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Moore & Co. Ready To Lead From Front

Brendan Moore is going home to Texas this weekend then Maryland opens its 2017 season at No. 23 Texas, but that just a part of the storyline when it comes to one of the strengths of this year's team - the offensive line. Read more about it in the first installment of Terps Digest.

Welcome to the first installment of Terps Digest – a bi-weekly exclusive for umterps.com that strives to give Maryland fans a glimpse into the personalities and storylines making news inside Terrapin athletics

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The Maryland football team’s trip to Texas on Saturday isn’t just any other game.

It’s a season opener, the end of a wait of more than eight months since the Terrapins closed out coach DJ Durkin’s first year in the Quick Lane Bowl.

It’s an obvious barometer, a test that will quickly reveal where Maryland stands before it ventures deep into its schedule.

And it’s a homecoming for one of its steadiest players: Junior center Brendan Moore, who grew up in the shadow of the Longhorns’ Austin campus.

“It’s one of the clichés of the business --- the next game is the most important game,” Moore said. “That’s true here. But also, I spent a lot of my [childhood] years about 8-10 minutes away from that stadium surrounded by their fans. It’s a storied program and it will be an honor to play in that stadium.”

Moore will play plenty, not just Saturday but throughout the season as one of Maryland’s most pivotal offensive players. He’ll lead a deceptively experienced line that does not include a senior, but returns four players with at least some starting experience.

He’s bargained with teammates for tickets, scrounging up between 40 and 50. His mom ordered custom-made t-shirts for the occasion, a bit of scheduling Moore knew about even before he committed to Maryland.

It will be an adrenaline rush for a player offensive coordinator Walt Bell and the rest of Maryland’s staff quickly identified as guy they could build around when they arrived before last season. It will not leave the level-headed Moore in awe of the environment.

“It’s exciting for him,” Bell said. “I’m sure when you grow up in Texas, probably all the kids there dream of playing for Texas. But Brendan’s a pro. Brendan would be just as excited if we were playing Texas A&M-Commerce. When it’s time to strap them up, it doesn’t matter who it’s against or where it is. He’s going to be excited and ready to play.”

“I feel really good about that group. The offensive line is going to be a group we can really lean on.”

Moore already had some experience entering last season. After a cameo appearance in the 2015 opener, he logged time in the Terps’ final six games, starting the finale that year against Rutgers.

He quickly gained the trust of the new staff when it arrived, securing a starting gig at center and starting all 13 games in the middle of a youthful line.

“Brendan’s great,” Durkin said. “He just comes to work every day. He doesn’t really say much. He just goes and competes and is an accountable guy. You know what you’re going to get from him every day, whatever’s going on.”

Plenty has changed up front since this time last year. Terrance Davis secured the job at right guard early last season. Derwin Gray logged his first career starts in November. Left guard Sean Christie played in every game last year and remained atop the depth chart this offseason.

Even the two constants --- Moore and right tackle Damian Prince --- have progressed. Needless to say, it’s a unit that’s made considerable strides in 12 months.

“A lot,” Moore said with a smile. “A lot. A lot.”

If there’s a common thread among good teams, it is the presence of a tested and cohesive offensive front.

Yet with the return of three regular starters who helped Ty Johnson become the Terps’ first 1,000-yard rusher since 2008 last season, the line looks like a strength this year.

“I feel really good about that group,” Durkin said. “The offensive line is going to be a group we can really lean on, and I would certainly say [Moore] is one of the leaders of that.”

Maintaining health up front will be crucial to the line’s success. There is little experience among the reserves, with true freshmen or redshirt freshman listed as backups on Maryland’s opening week two-deep.

Yet the first step in constructing an imposing offensive line is to find five capable starters, and Moore believes the Terps have done so with a group that largely arrived in College Park in 2014.

“It’s kind of crazy just to see all the linemen I came in with are starting now,” Moore said. “Of course, we don’t have any seniors. We have all redshirt juniors, but we’re ready.”

Moore certainly is. When Bell first joined the program, he was struck by Moore’s athleticism and ability to move. On top of the physical tools was a love of football and an eagerness to embrace the quarterback-like leadership role required from a center.

Soon enough, he learned Moore’s ability to handle pressure and size up situations also set him apart.

“When you add the stress of game day, he’s definitely not a panicker,” Bell said. “He’s really rock solid in terms of how he handles himself in a stressful environment. The analytical part of it, he’s probably as analytical a kid as I’ve ever had.”

It’s helped Moore established himself as a crucial piece of Maryland’s lineup well before the midpoint of his college career. He has the potential to emerge as one of the top centers in the Big Ten this fall while leading a promising line.

But first there’s the matter of heading back home, which is hardly just an ordinary game for Moore or the Terps.

“I’ve had very good coaches along the way and I feel good about what I’ve been able to do so far,” Moore said. “I still think I have a long way to go and I still think I have a lot to prove, especially there.”



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