Playing behind a struggling offensive line might be the closest thing to hazing a true freshman quarterback can experience.
Maryland’s coaching staff has confidence two freshmen offensive linemen can help.
Pass protection was undoubtedly one of the Terps’ priorities over the bye week as they prepare to face Wake Forest in their first league game of the season on Saturday in Byrd Stadium. Instead of getting more experienced, though, Maryland’s offensive line has actually gotten younger. Coach Randy Edsall has promoted two freshmen into the starting lineup in right guard Andrew Zeller and left tackle Mike Madaras.
“Oh, we've got to get better, there's no doubt about that,” Edsall said of the pass protection. “That hasn't been to my liking, and we've given up way too many sacks. We've got to continue to work and get better with the technique and making sure we don't make mental mistakes in terms of the protections and who we're supposed to block or the protection that we should be in. So no, we have got a lot of work to do, and that's something that we worked on last week, but we have got to continue to get that cleaned up.
"I think that having Andrew and Mike in there, I think that'll help part of that, and everybody else has to do their job around them.”
Madaras has played in every game this season, but this will be his first career start. Zeller, a redshirt freshman, has only seen playing time against West Virginia. The Terps have only started four true freshmen on the offensive line since 2001, according to the Times. Madaras would be the fifth.
“I would venture to say you don’t want to make a living out of starting a bunch of true freshmen on the offensive line,” said offensive coordinator Mike Locksley. “That’s the one position that maturity, strength, and all those things come as you develop with them in the system. Fortunately for us, Mike comes out of a program at Good Counsel where they’ve done a pretty good job, obviously, of bringing along their players. Whether it be from a strength standpoint or a technical standpoint, I would definitely say that’s not something you want to do a lot where you have too many true freshmen playing up front. You can get away with it at the perimeter positions, but inside there is where strength comes with age and maturity. We’re fortunate he’s come in with some pretty good skill set.”
“I think they both add athleticism up front,” said Locksley. “Obviously with Mike, he’s one of the most athletic guys for a freshman that I’ve had the chance to see play. I think with every game he’s getting better. With Zeller, he gives us a little more athleticism, a little more strength on the inside. I’m not saying those other guys worked or haven’t, but right now we feel those guys will give us the best chance to have some success. It’s creating competition we like to see throughout the offensive positions.”
For Hills’ sake, it also needs to create a more solid wall in front of him.