Caleb Rowe’s freshman season lasted all of 41 minutes and 45 seconds. He took 83 total snaps and threw 44 passes. Against North Carolina State, he nearly engineered one game-winning drive after Perry Hills shattered his knee following an interception. Then the following week at Boston College, Rowe planted out of bounds and tore his own ACL.
It was the tipping point for Maryland’s quarterbacking absurdity. Rowe’s injury forced Shawn Petty into the starting lineup for the final four games. But Rowe took another big step in a lengthy recovery process this week, progressing to individual one-on-one drills and taking dropbacks with the other, and this is the operative word, healthy quarterbacks.
With C.J. Brown the presumed preseason starter and Ricardo Young taking first-string repetitions this spring, it’s unlikely that Rowe will see time this season. Offensive coordinator Mike Locksley wouldn’t commit for sure Wednesday afternoon – because really, after how last season went, how could he? – but if everything goes according to plan, both Rowe and Perry Hills (ACL) could find themselves redshirted.
“Those are head ball coach questions,” Locksley said.
Still, as Rowe rifled passes to receivers and began shaking off the rust completing just 2 of 18 passes during one-on-ones, he found himself thinking, “It’s about time.” Rowe probably has the strongest arm of Maryland’s five quarterbacks – six if you count incoming freshman Shane Cockerille – so it’s natural to dream about him whipping fly routes to that loaded arsenal of wide receivers.
“Oh man,” Rowe said, his eyes lighting up. “I’ve been waiting to get out here for weeks. They look good. Deon [Long], Stef [Diggs], Nigel [King], everyone looks good. I was real excited to get out here. Just keep getting better. Spring ball’s almost over, so I’m looking forward to summer now. I’m almost through rehab and I can almost do everything now. I only missed spring ball by a few weeks.”
Rowe has time on his side. There’s little pressure to rush back and contribute immediately. If anything, Rowe provides a safety net, an assurance that the third-stringer can run and gun with the big boys too. Albeit a microscopic sample size, Rowe said he extracted plenty from those precious moments of playing time.
“Oh I’ve learned so much, not just from the game, but being second string then completely out of the game,” Rowe said. “I feel like the whole process has helped me tremendously. I’ve grown up a lot since when I first got here, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it’s going to play out.”
Once Rowe and Hills suffered their respective ACL injuries, Brown had been rehabilitating for months and served as a recovery resource for the two freshmen. Now that Brown takes 7-on-7 drills as Rowe and Hills play catch up, they can bug their captain about the aches and pains. Initially, Brown faced the temptation to eschew his lower half, distrusting that the surgically repaired knee would hold up while planting and driving, while throwing with all arm. He’s since overcome that, and expects Rowe to soon do so too.
“The fact that he’s been able to do some limited things the last couple practices, he’ll be better for,” Locksley said. “He’ll have the same thing that C.J. went through with gaining confidence with the repaired knee.”