After a whirlwind four-game stint under center last fall, linebacker-turned-quarterback Shawn Petty is back at linebacker again. He wears a red defense practice jersey again, still No. 31, but has finally returned home.
“I’m picking up things pretty fast,” Petty said Tuesday. “It’s not like it just came right back to me, but it picked up real fast, coming from camp last year. It wasn’t like it’s brand new to me. I got used to it real fast. We’re taking it slow, so it’s coming good. I feel good out there. When we get the pads on, I feel like it’s going to be even better. But I feel good right now.”
Far more at ease than when rampant injuries forced the true freshman across the line of scrimmage and into the spotlight, Petty is once again playing to his strengths. During Maryland’s second spring football practice, he made a solid read and nearly intercepted a pass. He dreams of the moment when he can put on pads and face the teams that rocked him in the pocket, so Petty can “get my revenge for all those hits on me last year.”
Currently competing with Bradley Johnson for the first-string inside linebacker job this spring – incumbent starter Cole Farrand is out with a left ankle fracture – Petty has caught Coach Randy Edsall’s attention.
“What he had to do is just — I don’t know too many people that could do what he did,” Edsall said. “He took it all in stride and went out and showed the kind of competitor he was. To go in and do that and not bat an eye, I was very proud of him. Having the chance to be around him, it didn’t surprise me because of how competitive he is and his athletic ability.”
“I’m sure there’s some carry over that he remembered from last camp and everything. He’s a good athlete and moves well. Just watching him today, taking off and running some people down, it’s going to be interesting to watch him progress over these next 13 practice.”
With the Terps down to two healthy quarterbacks for the spring, Petty didn’t settle on returning to linebacker until several weeks ago. Nearing the end of last season, offensive coordinator Mike Locksley said that any player with college quarterbacking experience will be there come spring. But Petty wanted to practice where he would play this fall. Edsall agreed, so the reversal was made.
In four games as Maryland’s starting quarterback, Petty completed 39 of 84 passes for 500 yards and six touchdowns against two interceptions. He also lost five fumbles. The Terps were winless in that stretch but had North Carolina on the ropes in the season finale, Petty’s best game in the role. But with five quarterbacks already on the roster and a sixth arriving this summer, the Terps have no need for Petty under center. He can, based on early returns from spring practice, compete for playing time at his old position.
But will Petty miss his other gig?
“Yeah, of course,” he said. “You always love having the ball in your hands. But I feel like I’ll get better at linebacker and will do what I have to do to be the number one linebacker.”