backup, has also been fighting a left ankle sprain. As of yesterday, both Burley and Campbell were wearing protective walking boots, and Friedgen said they were doubtful to play. While they participated in a brief walk-through, both retired to the training room once practice started.
If neither can start, the duty would fall to Pinegar, who would become the fourth Maryland offensive lineman this season to make his first career start.
"I just feel like I'm trying to take advantage of the opportunity," said Pinegar, who was a three-year letterman at Sherwood High School.
Despite concerns about his physical readiness to play, Pinegar, 19, has played in the Terrapins' last two games after being pressed into action by injuries.
"I think he's done a great job," quarterback Chris Turner said of his potential blind-side protector. "I'm proud of him. I'm sure that he didn't think that at this time this year he would have such a big role on the team. He was ready for the opportunity when the time came."
For a while, Pinegar had his doubts about whether he could find a place in a division I program.
During his junior year of high school, Pinegar suffered a broken foot, sidelining him at a time when he could have been impressing recruiters. He spurned chances to play at Division II schools and, encouraged by his parents, he tried out for the football team at Maryland. During tryouts, Pinegar wondered again if he could survive. The practices had been much more rigorous than he had expected and certainly faster than what he had grown accustomed to in high school.
"It was a rude awakening," he said. "But I stuck with it."
His patience started paying off during the spring, when he began to draw notice from coaches. During fall camp, he embraced the idea of learning how to play guard, a move he figured would help yield playing time sooner. He was so willing to do the extra work that teammates joked he would show up on the practice field in the middle of the night to take snaps as a center.
Though he suffered a knee injury near the end of fall camp, Pinegar impressed coaches with his versatility. And as the season unfolded and injuries depleted the starting offensive line, Pinegar emerged as one of the team's most game-ready players.
At 6 feet 3 and 277 pounds, Pinegar is not as well-defined physically as his older teammates. And his relative lack of strength at times will give the Terrapins a matchup disadvantage. If he plays, Friedgen said he would try to give Pinegar help. But Friedgen said the other elements of Pinegar's game are strong enough to offer hope that he could grow into a consistent contributor.
"I think in time he'll be a good player," Friedgen said. "Right now, he's got to get physically stronger. But he competes, he has pretty good technique and he's a smart kid."
Terrapins Notes: Friedgen followed a familiar pattern yesterday in discussing his quarterback situation, saying that Chris Turner will start though Friedgen won't hesitate to play Jordan Steffy as well. . . .
Inside linebacker Erin Henderson, who suffered a back injury against North Carolina, did not practice this week and is doubtful. Henderson leads the team in tackles. . . .
Defensive lineman Travis Ivey will be available to play, though Friedgen said he is unsure of status. Ivey has been out since suffering a knee injury a month ago. . . .
Friedgen also said starting slot wide receiver Danny Oquendo is doubtful for tomorrow's game after suffering a knee injury this week.