Without Campbell, Terps' Offensive Line Woes Expand

Senior center Phil Costa, right, was flagged twice for illegal snaps in the Terps' season-opening loss.
Senior center Phil Costa, right, was flagged twice for illegal snaps in the Terps' season-opening loss. (By Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)
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By Eric Prisbell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Maryland senior center Phil Costa, one of the team's two offensive captains, said Tuesday that the Terrapins will play Saturday's home opener against James Madison without hulking left tackle Bruce Campbell, a crucial loss to an already inexperienced offensive line.

Costa said the loss of Campbell, who suffered a turf toe injury in Saturday's 52-13 loss at California, means that junior Paul Pinegar will move from right to left tackle and redshirt freshman R.J. Dill will start in Pinegar's slot at right tackle. Before Saturday's loss, Costa and Campbell were the only Maryland linemen who had started a college game.

"It means everyone will have to pick it up that much more," Costa said. "It hurts not having Bruce in there, he is a great player. But we have to move on from that."

Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen declined to discuss Campbell's injury or status until after Thursday's practice. But after Saturday's loss, Friedgen expressed concern over Campbell's injury and what it meant for the line.

The progress of the unit will be among the most prominent story lines throughout the season because the Terrapins lost five of their top seven linemen from a year ago and possess a group this season that analysts have ranked among the ACC's worst.

Facing a California defensive line that returned all four starters from last season, Maryland's offensive line often looked overmatched. Maryland quarterback Chris Turner was sacked six times -- including five times in the first half -- and had little time to find playmakers downfield.

In a series that epitomized the line's struggles, Turner was sacked on consecutive plays late in the second quarter Saturday, forcing Maryland into a third-and-28 situation from its 33-yard line. After the game, Turner defended the work ethic of his linemen, said he still believed in their potential and added that he was "having fun, just getting banged up. It's part of my job description."

But Friedgen knows an abundance of sacks won't help keep his quarterback on the field, much less help sustain offensive drives.

"The sacks, we've got to get that cleaned up," Friedgen said. "We just can't give up six sacks. Most of them were on third down. A lot of those determine field position, too."

In addition to inadequate protection, Maryland's linemen also committed inopportune mistakes. The Terrapins were twice penalized because Costa made illegal snaps. On the first Costa said he made the motion to snap the ball because a Cal player jumped offside. But the second time was the result of noise and miscommunication, he said.

"I can't do that," Costa said. "It's a drive killer and stops the momentum we have."

Costa said he has talked with Campbell the past two days and has tried to keep his spirits up during the rehab process. The 6-foot-7, 310-pound Campbell, who entered the season with eight career starts, was expected to help bolster the line and provide some stability.

Without Campbell on the field against the Dukes, even more of a leadership responsibility will fall on the shoulders of Costa, who has started 19 games in his career. Costa, who said he has been particularly hard on himself the past two days, has already told teammates to take the pain of the season-opening defeat out on James Madison.

"It's all fixable," Friedgen said about mistakes by linemen. "Just a matter of growing up and becoming more confident and comfortable."

More will be expected from Pinegar and Dill. Before the Cal game, Friedgen privately spoke to Pinegar, a former walk-on, telling the player that he had made great strides and that he needed to play an inspired game against the Golden Bears. Friedgen said Pinegar "hung in there" as well as Friedgen could have hoped against a difficult opponent in his first career start.

Friedgen also said he saw some promise in the 6-7, 320-pound Dill, who played some right tackle against Cal when Pinegar took over for Campbell at left tackle. Costa said Dill played "great. He was talking a little smack."

James Madison's defensive line is not expected to be as formidable as California's, but the Dukes feature two standout defensive linemen in Sam Daniels and Arthur Moats, both of whom were named to division I-AA preseason all-American lists by some publications.

"The biggest thing I can do is stay positive with everybody," Costa said. "It's not good not having Bruce in there, but we have to move on."

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