It goes without saying that large questions loom over the Maryland Terrapins football team in 2015. A large amount of turnover, particularly on the offensive side of the ball, gives rise to considerable uncertainties as to just how the Terps will find the end zone this year.
Wide receivers Stefon Diggs, Deon Long, Marcus Leak, Juwann Winfree, and Jacquille Veii are all no longer with the team for an array of reasons, no two of which are exactly the same: Diggs entered the NFL Draft a year early, Long graduated and is trying to crack a roster in the NFL, Veii transferred, Leak left for “personal reasons” (again), and Winfree was suspended and ultimately withdrew from the university altogether.
While the Terps catching the football will look different this year, so will the quarterback that will be throwing it to them. Redshirt junior Caleb Rowe, junior Perry Hills, and senior transfer Daxx Garman were in a three-way race for the starting quarterback position until Friday evening, just one week out from the Terps’ season opener against Richmond.
Perry Hills will be the Maryland’s starting quarterback when the Terps take the field against Richmond on Sept. 5. This comes as somewhat of a surprise, as many presumed Rowe to be the heir apparent to former read-option threat C.J. Brown.
Hills is no stranger to taking snaps for the Terps as he served as the starter for seven games back in 2012 before being the second of four Maryland quarterbacks to fall victim to a season-ending injury that year. Hills did not quite light up defenses during his time as a starter in 2012, but showed a lot of potential. Of course, he had to step into the role as a true freshman after Danny O’Brien transferred to Wisconsin in the offseason and C.J. Brown suffered a torn ACL.
Hills completed 57 percent of his passes, averaged a modest 191 passing yards-per-game, and threw for eight touchdowns against seven interceptions. Hills experienced a rough first start to his collegiate career as he threw three interceptions against William & Mary in a slim 7-6 victory. However, Hills threw eight touchdowns and just four interceptions over the next six games and led Maryland to wins against Temple, Wake Forest, and Virginia. His best game came in a 31-21 loss to No. 8 West Virginia as he threw for three touchdowns with just one interception and had over 300 passing yards.
Last year, Hills got on the field during a win at home against Iowa. After Brown temporarily left the game in the third quarter with a back injury, Hills kept the Terps in the game by completing five of his 10 passes for 86 yards and a score. Most of that came on a short pass to Stefon Diggs, who accounted for most of the 53-yard touchdown with his legs.
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Hills also looked sharp during Maryland’s spring Red-White game, connecting with Marcus Leak for three touchdowns before halftime. He apparently continued to progress over the summer months en route to being named the team’s starting quarterback. He also has some mobility and can run with the football, though he is certainly more of a traditional pocket passer.
Though he has only started three games over his three years with the team, Rowe has appeared in a total of 13. He has thrown for 12 total touchdowns, 10 interceptions, and has completed 123-of-229 passes (53.7 completion percentage) for a 127.1 passer rating.
While he did not start any games last season, Rowe appeared in four and threw for at least one touchdown in each. He played well overall last season when afforded the opportunity, completing 34 of his 54 passes for nearly 500 yards and five touchdowns. The only blemish on his 2014 résumé came as a result of being called upon to replace Brown in the second half of the beatdown by eventual national champion Ohio State.
With Maryland down big, Rowe completed 13-of-22 passes in the second half for 173 yards and a touchdown, but threw three ugly interceptions. Rowe is currently listed as Hills’ backup. If Hills does not produce over the first few weeks of the season, I think Edsall will be less hesitant than he was last year to pull the starter in favor of Rowe.
Garman transferred to Maryland from Oklahoma State after last season. In nine games in 2014, Garman completed 152-of-277 passes (54.9 completion percentage) for 2,041 yards and 12 touchdowns along with 12 interceptions.
After the Cowboys’ starting quarterback went down with an injury, Garman stepped in and found some immediate success. Over the next five games, Garman threw 10 touchdowns to just five interceptions, completed about 58 percent of his passes, and led Oklahoma State to five straight wins. However, Garman’s production tailed off dramatically as he completed only 50 percent of his passes over the next four games, throwing seven interceptions and only two touchdowns. He was eventually pulled in favor of a redshirt freshman, which led to his transfer to Maryland.
Also on the roster is freshman Gage Shaffer, a 6-7, 205 pound quarterback out of Short Gap, West Virginia. Shaffer passed for 2,037 yards and 24 touchdowns as a high school senior last season. He was ranked as a two-star recruit by Rivals and a three-star recruit by ESPN. He is a pocket-passing quarterback with very limited mobility and is considered a project.
Also of note, previously recruited quarterbacks Shane Cockerille and Will Ulmer have both moved to different positions. Ulmer made the move to wide receiver back in September 2014, and Cockerille made the transition to fullback this past July. Cockerille saw some time last year on the field as a blocker on special teams, and with the current depth at quarterback (including incoming recruit Dwayne Haskins suiting up next year) a move to a different position made sense. Ulmer is an exciting athlete, and if the spring Red-White game is any true indication of Edsall’s intentions, expect to see him get some game action in wildcat-like formations.