Mike Purcell on his transition at Maryland, working with Brian Braswell

Maryland will look to hit the ground running in its season opener against Towson on Saturday, but as fans look ahead to watch the familiar stars like Taulia Tagovailoa and Jeshaun Jones back in action, some will keep a close eye on how the offensive line fares with the unit remaining arguably the biggest question.

With DJ Glaze the lone returnee from last season’s starting unit, offensive line coach Brian Braswell has worked with several new portal pieces to rebuild the unit heading into conference play. While Gottlieb Ayedze and Corey Bullock benefitted from enrolling in January and working through spring ball, former Elon center Mike Purcell arrived in College Park in late May and has hit the ground running since.

“We had player-led practices, kind of learn the playbook from there. Obviously there’s game prep, we install new things every week within the gameplan but it’s been great,” Purcell told IBG. “[Ryan Davis] and his staff, couldn’t have asked me for a better group of coaches to help prepare me for the season. Put our body through stressful situations, build strength, so it’s been great.”

After starting all 12 games at center for Elon last year, Purcell hit the transfer portal and was initially among several linemen to transfer to Duke and go through spring ball only to transfer out prior to summer. Enter Maryland. With a need to find a veteran center to compete with Aric Harris, that led Maryland back to Purcell and with a starting spot up for grabs, it’s a move that Purcell hasn’t looked back on.

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“I would say coming from Duke, another Power Five school, Maryland has exceeded my expectations greatly. In my mind, I made the right move coming here. Excited for the season.”

Being one of several new faces has helped the new-look unit gel together to create the necessary on-field chemistry. “There’s a lot of new faces and DJ Glaze is the only returning starter, so we’ve kind of got to build the comradery and chemistry within the group because we have a bunch of new faces,” Purcell added.

“We’ve been getting to know each other on and off the field. There’s been a lot of opportunities for that. I think throughout camp, we made some serious strides on and off the field because we’re with each other 24/7. A lot of new faces. We have a bunch of new guys, including myself, who think we can help compete for a Big Ten championship which is our goal this year. We’re just happy to grow with each other and see where it takes us.”

Having Braswell coach the unit through fall camp including a pair of scrimmages has led Purcell to have, what Locksley called, one of the biggest week one to week three jumps as he’s gained comfort at center.

“Playing center, you’ve got to know everybody’s job, you’ve got to be on points with the assignments and so forth. Coach Bras is the best in the business when it comes to technical stuff and that’s kind of where I see myself lacking. When it comes to technique, I’ve been getting coached up on that quite a bit because that’s what’s going to take me to the next level of my game.”

With no official depth chart heading into week one, Maryland fans will have to wait another day to see what the official starting five looks like, but Purcell knows what’s been said about the unit all offseason.

“There’s always something to prove, all the press and media saying were the weakness of the team. We’ve got a chip on our shoulder for sure. We’re going to go out there and compete at a high level, with a good style of play to finish blocks and hopefully prove to the people that we’re right there with the rest of the team.”

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