COLLEGE PARK — There have been times during preseason practice when Damian Prince and Derwin Gray have flashed the skill that made them highly-rated recruits.
There have been times both players — especially Gray — have looked capable of making an immediate impact along Maryland’s offensive line.
Many other times, they have looked like freshmen.
Maryland coaches believe both will be good players. Teammates say the same. But most freshmen are a work in progress at this point and Prince and Gray are no different.
“Those freshmen are good kids. They’re working hard. But they’re not anywhere close to playing right now,” Terps coach Randy Edsall said. “And what we’ve got to do is to get them up to speed, to keep working with them, and they’ll keep developing. They’ll be fine.
"Just because a guy was so highly rated coming out of high school doesn’t mean they’re just going to come in here and take over and start. … I’m going to protect those kids and make sure the expectation level isn’t too high for those young kids. When they’re ready to play and they demonstrate that they have everything down, they’ll be out there playing.”
Gray is probably closer to being game-ready.
He spent last year at prep school and was able to take part in offensive line meetings with Maryland during the spring, even though shoulder surgery prevented him from participating in spring practice.
He is also a solid 6-feet-5 and 300 pounds and, according to offensive coordinator Mike Locksley, came to Maryland already bench pressing around 400 pounds.
Gray has had freshman moments, such as being called for a holding penalty last week that negated a 20-yard touchdown pass.
But there have plenty of other times that Gray has been loudly praised by offensive line coach Greg Studrawa while looking capable of helping the Terps right away at right tackle.
He appears to be the clear backup to starting right tackle Ryan Doyle and may be the best tackle on Maryland’s team besides the two starters, including left tackle Michael Dunn.
“Derwin’s talented. There’s no doubt,” Locksley said. “It’s just so hard playing a true freshman. … You can see that the skill set is there. Now it’s just a matter of being able to learn the system, learn the plays and play with good speed.”
Prince is a little bit more of a work in progress.
He was one of the top-rated offensive linemen in this year’s recruiting class and chose Maryland over offers from Alabama, Florida, Ohio State and others. But Prince did not have the luxury of sitting in on meetings during the spring like Gray did.
He also did not have a year at prep school to enhance his game and body. He is adjusting from being someone who could simply overpower players in high school to someone who has to use proper technique in order to be successful in college.
“In high school, there’s no secret, you can get away with a lot of stuff that you might do wrong and still make a play,” Prince said. “But here at this level, you’ve got to do everything as technically sound as possible.”
Prince has shown his power and ability at times. He had the key block on a Joe Riddle touchdown run during team drills last week and then cleared the way for another Riddle touchdown run two plays later.
Edsall also said Prince looked good during his first day at left guard Tuesday after being switched from left tackle.
Now, like Gray, Prince needs to keep working on his technique, keep learning the Terrapins’ playbook and keep adjusting to the speed of the game.
“We recruited the right guys,” Studrawa said of Gray, Prince and fellow freshmen offensive linemen Brendan Moore and Sean Christie. “I like these guys. Now let’s see how they progress. Let’s keep riding them. They don’t know how to work. They don’t know how fast this game moves from the last time they played it live.
“They’ll find out real quick because it moves real fast. But as they adjust mentally and physically, then you’ve got a great player.”Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun