In the aftermath of Maryland’s disappointing loss to Wake Forest last month, Ricardo Young tweeted. Earlier that afternoon, wide receivers Deon Long and Stefon Diggs had suffered broken legs. As his close friends faced surgery and months of recovery, Young wanted in.
“They took both of my brothers,” the Maryland football team’s third-string quarterback typed. “let me honor my brothers! Patiently waiting!”
This Saturday, Young may finally get his chance when the Terrapins visit Virginia Tech. He once played for the Hokies, one of his several collegiate stops before arriving in College Park, but those schools always listed Young as a quarterback. After all, at H.D. Woodson High he was named Washington’s Gatorade Player of the Year in 2009 at the position.
But Diggs’s injury thinned the slot receiving corps and necessitated a switch. So Coach Randy Edsall turned to Young. The junior’s athleticism impressed during summer camp, but was never enough to warrant elevation on the depth chart. Here, now, was his opportunity to honor Diggs and Long, at the position they once owned.
“He’s gotten better,” Edsall said. “Each day that he’s out there there’s improvement. We were forced to make that move based on the number of injuries we’ve had.”
Young spent Saturday’s 20-3 loss to Syracuse on the sideline near the quarterbacks. But instead of stepping onto the field before each offensive snap to signal plays, he stood behind backups Caleb Rowe and Perry Hills, helmet strapped on, ready to play.
The move made perfect sense. Young has appeared in just one game this season at quarterback, carrying four times for seven yards and attempting no passes. Without Diggs manning the slot, the Terps needed a third body behind Levern Jacobs and DeAndre Lane. Burying Young’s speed and playmaking ability didn’t make much sense once the hole opened.
“He’s looking good,” starting quarterback C.J. Brown said. “He’s excited for this week. He’s fired up. He’ll be ready to go. I’m sure it’s tough. But he understands the situation. He’s a team player. Anytime you get on the field, you’re going to take advantage of that. He’s embracing it full, especially this week, going down to Virginia Tech where he knows a lot of those guys.”
Unlike Shawn Petty’s highly publicized positional switch from linebacker to quarterback as a true freshman last season, Young already knows the routes and the offense. He spent the summer throwing passes to Diggs, Long and others, watching one of the ACC’s best receiving tandems work. His playing time at Lane Stadium on Saturday may depend on the health of Jacobs and Lane, but Edsall seemed pleased with the progress Young made since making the move.
“Ricardo is a good athlete, so in terms of his running ability and everything along those lines, he’s fine,” Edsall said. “He’s got good hands. It’s the fundamentals and the technique of route-running and reading coverage as you’re coming off the ball. Those are the things he really has to get up to speed with and do. A lot of that will be predicated on what happens at that position, if there’s injuries or not, or how quickly he gets up to speed and being able to function within the scheme of what we’re doing.”
The switch also allowed Maryland to retain the redshirt for freshman Taivon Jacobs, Levern’s brother. With just three regular season games remaining, Edsall said, burning the redshirt didn’t make much sense, not with Young proving a capable replacement. No freshman without playing experience thus far will see time in November, Edsall said.
“At this point in time, you sit there and with the wide receiver situation that we have, it’s gone back and forth in my mind, do you use Taivon and do that?” Edsall said. “The thing I’ve always got to look at, I’ve got to look at what we’re doing long term. This isn’t the short term. To put him out there at this point in time with three games left wouldn’t be right for him or for our program in terms of what we’re trying to establish and develop with our program.”