One of the biggest question marks entering training camp is the offensive line. With the only returning experienced players being tackle Bruce Campbell and center Phil Costa, Maryland is forced to rely on a young, inexperienced line.
While the spring practices were only a few short months ago, others have already seen a lot of improvement in the young line.
“Going into the spring, no one had confidence in the offensive line,” wide receiver Emani Lee-Odai said. “But as Coach Franklin told us, ‘All the confidence is in the offensive line now.’”
As the two most experienced players, Costa and Campbell will be expected to lead the younger players in the right direction. Costa last season started as the right guard, but moved to center to allow for Coach Friedgen the luxury of an experienced player in such an important position.
Despite the change of position, the transition has been seamless for Costa.
“I was very encouraged by how they played in the spring,” Friedgen said. “Phil Costa was exceptional.”
Although he didn’t start at left tackle at the beginning of last season, the 6-foot-7, 310-pounds Incredible Hulkesque Bruce Campbell was extremely impressive down the stretch of the season and started the last seven games, including the bowl win over Nevada.
Along with Costa, Campbell makes one of the strongest one-two duos in the ACC. Nose tackle A.J. Francis is used to going against them every day in practice and has no doubt in his mind they stack up with the best.
“We have two of the best offensive lineman in the best country in Phil (Costa) and Bruce (Campbell),” Francis said. “It’s hard to find two offensive lineman of that quality on the same team anywhere.”
With high production expected from Campbell and Costa, it will be on the young players to try to keep up with the high bar set by the veterans. Justin Lewis, Paul Pinegar, R.J. Dill, Lamar Young, and Andrew Gonnella will all be expected to step up and fill the other three positions.
According to the most recent depth chart, the expected starters are Lewis at right guard, Pingegar at right tackle, and Young at left guard. The trio has played a combined 15 games in their careers, zero of those being starts.
Even though there is quite a bit of uncertainty and mystery surrounding what to expect from the young players, Costa has a lot of faith in his fellow linemen.
“I think we’ve been very underrated,” he said. “I understand that ESPN ranked our offensive line low because we don’t have a lot of returning combined starts, but we have a lot of young talent in all those guys.”
Senior quarterback Chris Turner is plenty confident that the unheralded players will be plenty fine protecting him and enabling the running game.
“They have some good veteran leaders in Bruce and Phil, and they understand how to get these guys going,” Turner said. “I think they are confident that they will be able to get the job done.”