With C.J. Brown’s status against UVA this upcoming Saturday still uncertain, the Terrapins find themselves in a familiar position as the one they faced last season. Young quarterbacks with limited experience are abound on the roster, and each one of them possesses different qualities that greatly impact the offense that can be brought out on the field. There’s Caleb Rowe, the gunslinger; Ricardo Young, the enigma scrambler; Perry Hills, the manager; and Shane Cockerille, the rookie.
Realistically, the argument for starting someone like Cockerille remains the same as it ever was: he needs a redshirt year, and the Terps are against trotting out yet another true freshman when there are plenty of other able bodies on the squad. Eliminating him from this conversation is a certainty, as I do not think he’s ready and I have a sneaky suspicion the coaching staff does as well.
Still, the conversation about the other three player is as undecided as ever, and warrants another look at. Note: these pro QB comparisons are NOT suggested upsides; they are just to give you an idea of who those QBs remind me of, mentally.
Option A.) Caleb Rowe AKA Brett Favre
I’ll tell you now so that you no longer have to wonder, Caleb Rowe has the best arm on the team. Rowe has more zip on his passes, and looks more like a quarterback than anyone else on the roster. I’ve seen quite a bit of him, and know that he has the cannon to hit receivers in stride, he can fit the ball into tight, intermediate windows, and stands strong in the pocket despite his underwhelming frame. If there’s a quarterback who can utilize a potent receiving corp on the roster, there’s a good chance it’s Rowe.
In Rowe, fans clamoring for a more traditional offense would get it, as he’s not the most agile quarterback on the planet. His skill set almost necessitates running more pro-style sets, which are a stark contrast to what the Terrapins have been using of late. That’s not a bad thing, either. Many see Stefon Diggs and Deon Long as guys who would do even more damage with a larger uptick in receptions, not to mention opening up the door for the other young, speedy receivers. Rowe can take advantage of all that, with a caveat.
That caveat, of course, is that while Rowe may give the offense the most in terms of dangerous arm strength, he also offsets that with poor decision making. Rowe will take chances with the ball, there’s no doubt about that. It’s something that’s ingrained in some QBs, and Rowe is one of them. He’s never met a pass he doesn’t enjoy, a window too tight, or a triple-coverage too good. It’s not a matter of whether or not Rowe will throw picks, it’s when.
Then there’s the issue of him needing a ground game to really be effective. As with most passing gameplans, Rowe has to have some sort of running game to actually thrive. The problem is, Maryland was so effective on the ground because of C.J. Brown opening up avenues for the backs. Brandon Ross wasn’t asked to find the right hole to run through; there were wide open lanes already, deception allowed him to just rumble upfield. In a pro-style set, there may not be a back on the roster who can really thrive in that system. There just isn’t a whole lot back there in terms of explosiveness, and Rowe would suffer as a result.
But still, against Virginia’s secondary that got exposed last week vs Ball State? Rowe would shred them. Virginia is throwing out a freshman cornerback and a freshman linebacker next game, and with Rowe’s arm he could have them out of position numerous times. Virignia may have had a top five defense heading into last week, but that was all a mirage. They’re no more contenders than Maryland at this point, and a team as penalized and disjointed as Virginia (with a terrible turnover margin) is the perfect victim for Rowe.
Option B.) Ricardo Young, AKA Josh Portis
Ricardo Young is one of the more confusing prospects to don a Terps jersey. His situation on the team reminds me a lot of the one Josh Portis found himself in while he was at Maryland. Portis was a highly touted recruit coming out of high school but had to transfer from Florida because a star emerged and his chances of starting were slim. The transfer game can be a fickle mistress, because oftentimes the grass is never greener on the other side. Portis came to Maryland with much fanfare, but never played a substantial role at Maryland because of his inability to impress. Everyone knows he’s a gamer, but if you can’t do it in practice enough to impress coaches, you won’t play much. Such is the case with Ricardo Young
(Side note: Portis is in the NFL now, and while he’s still a backup, he is still clearly supremely talented)
You have to feel as though Young is Sysiphus at some point. No matter his efforts to get the stone up the hill, something will come along to ensure that stone rolls down to the other side of the mountain. Wasn’t Young supposed to be the best backup for Maryland? The guy who you could throw in if Brown ever got hurt and still run the same offense. The one with athleticism, experience, and more importantly, major chemistry with Maryland’s two best players (Stefon Diggs and Deon Long). And yet when the Terps got down big against Florida State, it was Rowe who tossed aside the clipboard and manned the ship, not Young.
Young has the talents to run the offense very similarly (and maybe better) than what Brown has done. He has a better arm than Brown, but Brown is a more cerebral quarterback. Young is probably as fast as Brown, too, but he isn’t nearly as big. He’s shorter, weighs less, but is nonetheless still a very competent quarterback. With Young’s speed, the team doesn’t need to abandon the read-option against UVA, they need merely to throw in their oldest backup.
Why won’t they? Young is inconsistent at practice, and those players do not ilicit much confidence. Young is a game-time quarterback, but coaches need to see it at practice before they are convinced it’ll work in a game. Quite frankly, if you look at things logically, there’s no way a coach who isn’t desperate would start Ricardo Young. If the car stalls out in the garage, why would you take it onto the autobahn?
Nonetheless, if Edsall is feeling daring and Locksley is clamoring to run the same offense he ran until this point, throwing Ricardo Young out there for a half would be their best bet. Virginia’s defense will more than likely have problems with Maryland’s weapons anyway, and giving the Terps some more legs in the running game could ensure that the productivity doesn’t drop off too much (excluding that whole 0 point game against Florida State).
Option C.) Perry Hills AKA Trent Dilfer
Nothing Perry Hills does will wow you. He’s not fast, he doesn’t have a great arm, and he isn’t going to give you an air raid offense. Hills isn’t going to give you much of anything, in fact, except a lot of three and outs. Of the three (or four, depending on which city in Maryland you hail from) quarterback options, Hills is the least exciting candidate for the job.
Yet I find myself, time and again, thinking positively of Perry Hills. Why? Because he’s got that leadership trait the fans love to see and the players respond to. Hills is an above .500 quarterback, believe it or not. He’s lead a game winning drive, he produced incredibly well against West Virginia last year, and is tough as nails. Hills is the quarterback who you’re frustrated with the entire time you watch him, and then the clock winds down to zero and you’re amazed with the results. But he can still get you a win, and turnovers probably won’t be an issue with Hills. In other words, he’s safe.
I’m not entirely sure the staff will go to Hills without something bad happening, but to be completely honest he might not be the worst option. Virginia’s quarterback is so brutal it may not matter who you throw out, but Hills could go blow for blow with Watford any day of the week. That is to say, in a tight game where no points are scored, I’d actually believe that Hills could lead the Terps on a winning drive late in the game.
He isn’t the sexiest option, but as a one-week stopgap he’s probably the safest.
So who’s our pick for the best option at QB? Start Rowe for a half, then start Young in the second half if things aren’t going well. Give both of them a chance. What do YOU think?