Maryland football offensive lineman Damian Prince knew he was in for a tough training camp when he ran through the gate of the Varsity Team House fields and started the warm-up.
The players ran 20 yards up the field and then 20 yards back. Then another 20 yards up and another 20 yards back.
Prince smiled as he recounted the lengthy aerobic exercises while sitting in the back row of the Gossett Team House auditorium during the team’s media day on Tuesday. The Terps had only a walk-through scheduled for that afternoon, but Prince wasn’t so pleased during the two-a-day session the day before.
He and the other offensive linemen have endured a grueling offseason program as they work into shape to prepare for offensive coordinator Walt Bell’s up-tempo scheme.
“Once you’re inside the gate, you’re running,” Prince said. “No matter where you’re going, you’re running. You’re running to the stretching line, and the stretching is crazy.”
Coach DJ Durkin has scheduled practice for the hottest times of day during fall camp on purpose. With the Terps’ home opener slated for a noon kickoff Sept. 3 and two games in Florida in the ensuing weeks, he wants his team acclimated to the heat.
He knows his players, especially the linemen, might question whether they can or want to keep going, but he hopes their decision to push through the difficult conditions will create a sense of accountability with their teammates.
“Obviously, we’re smart and go crazy with hydration and doing everything to take care of our players,” Durkin said. “But we’re going to go out there in the heat…that heat makes you make a decision.”
Prince feels the unit has banded together in working through practice.
After stretching, they jog to their next drill, which can sometimes be a few fields away. When they get there, “It’s not ‘All right, everybody, let’s get some water,'” Prince said.
The Terps’ lone break comes in the middle of practice. The coaches pause the workout, allowing players to take a knee and refuel on electrolytes.
“In terms of physical fitness, these first 10 practices, and rightfully so, have been pretty miserable for those kids,” Bell said of the fall camp slate. “From a conditioning point, they’ve been getting beat up pretty good.”
Bell said the unit has room to progress, but its improvements from the first day of spring practice to the middle of training camp has been “night and day.” Plus, the players’ exhaustion takes a toll on their performance at the end of practice, something the coach feels will improve as he tapers their workload entering the season.
“I’d be hard-pressed to say there’s an offensive line group that’s had more reps than our group throughout camp,” Durkin said of the team’s split-squad practices. “It’s not a three-deep [unit], like play three or four or five plays — whatever — and then go sit out eight plays. I mean, they’re going.”
Though it’s made workouts tough, Prince appreciates the intensity and expectations the staff has for the unit. The redshirt sophomore is competing for a starting spot and wants his summer efforts to shine through on game days.
“The game is not going to be harder than practice — or it shouldn’t be,” Prince said. “We really do so much running and things like that in practices. That does nothing but get us prepared for the actual game.”