Maryland quarterback Perry Hills rolled to his right on one play early in Saturday’s scrimmage, and after he noticed a wide receiver in the middle of the field, he decided to roll the dice. He threw across his body and watched as the ball was intercepted by defensive back Will Likely.
It was one mistake that Hills wished he could take back. But the ill-advised throw perhaps underscored the junior’s fearlessness. Hills has long felt as if he is the underdog in the team’s three-way quarterback competition, but he awoke Saturday morning to the news that he would be taking first-team reps during the Terrapins’ scrimmage in the afternoon.
He earned the position over senior Daxx Garman and redshirt junior Caleb Rowe after two weeks of training camp, Maryland Coach Randy Edsall said, and Hills didn’t squander his opportunity. He looked confident and in command at times, finishing 12 of 17 with two touchdowns on a day when Maryland’s offense searched for further rhythm and consistency.
Maryland is just two weeks away from its season opener against Richmond, and while the players take Sunday off to rest their bodies and recuperate, Edsall and his staff will be left to ponder some significant decisions ahead of the third week of training camp. At the forefront is the race between the signal callers — and Hills, thought to have been the dark horse to win the job entering camp, has emerged as the potential starter.
“It kind of actually pushes me harder, kind of being the underdog,” said Hills, who started seven games as a freshman in 2012 but has only played in three games as a reserve since.
While both Rowe and Garman have received much of the attention over the past several weeks, Hills has used it as fuel. It was only four months ago that the junior from Pittsburgh stood on the turf of Byrd Stadium after throwing three touchdowns in Maryland’s spring game and declared that he would do everything in his power to win the starting job, even with Rowe returning from injury (Maryland added Garman about six weeks later).
“The snaps today were predicated on how we evaluated them through the first two weeks. It was evaluated that Perry did the best job coming in, and then Daxx, and then Caleb,” Edsall said. “We told everybody it’s a competition.”
Based on his grading system over the first two weeks of camp, Edsall placed Garman mostly with the second-team on Saturday, where he finished 6 of 8 for 135 yards. His highlight came on a 49-yard bomb to freshman wide receiver D.J. Moore, which helped set up Garman’s one-yard touchdown run. Rowe, meanwhile, didn’t receive as many reps as Hills and Garman and finished 9 of 18 for 81 yards during the 137-play scrimmage.
“It was a good day for us as an offensive unit,” Garman said. “I feel like I did pretty good going through my reads, getting the ball into the guys’ hands.”
Edsall declined to set a timetable for his quarterback decision. He had said earlier in camp that he wanted to name a starter as soon as he could to begin building continuity, but on Saturday said that he didn’t have to make a decision until “12:06 on September the 5th,” when the team kicks off the season against Richmond.
“We don’t play until then, so I don’t have to make any decision until we line up to take the first snap, really,” Edsall said.
Saturday’s scrimmage was crucial for Edsall and his staff as they evaluate depth across all positions, including along the offensive line, where starting tackles Damian Prince and Michael Dunn were held out of the scrimmage. There has been separation at some positions — such as at running back, where senior Brandon Ross continued to impress Saturday with 80 yards on eight attempts — but Edsall still has a major decision looming at quarterback. In a surprising plot twist, Hills might be making it even more difficult for him to choose.
“That’s obviously my goal,” Hills said, “but to tell you the truth, I have honestly no clue what [Edsall] is going to do and what direction he’s going to go.”
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