For Maryland, the first cornerstone commitment out of St. Frances came when offensive tackle Jaelyn Duncan gave his commitment in June of 2017. The former four-star recruit was always keen on staying closer to home, which gave the former Maryland staff leverage into making Duncan a frequent visitor on campus. The 6-foot-6, 335-pound tackle was on campus nearly every week of spring practice as he developed a close relationship with the former staff, but the idea of playing early in his career was equally as enticing.
That plan came to fruition after his redshirt season, becoming the starter at left tackle and tasked with replacing Steelers lineman Derwin Gray. What Duncan showed at the beginning versus end of the 2019 season, though, gave the offensive line a big boost of optimism for the future of the unit. His eleven starts gave Duncan a chance to get acclimated to the change of pace at the college level, where his sturdy 6-foot-6 frame helped him develop against more athletic Big Ten edge rushers.
Head coach Mike Locksley noted early in the season that the in-game reps would be critical to Duncan’s success. “We need to get him as many reps, he’s a new starter,” Locksley noted. “Every rep Jaelyn gets he’ll get better and be better for that rep.” The logic of Locksley’s comments makes sense as Duncan showed the gradual development needed to secure the starting spot. The offensive line wasn’t pretty in 2019 after allowing 33 sacks—28 of which came during Big Ten play—but Duncan serves as a sliver of optimism for 2020 and beyond.
A day after highlighting sophomore guard Austin Fontaine, Duncan serves as the other returning underclassman starter along Maryland’s offensive line and another offseason with the strength and conditioning program allows him to add even more strength to his upper body. That experience gained in 2019 where the growing pains during his redshirt freshman year give him the platform to show improvement in year two.
Now, the redshirt sophomore returns as a second-year starter with an improved feel and IQ for the college game and for the Terps to reclaim consistency on offense, it will be the offensive line who is most critical to that output. And with Duncan serving as the expected blindside tackle, the upcoming season gives him a chance to show more consistency through the projected conference-only schedule.