Zone Read: Maryland Football Scrimmage


1)   Your take on QB’s?

Bohlin: The injury to incumbent QB C.J. Brown has certainly thrown a wrench into what Randy Edsall had to hope would be a more successful second season in College Park. Without the services of Brown the Terps are forced to look at two true freshmen, Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe, to find a starter for the season opener against FCS school William & Mary.

Hills had the upper hand on the starting job going into Saturday’s scrimmage and appears to still be in that position as camp progresses. Hills is more of a runner than a passer which seems to fit the mold of what Edsall wants to do on offense. This is good for Hills because from what I saw he seemed much more comfortable running the zone-read than he did dropping back to pass. With any freshman QB there are things they can do well and things they need to continue to work on, Hills will need to work closely with OC Mike Locksley on his passing mechanics. At this point in time that appears to be far behind his ability to make plays with his legs.

South Carolina native Caleb Rowe is almost the polar opposite of Hills. Rowe, a much more accomplished passer, looked comfortable in the pocket and showed his ability to make the majority of the throws a QB needs to be able to complete. His throws had nice velocity and, for the most part, a tight spiral as he displayed his ability to Terps fans for the first time. Considering Rowe was a relatively unknown commodity going into this scrimmage I was very impressed by his ability to fit passes into tight windows for completions. He also showed how he could be a competent runner in a zone-read package as well, however, passing the ball in a more traditional manner appears to be his strong suit.

Edsall and Locksley have a tough decision ahead of them as I thought Rowe closed the gap between himself and Hills on Saturday. A two QB attack is possible in this situation, but not preferable, as Hills and Rowe’s styles are so different it could lead to a more predictable offense. See the Florida Gators circa 2010 as an example; when John Brantley was in at QB opposing defenses knew a pass was likely. Similarly when Trey Burton came in it was clearly a QB run off the zone-read. That significantly hurt the Gators offense that season and I would envision a similar scenario were the Terps to attempt a two QB system.

Willis: It’s going to be a long season.

If Randy Edsall has a love affair with Perry Hills, then the Terrapins aren’t going to complete a single pass longer than 15 yards, as Hills arm becomes a noodle at any other distance. That’s not an exaggeration; that’s how bad the passes he threw looked on Saturday outside of short completions. If a team is looking for a passer, they need to look elsewhere, because his arm is not ready for the college game just yet.

That being said, Hills is actually a very solid runner too. No, he isn’t that fast or elusive and wasn’t allowed to be tackled, but Hills looked very competent at running a Randy Edsall-type offense. Misdirection after misdirection might be in store if the Terps are to use Hills, and he may be able to run them alright. It just makes the offense disgustingly one dimensional.

The best passer was Caleb Rowe, assuming you excuse his interceptions. Rowe is a much more polished passer, capable of making throws at any distance and showed a gunslinger mentality during that scrimmage. He wasn’t prone to looking receivers down and telegraphing passes, instead going through one or two routes. If it sounds like I’m more favorable to Rowe as the quarterback, it’s because you’re likely right. His passing skill is just a lot further ahead than Hills and he actually resembled a college quarterback.

He even has the same type of speed as Hills but unfortunately his body frame would be able to support, at the most, one hit by a linebacker before cracking in half. I’d actually shudder at the thought of that, because it’s more than likely Edsall would ask him to run more than once and he cannot do that physically. It’s the only knock on Rowe I can truly place as a red flag (outside of the occasional decision making), but it is a big concern. No use getting another quarterback injured.

The wild card is Devin Burns, the converted quarterback. Burns was the best runner of the three without a doubt, and that’s probably pretty obvious considering he used to run routes for a living. But Burns legitimately impressed me with his comfort level in the pocket, as he looked to throw and stood his ground before taking off up the middle. He’d be able to beat quite a few more defenders than Hills.

