Terrapins right tackle Derwin Gray hasn’t started a game, but there’s already a tall tale surrounding the redshirt freshman’s strength.

Gray has never pushed someone’s sternum through the back of their body, but that’s what center Evan Mulrooney thought he saw one day.

Even if Mulrooney was exaggerating, Gray showcases that ferocity in practice every day. When Gray faces Mulrooney in pass protection drills, Gray surprises his older teammates with the power of his pushes.

“The dude punches like someone has a gun to his head,” Mulrooney said.

Gray will bring that brute force and athleticism to the Terps offensive line this Saturday when he makes his first career start against Wisconsin. While Gray will be the least-experienced lineman, he’ll have a chance to showcase his impressive skill set that made him a consensus four-star recruit.

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“He’s one of the most athletically gifted people I’ve ever met in my life,” Mulrooney said. “You look at the guy, and it’s just like, ‘Jesus Christ. Where did you come from? What happened that made you this size and this athletic?’”

The 6-foot-5, 328-pound tackle wasn’t cleared for practice until the second week of the season after still recovering from a torn left labrum he suffered in April.

When he returned, he worked his way to backup right tackle and made his college debut against then-No. 22 Michigan on Oct. 3. But he was still stuck behind another highly touted redshirt freshman, Damian Prince.

Then two weekends ago against Penn State, Prince hurt his ankle. This past Saturday, Ryan Doyle moved from left guard to right tackle and Maurice Shelton started in the interior. Gray played about 25 snaps, interim coach Mike Locksley said. But Gray wanted more.

“Derwin has been chomping at the bit to get in all season,” Mulrooney said. “Even after the game, he was like, ‘Man, I wish I had gotten to play all game.’”

This week, Gray will get his chance. Locksley believes he’s ready.

“We’ve always known that Derwin has the talent,” Locksley said. “What he has to do is put together the mental part, and Saturday, he took a step forward.”

Gray joins an offensive line that’s been depleted by injuries. Guard Mike Minter started the first three games before a torn labrum sidelined him for the season.

Over the past three contests, the unit has also learned a new blocking scheme that emphasizes quickness and blocking linebackers and the secondary.

As the new-look offense has developed, the offensive line has cleared holes for quarterback Perry Hills to run. Against Iowa, Hills became the first Terp in 10 years to have three consecutive games with 100 rushing yards or more.

But after allowing no sacks through the first three games, the Terps have surrendered 16 in the last five games.

“You’re seeing [the offensive line] start to get to the second level more with some blocks,” Locksley said. “It’s really sprung us to be able to get the run game kind of going, but we also got to get the passing game going and we’ve put a lot of energy to get that corrected on the back end.”

Gray’s athleticism makes him a perfect run blocker for the Terps’ offensive scheme, Locksley said, and the Terps hope that vigor Gray brings to pass-protection drills will translate to the game.

His ascension up the depth chart didn’t surprise defensive end Yannick Ngakoue. Gray made a name for himself at Friendship Collegiate, where he teamed up with Ngakoue.

After playing with Gray in high school, Ngakoue knew the lineman would get his chance someday. It was just a matter of when.

“I always saw the potential and everything he can possibly be,” Ngakoue said.

Senior staff writer Ryan Baillargeon contributed to this report.