Maryland Football: Quarterback play is true key to 2017 season

Oct 15, 2016; College Park, MD, USA; Maryland Terrapins quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome (3) looks to pass against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Byrd Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 15, 2016; College Park, MD, USA; Maryland Terrapins quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome (3) looks to pass against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Byrd Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports /

The Maryland football program is looking to take the next step under D.J. Durkin.

With the Perry Hills era in the rear view mirror, quarterback play could be the true key to the Terrapins’ success in 2017.

Maryland hasn’t exactly had the greatest luck with signal callers in recent years. C.J. Brown and Hills have been under center the last five years and their play was sporadic at best.

The Terps have an open competition heading into the fall. North Carolina transfer Caleb Henderson will be battling it out with Max Bortenschlager and Tyrrell Pigrome.

Henderson missed Maryland’s Red-White Spring Game last month due to a minor ankle injury. On the other hand, Bortenschlager and Pigrome showed flashes of production in the contest despite questionable numbers.

Neither quarterback looked overly impressive from an accuracy standpoint. Pigrome completed just six of his 14 passes for 70 yards (two touchdowns & two interceptions) and Bortenschlager finished 7-of-16 for 152 yards (one passing touchdown) on the afternoon.

However, both did have strong touchdown throws during the annual contest.

Pigrome found wide receiver Taivon Jacobs on a 29-yard touchdown in the back of the end zone. On the other hand, Bortenschlager threw a beautiful back shoulder pass to DJ Turner for a touchdown.

Obviously, there’s not a whole lot to take from spring games. Both Bortenschlager and Pigrome did see the field in 2016, so at least there’s a sample size to base somewhat of an opinion from.

Bortenschlager appeared in two (starting one) and completed 16-of-33 passes for 209 yards to go along with a touchdown pass. The Indiana native started against Nebraska and threw for 190 yards and a touchdown on 14-of-29 passing.

The former three-star recruit’s numbers were padded thanks to a 92-yard catch-and-run from star wideout D.J. Moore. Bortenschlager made a good read as the pass rush was coming at him and Moore did the rest.

Pigrome saw a little more action than Bortenschlager and was a mixed bag at times.

A large majority of Pigrome’s work was relief duty when Hills was hurt during the course of a game. In 11 games, Pigrome completed 37-of-71 passes (52.1 percent) for 322 yards while tossing two touchdowns and two interceptions.

The dual-threat signal caller also rushed for 254 yards and four touchdowns on 62 carries (4.1 yards-per-carry). Pigrome’s four rushes to paydirt were the third-most on the team behind running backs Ty Johnson (six) and Lorenzo Harrison (five).

Pigrome’s most memorable moment in 2016 was his 24-yard touchdown run against Central Florida in double overtime. He subbed in for Hills, who was hurt during the first overtime period.

In Pigrome’s only start against Minnesota, he completed 18-of-37 passes for 161 yards and tossed a touchdown and a pair of interceptions. He also rushed for 71 yards on 25 carries on the afternoon.

One of the biggest issues for Pigrome is his ability to read coverages and deliver the football with accuracy. On the other hand, it’s not too often that a true freshman quarterback is tossed right into the fire.

It’ll likely come down to Henderson and Pigrome in the race for the starting quarterback job this summer.

Henderson didn’t gain a ton of experience during his lone season in Chapel Hill. He threw just one pass against Delaware that landed incomplete.

However, the Virginia native did rush for 53 yards on five carries against Delaware and North Carolina A&T.

Henderson definitely has strong pocket presence, but also isn’t afraid to tuck the ball down and run when he has to. The former Tar Heel has an incredibly strong arm and wasn’t afraid to sling the ball downfield during his high school days at Lake Braddock (Va.).

Henderson looks like he could be a great fit in offensive coordinator Walt Bell’s fast-paced unit. If he does win the starting job, Maryland’s stellar running game will take a good amount of the pressure off of the junior.

Despite losing a significant amount of talent at the receiver position, the Terps should still have plenty of playmakers on both sides of the football. If the secondary can improve on defense, this could be a very competitive team.

Next: Dan Morris shines in win over Penn State

Regardless, Maryland is going to need to get more consistent production from the quarterback position if they want to make some noise in the Big Ten.