COLLEGE PARK — Maryland football coach Randy Edsall was asked this week whether he had ever started a true freshman on the offensive line.
There was a long pause. If Edsall, in his 14th year as a head coach, had ever started a first-year line player before this season, he couldn't recall it.
Which means true freshman Mike Madaras will make history of sorts when he gets his first start at tackle against visiting Wake Forest in Maryland's Atlantic Coast Conference opener Saturday. Redshirt freshman Andrew Zeller is also making his first start at guard.
It's all part of what might be called the continuing Maryland Makeover — an infusion of young players playing increasingly prominent roles.
As the Terps (2-2) prepared for the Demon Deacons (3-2, 1-2 ACC), 11 true freshmen were listed on the two-deep depth chart. According to Maryland, that's more than any other school in the Football Bowl Subdivision except Colorado, Texas, Texas Christian, Navy and Tulane.
Not even Madaras, who is from Olney in Montgomery County and attended Good Counsel with current teammates Stefon Diggs and Wes Brown, expected to be a first-teamer so soon.
"I wasn't really ready for it," Madaras said. "I thought we were going to do that thing where you were just going to get some [occasional] playing time the whole entire year — a little bit of experience for next year. It was a very good surprise."
Madaras was sporting a beard this week. Other offensive line members —including Justin Gilbert and Bennett Fulper — have grown beards as a show of unity. Madaras said of his facial hair: "Just being lazy."
Maryland is hoping the athletic Madaras, who played the entire fourth quarter at West Virginia in the team's last game, can aid a line that has surrendered 3.75 sacks per game, worst in the ACC.
It is far less common for offensive linemen to start in their first seasons than it is for running backs and receivers. Maryland has had true freshmen start at the "skill" positions, too, this season.
"I would venture to say that you don't want to make a living out of starting a bunch of true freshmen on the offensive line," Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley said.
"That's the one position where maturity, strength — those things come as you develop within 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."
Maryland's offensive line has been rebuilding after starting tackles Max Garcia and R.J. Dill transferred following the 2011 season.
Fulper and Gilbert, both seniors, started in the Sept. 22 loss to West Virginia and remain on the first team. Redshirt sophomore center Sal Conaboy also has been a mainstay. The other two offensive line positions have now turned over.
Madaras learned of his promotion from offensive line coach Tom Brattan.
"The day after the West Virginia game, we were in an offensive line meeting and he said me and Zeller were going to start. We had the bye week, so I went home for a day and we kind of just all hung out and talked about it. It was kind of a little bit of a celebration," Madaras said.
It can be useful for freshmen to observe from the sideline and get a sense of their opponents before entering games. But it can also be difficult.
"It was definitely an advantage, but personally it was a little bit frustrating," Madaras said. "It was just, you want to be in the whole game if you're going to play. But I understand why I wasn't. And now that I'm getting a chance to play more, I'm going to make the most of it."
Madaras, who is 6 feet 5 and 290 pounds, is still adjusting to the college game.
"It's just getting used to the speed of the game now — that and getting stronger," he said.
But he gets off quickly at the snap, and coaches like his mobility.
"I think [Madaras and Zeller] both add athleticism up front," Locksley said. "Obviously with Mike, he's one of the most athletic guys for a freshman that I've had a chance to see play."
Note: Six Wake Forest players have been suspended for Saturday's game for violation of team rules. Those players are: cornerback Maerril Noel; safety Daniel Mack; linebacker Mike Olson; guard Frank Souza; running back DeAndre Martin; and wide receiver Airyn Willis
Wake Forest (3-2, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) vs. Maryland (2-2, 0-0)
When: Today, 3:30 p.m.
Site: Byrd Stadium, College Park
Radio: 105.7 FM, 980 AM
Series: Maryland leads 42-17-1
Last meeting: Wake Forest beat Maryland, 31-10, on Nov. 19, 2011, in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Line: Maryland by 51/2