The downside is that he literally can’t throw, like at all. His passes looked like injured mallards and nosedive straight into the dirt. His mechanics look bad, but they are fixable with an offseason of work (keyword: offseason). As it stands, playing him would be only for making something out of nothing, because his passes would just get picked off or end up in the dirt.

2) Stefon Diggs: Great Terp? Or Greatest Terp?

Bohlin: While this question may be slightly posed in jest Diggs put on a show for all those in attendance at Byrd Stadium on Saturday. Scoring three touchdowns in the first half, including on his first two touches of the scrimmage off of a KR and a PR, Diggs was just as good as advertised.

The Good Counsel product showed why he was one of the most highly sought after recruits in the country every time he touched the ball. He displayed top end speed and elusiveness in the return game, which he should’ve all but locked up duties as the Terps kick returner and punt returner after that performance, as well as steady hands that made him one of the top WR recruits in the nation for the class of 2012.

Stefon Diggs will without a doubt be a favorite target for the pair of true freshmen QB’s pining for playing time this season. It was just a scrimmage but Diggs made a statement on Saturday that he is here and plans on doing some damage to ACC opposition.

Willis: Great Terp, but only because his last appearance was in a scrimmage. What I saw from him during that scrimmage left me with a very, very, strong impression. He’s fast, but he’s even faster in person than any game film can really explain. Not only that, but he has great hands and an uncanny ability to create space between himself and defenders, whoever they may be. This is all stuff we already knew, but I’ll bet you didn’t know that his field vision is unparalleled. Most return men look at a pile of defenders and try to go around it in one direction or the other; others dance around a bit and make nothing happen. Diggs doesn’t dance, and he doesn’t pick one side and just go around them, either. He forces the defender to make a decision, then quickly does the opposite and exposes a quick hole where there was once a brick wall. It’s truly an awesome thing to watch.

Obviously this was only a scrimmage, so we’re not supposed to read a ton into all of this. Defenders could have easily been told not to pop anyone too badly. But during this scrimmage, they couldn’t even touch him. I’m expecting huge things out of Diggs this year; probably bigger than my previous expectations.

3) Other things that stuck out from the Scrimmage?

Bohlin: There were three other things from Saturday’s scrimmage that stuck with me.

First, the lack of penalties called on both the offense and defense. This could be attributed to the fact it was a scrimmage for fans and they were letting them play but there were not many calls made against either side. Playing sound, mistake free football is big for any successful team. This is the point in the preseason where you expect mistakes to be made. If Edsall and Co. can keep the Terps from shooting themselves in the foot with procedure penalties it will significantly help this offense be productive moving forward.

Second, the defensive line was getting pretty good pressure on the passer. While the QB’s weren’t actually being hit the D-Line showed the ability to get to the QB and pressure them out of the pocket and into errant throws. The more uncomfortable the Terps defensive front can make it on opposing QB’s the easier the job will be on the linebackers and defensive backs to do their job.

The third and final thing had little to do with the team and more to do with Byrd itself. The new turf field looked fantastic. This state of the art turf is supposed to stay up to 15 degrees cooler than any other turf field due to a technology known as CoolPlay. Thankfully, the rumors of Maryland laying down a colored turf field a la Boise State were false and this is a traditional green field. The “Maryland Pride” styling for the endzones are a nice new touch as well.

Willis: Special teams looked fantastic, as is typical tradition at Maryland. The punters were consistently pinning balls inside the ten and giving the defense great field position. There was a lack of tackling on the defensive side, but that could be because of the rules placed on the scrimmage. I love when Maryland excels at special teams, because the Terps need as good field position as they can get at all times. It’s an important yet underrated part of the game that, luckily, Randy Edsall does not appear to have overlooked at all.

Kenny Tate, without having played a single snap, looked great. He seems to be in even better shape than he was last year (which was already impeccable) and I can imagine him having an amazing bounce back year. The defense might actually be staunch this year with him back in the mix, as he’s looking at becoming a draft pick next year.