Forgive Sam Hollenbach for being confused.
Maryland's first-string quarterback came to the line for a drill this week, saw senior tight end Derek Miller lined up at left tackle and figured the Terps had botched their formation. He was wrong.
Hollenbach didn't yet know that Miller, a tight end for his entire high school and college career, had been elevated to first-string tackle after the season-ending knee injury suffered by Stephon Heyer.
"Kind of weird," Hollenbach said, "but there's a lot of changes going on."
With Maryland's first August scrimmage scheduled for tomorrow, much of the focus has turned to an offensive line that bore the brunt of this month's injury onslaught. Counting Heyer, four of Maryland's top 10 linemen have missed practices this week.
The five linemen who worked with the first-string offense yesterday afternoon have a combined six career starts, not counting Miller's 12 at tight end. And the carnage continued yesterday, as backup guard Garrick Clig sprained his left knee during a pileup and will likely miss 10 to 14 days.
"It's almost freaky the way things have happened," said Coach Ralph Friedgen, who said he will run slightly abbreviated practices today and might cancel tomorrow's scrimmage.
"I don't know if we have, first of all, enough players to do it."
On the day that Maryland started preseason practice, Friedgen raved about the offensive line recruits who have arrived in College Park the last two summers, describing them as more athletic, bigger and stronger than past players.
"We've got a lot of work to do in these next three weeks," he said then, "but I see us building something pretty big for the future."
The timetable began to change, though, when the crutches and medical jerseys appeared. Heyer's injury at first had redshirt freshman Dane Randolph, who was a defensive lineman a year ago, working with the first string. Randolph said he was excited and even called his mother with the news, but he was also "very nervous" and said he had a poor practice during his one-day audition.
By the next day, Friedgen had been convinced by other coaches that Miller was the best starting option, and so he reluctantly forfeited a player who would have been featured in the two tight-end schemes Maryland plans to employ more frequently this season.
"I just didn't see where we had a choice," Friedgen said. "If we lost another tackle, we've got to have some kind of answer. We're out of tackles."
Miller weighs about 45 pounds less than Heyer but said he doesn't want to bulk up in case he's again needed at tight end. He has been cramming on his assignments with his predecessor's help -- Heyer comes to practice on crutches every day, working with the linemen and consulting with them on the sidelines -- and said he's just trying to "react and do the best that I can. . . . Whatever it takes for us to win, I'm going to do. If I have to play [tackle] the whole season, I'm going to play it the whole season. I want to win."
Miller could play on the line for up to five or six weeks, Friedgen said, while freshman Jared Gaither is groomed as a replacement. Gaither, listed at 6-foot-9 and 330 pounds, has made for frequent conversation at camp, largely because of his jaw-dropping size. Tight end Vernon Davis said it took virtually the whole team to tape Gaither up in a preseason prank, Friedgen said the freshman is so big "he blocks out the sun," and 6-foot-6 tackle Brandon Nixon laughed and said "I thought I was a big dude."
Gaither, though, is still extremely raw. He played one year of football at Eleanor Roosevelt High in Greenbelt, and another during prep school at Hargrave Military Academy. Coaches have called him a quick learner, and Friedgen hopes he'll be ready in the early part of this season but acknowledges he remains "a way's off."
Meantime, coaches gave Scott Burley several practices off. Burley has been cleared by trainers after offseason back surgery but has been uncomfortable nearly every time he engages in contact drills. And new problems have appeared at guard: senior Russell Bonham, who started five games last year, has been out with a stinger, while Donnie Woods, who did not practice yesterday, has been battling a partially torn rotator cuff suffered late last season. Woods will receive a cortisone shot and see whether several days off improve his condition, Friedgen said.
If and when the injuries start to heal, the Terps will use their best five linemen, even if that requires further positional juggling, offensive line coach Tom Brattan said. The linemen often stay on the field longer than their teammates after practice -- "a million reps of everything," redshirt freshman center Edwin Williams said -- and some of the younger players admitted to a touch of nerves.
"You're going to be nervous, being thrown in the fire like that," Williams said. "I mean, even I'm guilty of it."
Others took a different approach.
"Games are right around the corner," Nixon said. "We don't have time to be nervous."
Terrapins Notes: Maryland announced that single-game tickets are sold out for games against Navy, West Virginia, Virginia and Virginia Tech.