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Maryland's O-line beefing up

COLLEGE PARK

Week in and week out, while facing teams with monstrous defensive fronts during its first year in the Big Ten Conference, Maryland's offensive line never relented against the push up front.

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There was no time for reflection with games against the likes of Penn State, Michigan State, and Michigan on the schedule, teams that had spent decades recruiting some of the nation's top talent to the conference's trenches.

But once January rolled around, then the Terps could allow themselves to look at everything they had pushed aside during the season and realize what needed to happen before another go-round in the Big Ten. So Maryland's offensive line spent the season in the weight room, not only trying to bulk up but also improving agility to keep up with nimble defensive linemen.

"After the season looking back, you're like, 'OK, we need to make some changes,'" guard Ryan Doyle said last week. "You need to get stronger, you need to get faster, and I think we did that over the offseason. During the season, we were hellbent on, 'We're going to play with every team.' We're not going, 'Oh, it's Penn State.' We're gonna play them like it's any other team, and I think we did that for the most part."

Putting on weight while not losing any speed was a delicate balance. If the offensive line put on too much weight, then athleticism and agility might suffer. But if things stayed the same, the linemen ran the risk of getting pushed around.

So the Terps turned to Drew Wilson, director of strength and conditioning. Wilson devised a plan that emphasized weight lifting to help the linemen bulk up.

There was more of it, and it was at higher weights than usual. In addition, the nutrition staff made sure the players were eating right throughout the day to help maximize the amount of muscle they were gaining.

"Drew just goes through it all with us," guard Andrew Zeller said. "He's there bright and early every morning when we have to be there. He knows what we go through and he knows what he can ask of us and we appreciate him. We see the grinds that he does and the sacrifices that he makes with his family. He doesn't spend a lot of time with his family over the summer just because of all the time he dedicates to us. We respect that."

Doyle said he gained 20 pounds — he's officially listed at 307, up from 300 last season — and coach Randy Edsall commented that he'd seen more out of Doyle at left guard than he'd seen before. Left tackle Michael Dunn said he's entering the season at 310 after playing his first two years at 295. Redshirt freshman Damian Prince, at right tackle, is up to 328 from 300.

The average official weight of Doyle, Dunn, Prince, Zeller, senior Evan Mulrooney, and redshirt freshman Brendan Moore, who are battling for the starting center spot, is up to 309.7 pounds from 297.5 a year ago.

And the effects are being seen in practice against a defensive line that has also did similar work after its inaugural Big Ten campaign.

"I think it's pretty noticeable," Dunn said. "It's definitely helping us run the ball this camp so far. I felt like we've done a pretty good job running the ball and with the added strength and added weight, it's definitely shown."

For Edsall, the next step for the offensive line is continuing to gel as a unit. The Terps averaged 3.7 yards per carry behind the offensive line, and opponents sacked Maryland's quarterback 37 times. He's still searching for the right mix along the offensive line, with Moore taking first team snaps in the competition at center..

"It's now about consistency," Edsall said. "It's about being consistent. What is this, practice No. 10? Those guys, working together, getting communication down, utilizing good technique. … All of those things are really starting to come together and I think they've done a real good job of communicating. Those guys, they're doing OK."

The results of hot summer days toiling on the field and in the weight room won't be seen for a few more weeks. But when the Terps step to the line of scrimmage, whether it's in the season opener against Richmond or in the teeth of their Big Ten schedule, they expect to be bigger, stronger and faster. And they expect to push people around.

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"Going into the Big Ten, it's a linemen league," Zeller said. "They have bigger offensive linemen, bigger defensive linemen and that's something we need to rise to the occasion and answer to our second year in the Big Ten."

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