Maryland's Offensive Line Prepares to Answer Critics

Members of Maryland's offensive line are used to banding together. "We feel it's our time," says Tyler Bowen.
Members of Maryland's offensive line are used to banding together. "We feel it's our time," says Tyler Bowen. (By Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)
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By Eric Prisbell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 18, 2009

By early June, Phil Costa had heard enough critics discount Maryland's offensive line, so the unit's lone senior gathered the younger linemen in the Gossett Team House to deliver a pointed rebuttal.

"It is going to be a little different than last year," Costa told teammates. "They thought they were entitled to something. I don't care what year you are, I want to bring a new attitude: You are coming to play every day."

Five fifth-year seniors played significant roles on an offensive line that last season failed to live up to expectations, producing mediocre or inconsistent results. Costa and teammates are intent on proving that last year's experience and this season's youth mean the same thing: nothing.

"Age is nothing but a number," said junior Bruce Campbell, Maryland's starting left tackle.

Throughout the summer, Maryland's new-look line has been almost universally panned by analysts and pegged as one of the ACC's worst. Critics look at a unit that lost four players who combined to start 110 games in their careers, and a line that returns two starters -- Costa, who moves from guard to center, and Campbell -- who have started just 27 combined games.

And on an offense that includes a senior quarterback (Chris Turner), a returning first-team all-ACC running back (Da'Rel Scott) and a talented group of wide receivers, finding stability and success along the line is viewed as the coaches' most important objective.

"That," offensive coordinator James Franklin said, "is the challenge we have on offense."

Franklin acknowledges that experience does count but believes there is enough talent and competition at three positions -- right and left guard and right tackle -- to help compensate for the unit's youth. And he doesn't believe the presence of an experienced quarterback, one who will play his third consecutive season as the primary starter, should be discounted.

"If I had to choose between a veteran quarterback with a young line and a young quarterback with an experienced line, I would choose having a veteran quarterback and a young line," Franklin said. "An experienced quarterback can get the ball out faster, so the line does not have to block as long."

When dissecting each position on the line, Coach Ralph Friedgen has a good sense what he will get out of Costa, who has started 19 games. Friedgen considers Costa the quarterback of the line and said he already has provided strong leadership and earned the respect of players, and is unafraid of voicing his opinion to players or coaches.

At left tackle, Maryland has a physical specimen in Campbell, a 6-foot-7, 310-pound player who can bench press 490 pounds. Friedgen said Campbell is a very good athlete who has impressive speed -- 4.7 in the 40-yard dash -- for his size.

"Bruce is going to dominate," Costa said.

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