Maryland’s revolving door at quarterback keeps turning. The diagnosis given to starter Josh Jackson — a high-ankle sprain suffered in Saturday’s rout of Rutgers — is less severe than what some of his predecessors have faced, but the result extends a plot line that goes back years: A backup quarterback must lead the Terrapins.
Coach Michael Locksley said Tuesday that Jackson will be considered day-to-day and gave no further details on the QB’s expected return. For now, Tyrrell Pigrome will work with the first-team offense in practice. Locksley said he expects Pigrome to start Saturday’s game at Purdue, but wouldn’t rule out Jackson.
Jackson played well in the season’s first two games, but Pigrome split practice reps with him heading into the matchup at Rutgers. Jackson’s poor performances in losses to Temple and Penn State urged the staff to be ready to make a midgame switch if needed. That preparation proved useful, even though the change came under different circumstances.
“It’s the worst way to get the job,” Pigrome said. “But at the end of the day, I look at it as motivation, and I’m trying to push myself forward.”
With Pigrome under center, the game plan will remain essentially the same. While still leaning on each quarterback’s strengths, the staff has a “similar menu of plays that we call for both,” Locksley said. Pigrome’s elusiveness will help prevent sacks and give the offense a different dimension. But the redshirt junior will also be working behind an offensive line that was missing three starters against Rutgers.
“I’ve been around here for a lot of injuries when we’ve had to play with a linebacker at quarterback for several games,” Locksley said. “You get creative. Our coaching staff does a good job of knowing what we can do well and identifying that.”
Pigrome has played in numerous games and started a handful of others but never for a sustained stretch. As a freshman, he stepped in for the injured starter, Perry Hills, in double overtime at Central Florida and scored the winning touchdown on a 24-yard run on his first play. But when Pigrome started later in the year against Minnesota, he struggled, throwing for 161 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
Pigrome earned the starting spot to open the following season against Texas, but he tore his ACL in the second half and missed the rest of the year. In 2018, Pigrome started the season as the backup to Kasim Hill but took over after Hill tore his ACL in the 10th game. Pigrome nearly led a comeback victory in that game against Indiana, as well as against Ohio State, but he missed his receiver on a two-point conversion attempt in overtime against the Buckeyes.
Pigrome has showed potential in bursts — hitting receivers deep, flashing his speed when scrambling and leading the offense with poise. He has just never gotten the chance to start for more than two consecutive games.
“Man, we feel confident with Piggy,” running back Javon Leake said after the win over Rutgers.
Depending on Jackson’s recovery timeline, this could be Pigrome’s longest stretch as the starter. And it could quickly become his most meaningful time in charge of the offense. Maryland’s hopes to become bowl eligible will take center stage this month with Purdue, Indiana and Minnesota on the schedule before the Terps turn toward their difficult November slate.
When Jackson earned the starting job in the preseason, Pigrome said, “the first two days, it was definitely hard; I’m not going to lie to you.” Since Locksley’s arrival, Pigrome has improved as a passer, one of the areas in which the new staff hoped to see growth. Even though Jackson, a graduate transfer from Virginia Tech, won the job, the quarterback competition was closer than Locksley expected, an encouraging sign for how Maryland might fare for as long as it needs to be led by its backup.
Many quarterbacks have opted to transfer when playing time doesn’t come their way. Pigrome entered his name in the transfer portal at the end of last season, before the new coach had been named. Soon after, he removed his name because he was excited to play for Locksley within the offense he ran at Alabama. That didn’t change when the new staff began pursuing help at quarterback through graduate transfers and ultimately brought in Jackson.
“There are some good people here,” Pigrome said when asked why he decided to stay. “I heard people talking about Coach Locks, how he’s a good person. I’m like, ‘All right, I have a good relationship with these teammates, so I trust their word.’ … I believed in him, and I trusted him.”
For Pigrome, the game at Purdue will begin his chance to show how far he has come. He hasn’t felt fully healthy since that Texas opener in 2017. Now he’s back and even more comfortable without a knee brace.
He has had promising moments. Now Pigrome should have a considerable stretch, even if its length remains unknown, to lead his Maryland teammates and see how far he can take them.
“One of the things we’ve always tried to do is prepare him mentally that you have to be ready when your opportunity comes. And you never know when that is,” Locksley said. “Now with Josh’s injury, he’ll have an opportunity to go play and hopefully take advantage of the opportunity that he’ll have.”