Within the week, Maryland Coach Randy Edsall will reveal the identity of his backup quarterback, choosing from among a trio of options. Either Perry Hills, Caleb Rowe or Ricardo Young will begin working exclusively with the second team, preparing to spell starter C.J. Brown in case of an injury. The other two will drop further down the depth chart, left to battle between becoming a third-string contingency plan and a fourth-string emergency option.
“I have no idea right now who’s our number two quarterback, because nobody’s really separated themselves,” Edsall said after Tuesday’s practice. “I thought it would be a good day today just to get those guys involved with the first unit and evaluate them, because within the next day or two, we’ve got to move forward. I’ve got to make a decision on who the number two is, to get him all the reps we need to get him and be prepared to play in a game.”
Between Thursday’s practice, which is open only to reporters, and Saturday’s open scrimmage at Byrd Stadium, we should have plenty of opportunities to see Hills, Rowe and Young’s last-ditch efforts to secure the job. Here’s a primer on the three candidates:
Vitals: 6-foot-2, 215-pound sophomore.
Career stats: 7 games, 7 starts, 57.4 percent, 1,336 yards, 8 TDs, 7 INTs.
Advantages: There was a reason Hills earned the starting job over Rowe last season when Brown went down with an ACL tear in August. At the time, he was steadier in the huddle, the even-keeled, strong-minded quarterback necessary to assume the reins. Hills endured plenty of typical growing pains, especially for someone who expected to redshirt his freshman year, but to his credit took plenty of shots and never wavered. His season was cut short in Maryland’s seventh game after an illegal block in the back led to a torn ACL, but the former wrestler was otherwise a rock in the pocket, bouncing up enthusiastically after every sack, of which there were 24.
(That, by the way, is pretty absurd: Devin Burns, Rowe and Shawn Petty, the third-, fourth- and fifth-string quarterbacks respectively, only got sacked a combined 15 times in six-plus games. Hills went down 24 times in 5 1/2 games.)
Hills’s greatest attribute is the experience he gained last season. He has more career starts than all the other Maryland quarterbacks combined, Brown included. That could prove virtuous if the Terps need him to take over.
Disadvantages: In some ways, Hills mirrored the Terrapins last season: resilient, but not quite over the hump. He’s the slowest of Maryland’s three backup quarterback options and probably possesses the weakest arm of the group, too. At Tuesday’s practice, Hills completed just 2 of 8 passes in 20 snaps, though three of those incompletions were drops. He showed nice touch on bubble screens and was twice flushed from the pocket by the oncoming pass rush.
Vitals: 6-3, 210-pound sophomore.
Career stats: 2 games, 1 start, 56.8 percent, 290 yards, 2 TDs, 3 INTs.
Advantages: Rowe has a rocket for an arm, something that was on full display when he engineered a potential game-winning drive last season against North Carolina State. Rowe took over with 32 seconds left and completed passes of 17 and 33 yards, also rushed for 11 yards. Had Brad Craddock’s field goal not hit the left upright, Rowe would have been hailed as a hero. Even so, he attempted a relatively high 42 passes against Boston College in his one start as Maryland sought to use Rowe’s passing abilities to its advantage. Of course, Rowe tore his ACL up in Beantown and was lost for the season, but appears healthy and mobile during preseason camp.
He’s regularly provided the best passes among the backups, slinging the ball into tight spaces over the middle. During one team sequence the other day, Rowe was bailed out on fourth down with a pass interference call, then made the defense pay with a 17-yard completion over the middle to Malcolm Culmer, striking the sophomore in stride. The series, however, ended when Rowe heaved into quadruple coverage on fourth and 19 and was intercepted.
Disadvantages: In 25 snaps on Tuesday, Rowe completed 3 of 10 passes and would have had another completion had an offensive lineman not been whistled for an ineligible receiver downfield. With that strong arm comes great responsibility, and Rowe has struggled to shake the rust off this preseason, often overshooting receivers, though he’s gotten better as August had plodded along. In a pinch, Rowe might be Maryland’s best option to engineer a game-winning drive thanks to his playmaking abilities, but how will be fare if Brown goes down for multiple games?
Vitals: 6-foot, 195-pound junior.
Career stats: None.
Advantages: By a narrow margin (read: one), Young took the most snaps of any quarterback on Tuesday – 26 – and was by far the most accurate, completing 6 of 9 passes. He’s made great strides since the spring, when by virtue of widespread injuries he received full first-team repetitions and gained valuable experience in practice. Though Edsall said no quarterback stood out on Tuesday, Young looked like the best of the bunch. His one miscue, an interception on the second snap of team drills, came when freshman cornerback Will Likely snagged a tipped pass. He sandwiched an overthrow of Brandon Ross with a quick-hitting inside slant to Levern Jacobs and another feed to the running back Ross. Later, on goal-line drills, Young executed the read option perfectly, getting the defense to bite on the inside handoff and scampering through the D gap for a touchdown, the offense’s only such score of the day. Young’s strongest attribute is his speed; he’s the fastest of the three co-backups and runs with lengthy strides, capable of breaking open a long run with any skill-position player on the team.
Disadvantages: Young’s game inexperience might be viewed as a problem; Maryland is his third college and he’s never taken a real snap. But he knows offensive coordinator Mike Locksley’s system and spent all of last season preparing to compete for playing time. (An interesting what-if: Had Young been eligible in 2012, at what point would he have started? Certainly before linebacker-turned-quarterback Shawn Petty.) Young might actually be Maryland’s best option, with his speed and strong arm, though at times he has struggled with accuracy and communication with receivers, and drew a rebuke from Edsall after a delay-of-game penalty this week. Young tried to call Culmer in motion but the flags flew before he could. “That’s all you, Ricardo,” Edsall yelled. “That’s all you, quarterback.”