Backup quarterbacks experience up-and-down open scrimmage

August 17, 2013

Will Perry Hills win the backup quarterback job? We’ll know next week.

Over the next 48 hours, Randy Edsall will assemble his coaching staff, flip on the film and begin the process of finalizing his backup quarterback. Either Perry Hills, Caleb Rowe or Ricardo Young will earn the distinguished honor of being first in line should something happen to starter C.J. Brown. The other two will slip further down the depth chart, repetitions at even less of a premium.

None of the three options particularly excelled during Saturday afternoon’s open intrasquad scrimmage at Byrd Stadium, and Edsall emerged declining comment on the three-way battle. He wants to review the tape before making a decision, and rightfully so. Over the crisp two-hour scrimmage, each quarterback played seven series. Little happened to tip the scales toward one specific option.

“Just like any time, there’s always good and there’s always bad,” Edsall said. “We’ll get a chance to evaluate it, look at the film and come up with some decisions by Monday.

“You’re not going to sit here and make any decisions based on what you saw. You have to watch the film and factor everything into the decision, not just today but 14, 15 other practices that we had.”

Here’s how all three fared:

PERRY HILLS

The sophomore looked the best of the three backups during the first half, completing short passes with accuracy. He went 3 for 5 on his first series for 29 yards, but got crushed on a blind-side blitz by Marcus Whitfield on third down and overthrew Amba Etta in open space on third down.

“Feels great man,” said Hills, who tore his ACL after seven starts last season. “Just watching in spring was heartbreaking, but it felt great to get back out there. Everything’s a lot easier. A lot slower in my mind. Defense, coverages are easier. Last year it was like bing-bang-boom, everything happening so fast. But there’s a lot we can better on, obviously, and a lot we will improve on this camp.”

A sack and incomplete pass negated the second series for Hills, the only of the three quarterbacks not to throw a touchdown pass. Another deep ball to Etta had some mileage but lost its zip at the end, and another sack quickly quelled Hills’s third drive. He went three-and-out two more times, and threw a bad-looking interception to Will Likely late in the scrimmage. Evidently, Hills experienced some miscommunication with his receiver, who he thought would bend right toward the pylon, but instead cut left toward the middle of the end zone. It was basically fielding a punt for Likely.

Hills finished with 10 completions on 19 attempts for 90 yards and the interception. As for the competition, Hills said preseason battles are nothing new.

“I’ve pretty much had to do that my whole life,” he said. “Got into high school, freshman year I had to battle it out, then sophomore year battle it out. Even in Pop Warner league I had to battle for a starting job. I’m used to it. I like being a competitor. It makes everyone better, having a three-way competition.”

CALEB ROWE

The owner of the team’s strongest arm, Rowe had a rough start, overshooting Jacquille Veii across the field on his second snap and then finding defensive back Isaac Goins for an interception. He did throw a nice touch fade route to Nigel King for a four-yard touchdown on the next series, but completed just 4 of 14 passes for 14 yards.

“Eh, I think I did okay,” he said afterward. “You can always improve on things.”

Chief among those is his accuracy. Rowe nearly threw two more interceptions on consecutive snaps later in the first quarter. Likely trapped one attempt on the turf and both Undray Clark and Likely dropped a tipped pass on the very next play. Rowe also absorbed a safety sack by Quinton Jefferson after delivering a swing pass to Brandon Ross that lost three yards.

Only two of Rowe’s seven series went more than four plays. After picking up consecutive first downs with a 10-yard scramble and an 11-yard completion to tight end P.J. Gallo, Rowe sidearmed an incompletion to Kenneth Goins and slipped on the run on third and 10. Later in the second half, he overthrew an open Levern Jacobs deep and was sacked by Malik Jones on third and long, setting up a fourth-and-30 situation.

“We’ll have to see,” Rowe said. “I didn’t have a great day, but I don’t think I made any mistakes. I minimized my mistakes, so that was good. We’ll see what happens.”

RICARDO YOUNG

Certainly the most impressive second-half quarterback, Young started off slow, going 0 for 4 through the air on his first three series. But he hooked up with Jacobs for a 55-yard touchdown on the next drive, one play after scrambling on third down and heaving a prayer toward the sideline that Albert Reid snagged.

“Definitely wasn’t trying to throw out of bounds,” he said. “The other quarterbacks, they had a couple three-and-outs, and I didn’t want to settle for a three-and-out. It was third and long, we had a holding call, we were behind the chains a little bit. I told those guys, if the pocket breaks down, I’ll work the scramble drill and find them a way to get them the ball. … That’s what I wanted to come out here and do, try to make as many plays as possible.”

Young was at his best on the ground, scrambling and turning busted protection into first downs, which he did twice on his final possession. He completed 8 of 16 passes for 111 yards and a touchdown, though he was also intercepted by linebacker Alex Twine.

The first-string quarterback during spring football – with C.J. Brown, Hills and Rowe all rehabbing their respective torn ACLs – Young once struggled to adjust into a backup role with limited repetitions, but seems to have hit his stride. He may be Maryland’s best No. 2 option, or at least the safest bet to move the chains should something happen to Brown.

“It’s pretty tough,” Young said. “Going from being the starter in the spring, taking the majority of all the reps, getting in that good continuity with all the ones, then going to minimized reps with the two, back and forth with the other guys, you can’t really get into a rhythm. It’s hard to stay on the same page as receivers, because you always have a different group you’re going with.

“My mental approach was to come to the game, and training camp as a whole, in the beginning I was pressing because I wasn’t getting as many reps and tried to make some plays. I ended up making a couple errors. Today, my approach to this game in front of the fans was to minimize the mistakes, show my playmaking ability and try to not be a hero.”

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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Alex Prewitt | August 17, 2013