As a redshirt freshman in 2015, Maryland football offensive lineman Damian Prince lined up across from Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa, a junior who would eventually go No. 3 overall in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Prince arrived in College Park as a five-star recruit, but he hadn't yet developed the skillset to block top-tier opponents. Still, he held Bosa, who finished his three-year Buckeyes career with 51 sacks, to one tackle. The Terps rushed for 292 yards in the contest.
"I was 18 years old, and he was a great player," Prince said. "That was kind of the game in my career … that showed if I put the work in I can be really, really good at this level."
Now, Prince is the veteran leader of a pass blocking unit that limited Texas to one sack Saturday. The display came after the Terps ranked second-worst in the country with four sacks allowed per game last season.
Prince said Maryland's offensive linemen took their blocking struggles personally during offseason training. The group, which also features four-star lineman Derwin Gray, knows strengthened technique at the line of scrimmage will give quarterbacks more time to find open receivers.
The Terps completed 12 of 15 passes against Texas, an improvement on their 57.3 completion percentage in 2016. They threw for 219 yards and two touchdowns.
"We don't want last year to define us," Prince said. "Texas had a great front seven, so it was really just taking ownership as a group to say last year was the past, and this season we're looking to make great strides."
Wide receiver Jacquille Veii said it was "a pleasure" to watch the offensive linemen learn to pick up blitzes over the summer.
But while the Gaithersburg native acknowledged the blocking performance at Texas bought receivers more time to work downfield, leading to a couple of long passing plays, he said wideouts share the responsibility of quarterback protection.
"As receivers, we've got to get open quickly," Veii said. "If we do come across a defensive line that's giving our quarterback a lot of pressure, we've got to help our o-line out and we've got to help our quarterback out by getting open really fast."
Even so, the Terps recognize the impact a stabilized offensive line could have.
Offensive coordinator Walt Bell was impressed with how Prince paved the way for Maryland's 482-yard showing against the Longhorns. After the 6-foot-3, 315-pound junior entered the program with physical talent but unrefined blocking technique, he's become more agile with his hands in pass protection.
"He is a much more consistent pass setter," Bell said. "As we continue through the season … there are going to be some special [defensive] ends we're gonna play, so it'll be interesting and fun to see how we hold up."
During Big Ten play over the past two seasons, Prince faced a number of standout pass rushers. He said showdowns with players such as Bosa gave him confidence against the nation's top defensive weapons.
So, he wasn't fazed by the presence of Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson, who led the Longhorns with 6.5 sacks last year.
Jefferson did not record a sack Saturday.
"At this point, there won't be anything I haven't seen from a schematic standpoint," Prince said. "I've seen it all. I've seen the best of the best."