Maryland's highly touted freshmen will have to earn starting jobs on O-line, Edsall says

CHICAGO — Damian Prince is the big name. He is the high profile five-star recruit, the prized member of Maryland's recruiting class this year whom analysts have projected as a future NFL offensive lineman.

Likewise, Derwin Gray is another big-time incoming freshman with the size (6 feet 5, 300 pounds) and the strength to develop into a high-level starting right tackle.


But neither will be handed a starting job.

Maryland coach Randy Edsall made that clear Tuesday.


The offensive line was an area of weakness for the Terps last season, but Edsall has been happy with the progress the returning linemen have made under new offensive line coach Greg Studrawa.

"When you look at [Prince and Gray] off the film, we thought and still feel they're very good players. … But we don't have to force-feed them," Edsall said at Big Ten media days. "There's guys in front of them that have experience, that have played and won games for us, so those guys are going to have to go in and beat guys out because I've got guys that I know and have played at this level and have helped us win.

"Those guys, we still have to see what they can do and how they can pick everything up in practice and in scrimmages to see if they're going to be better."

Prince will compete with starter Michael Dunn at left tackle, while Gray will go against Ryan Doyle at right tackle.

Dunn and Doyle are both returning starters. Both struggled at times last season, but Edsall was particularly complimentary of Dunn on Tuesday.

Dunn, a redshirt sophomore, started the first nine games last year at guard, started the final four at right tackle and played well enough at tackle during the spring to make Edsall and the offensive coaches feel he is capable of playing left tackle heading into preseason camp.

"I think Michael Dunn has played very well for us," Edsall said. "And I think Michael Dunn is a guy that we have a lot of confidence in and feel that he can be a really good player for us, and he's gotten better."

Does that mean Prince can't beat him out for the starting left tackle job? No. But it will likely take a strong showing in preseason camp combined with Dunn struggling some at his new position.


Gray seems to be considered the more likely of the two to win a starting job. He is a true freshman like Prince, but he spent a year at prep school last season and has been in meetings with Maryland since the spring, although shoulder surgery prevented him from taking part in spring practice.

He is also impressing in the weight room.

While he was squatting during a recent workout session, one of Maryland's strength coaches came up to quarterback C.J. Brown and told Brown, "You're lucky to have him in front of you."

"I am truly lucky," Brown said. "I'm just excited to see what he can do and how he'll help our team."

Either way, Brown expects the offensive line to be better than it was last season, when the Terps tied for 66th nationally in sacks allowed per game (2.08) and 83rd in rushing yards per game (148.4).

Maryland lost starting left guard De'Onte Arnett, but the other four starters return, including Sal Conaboy. Conaboy was chosen to the preseason watch list for the Rimington Trophy, given to the best center in college football.


The two freshmen could factor into that group as well, but they will get their opportunity to prove their worth when preseason practice begins Aug. 4.

"I think [Edsall] is happy with the line," Brown said. "But he's going to put the best five guys out there."