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Transfer offensive lineman Silvano Altamirano figures to challenge for playing time

Amid the hype surrounding National Signing Day, the Maryland football team trotted out its three early signees to meet the media for the first time. Over the next few days, we’ll introduce those players.

Next up is offensive lineman Silvano Altamirano, a junior college transfer transfer from San Diego Mesa College.

How exactly did an offensive lineman from California with a spiked haircut and a winning smile migrate across the country and wind up in College Park? Why in the world would Silvano Altamirano, an instant candidate for the most lyrical name on Maryland’s football team, trade the sunny West Coast skies for the topsy-turvy weather inside the Beltway?

All good questions. Just don’t expect any convoluted answers.

“It was exciting,” Altamirano said last Wednesday. “Maryland came in kind of later in the recruiting process. But immediately I took them into consideration. It’s exciting. I know it’s far. Out of high school I didn’t really think of myself as going all the way to the east coast. Spending two years in juco, I kind of matured a little bit. It’s a great opportunity to be at Maryland. I just felt comfortable with the whole situation, moving a thousand miles away from home. The distance didn’t really play a factor that much in the end.”

What did factor was Maryland’s depleted offensive line unit, a proverbial revolving door throughout 2012. Altamirano will challenge at guard, which graduated Bennett Fulper, lost rising senior Josh Cary to a career-ending injury and saw both De’Onte Arnett and Andrew Zeller battle inconsistency.

“I definitely thought about that, getting a chance to play right away and challenge for a spot,” Altamirano said. “I had a couple other places tell me I was definitely going to start, but I felt like Maryland was the better opportunity for me, just being in this program. I like things in this program.”

Coach Randy Edsall has praised Altamirano’s explosiveness and pulling ability, crucial assets in Maryland’s read-option offense.

“I think it’s going to be good competition,” Altamirano said. “We’ll find out during spring. Right now, me as a player and a person, I’m a totally different person off the field. A lot of smiles and not much talking. On the field, it’s a whole different story. I’m more aggressive. There’ll be good competition. It brings the best out of me. It’ll be good to see how I grow up.”

Charismatic and plenty jolly off the field, Altamirano said he’s fitting in with the tight-knit offensive line unit, known this past season for their beard-growing hijinks and closeness as much as their inconsistencies on game day. As a group, the line also graduated senior Justin Gilbert, an emotional locker-room leader, but returns both center Evan Mulrooney and left tackle Mike Madaras, both of whom saw extensive playing time as freshmen.

“So far, I’ve been pretty good with them,” Atlamirano said. “It’s been going pretty good. Just hanging out with them, hanging around them. It’s gone smooth. No problems. As the year goes on, we’ll get closer and become even tighter.”

Edsall brought in four offensive linemen in this recruiting class, with Moises Larose, Jajuan Dulaney and Under Armour all-American Derwin Gray joining Altamirano. But those incoming freshmen won’t likely see playing time until later in their careers. Given Altamirano’s experience and strength, however, he should compete right away.

“He’s an older guy, athletic, he’s a guy we’re expecting to challenge and be a starter,’ Edsall said. “He’ll have to pick everything up. He’ll have that opportunity because he’s here now.

“It’s hard to have an offensive lineman come in as a high schooler and play. Mike Madaras, if we had our druthers, we would have been redshirting him. But it’ll pay off for us this year. Silvano’s a different story. He’s got two years under his belt at the junior college level. He’s stronger and will be able to adapt with spring ball.”