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Terps

Maryland OL Austin Fontaine returns to team after opting out because of COVID-19 concerns

Whoever lines up under center as the starting quarterback when Maryland visits Northwestern for Saturday night’s season opener might have a stronger and deeper offensive line to work behind.

Redshirt sophomore Austin Fontaine, who opted out because of concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic, has returned to the Terps, a team spokesman confirmed Wednesday afternoon.

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The 6-foot-3, 320-pound Fontaine’s return fortifies an offensive line that had graduated Sean Christie, who started all 12 games at left guard, and Ellis McKennie, who started six times at center, twice at right guard and once each at the left and right tackle positions and bade farewell to Terrance Davis, who started four games at right guard but transferred to Wake Forest.

Fontaine was a pivotal cog in the offensive line last season. He started six of Maryland’s last eight games at right guard and was a member of a front that paved the way for the offense to average 169.4 rushing yards.

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When Fontaine initially elected not to play this fall, the offensive line had to fill some holes. While sophomore Jaelyn Duncan was cemented at left tackle and senior and Rimington Trophy Watch candidate Johnny Jordan was locked in at center, redshirt junior Marcus Minor, who had started 10 of 12 games at right tackle last fall, switched to right guard, and sophomore Spencer Anderson was penciled in at right tackle where he made one start. Junior Johari Branch, the No. 2 junior college guard in the nation according to JCGridiron.com, was recruited to start at left guard.

When the Terps released their two-deep depth chart Tuesday, Minor and Anderson were listed atop their positions at right guard and right tackle, respectively. It could take Fontaine some time to get back into shape, but when he does, he would give offensive line coach John Reagan and head coach Mike Locksley some flexibility in terms of whether to stay with Minor and Anderson or go back to Fontaine at right guard and Minor at right tackle.

That unit will be tasked with protecting either redshirt freshman Lance LeGendre or sophomore transfer Taulia Tagovailoa at the quarterback position. Locksley said Tuesday that he has identified the starting quarterback, but declined to divulge his identity just yet.

One objective for the offense is protecting whoever is in the pocket. Maryland ranked last in the Big Ten last season in sacks allowed per game (3.2) and second to last in total sacks (38).

Fontaine’s return was first reported by InsideMDSports.com.

MARYLAND@NORTHWESTERN

Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

TV: Big Ten Network

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Radio: 1300 AM, 105.7 FM


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