Early Enrollees: Ryan Brand
USA TODAY Sports
After a position battle that spanned from last year’s spring practices through Maryland’s fall camp, fifth-year senior signal caller Perry Hills got the nod to be the Terps starting quarterback for the 2016 season.
Hills embraced his leadership role and wound up having the best season of his career at Maryland under first-year Terps offensive coordinator Walt Bell. Hills started all 11 games he played in last season--missing two due to injury--and finished with 1,464 passing yards, 12 passing touchdowns to four interceptions, and a completion percentage of 61.9, which led all Big Ten passers.
As alluded to, Hills did have a shoulder injury that forced him to miss games against Minnesota and Nebraska. He started but also missed significant time in losses to Penn State, Michigan and Ohio State. Fellow senior Caleb Rowe took over in the Michigan game and was given a chance against the Buckeyes as well, but it was the true freshmen, Tyrrell Pigrome and Max Bortenschlager, that each drew starts when Hills couldn’t suit up. Pigrome started against Minnesota and contributed heavily during the Penn State and Ohio State games, while Bortenschlager started against Nebraska, where he fared reasonably well considering it was his only real action of the season.
It’s also worth noting that when Hills’ injury initially happened in the second overtime against UCF, Pigrome came in and on his first play from scrimmage ended the game with a 24-yard touchdown run.
Hills final performance in a Terps uniform in the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit against Boston College wasn’t his best but it did highlight some of his endearing qualities as Maryland’s quarterback. Hills had virtually no help from his blockers, as is evident by Boston College’s eight sacks and Hills’ 13 rush attempts for -41 yards. But Hills hung in tough throughout the game, despite a lingering shoulder injury, and led Maryland to a comeback in the second half, after trailing at halftime 29-13, that fell just short of a victory.
Let the competition to be Maryland’s starting quarterback begin….again
The search for the Terps signal caller dominated headlines throughout the spring and summer last year and it could be much of the same in 2017 with questions surrounding the quarterback position in College Park once again. Of the passers that are participating in spring practice, junior Caleb Henderson appears to have the inside track to emerge as the frontrunner, but he will have to fend off hungry sophomores Bortenschlager and Pigrome.
Henderson spent two years with the North Carolina Tar Heels program before transferring to Maryland prior to the 2016 season. Because of NCAA transfer policy, Henderson had to sit out last season but still has two years of eligibility left for the Terps. At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, the former Rivals four-star recruit has prototypical size for his position and possesses solid arm strength and accuracy. He and Bortenschlager have similar skill sets, but Henderson’s college experience could tip the scale between the two pro-style passers.
If Maryland’s coaching staff decides to go in a different direction, which would appear unlikely, Pigrome would be their guy. At under 6-foot and with limited arm talent, Pigrome, along with early enrollee Ryan Brand, brings immense athleticism to the table and can be an interesting option under center in certain packages. But running a game smoothly from start to finish would likely be a struggle for either dual-threat quarterback.
Whichever Terps quarterback, if any, does emerge as the frontrunner to start after spring practice, they’ll likely find themselves competing in the fall with incoming freshman four-star Kasim Hill. Hill might already be the most talented passer on Maryland’s roster, but having a few other options to their disposal this year could make him a primary redshirt candidate for the Terps.
Bortenschlager will make a serious push to start, but Henderson will likely prevail. Bortenschlager only played in two games for the Terps last season, starting one, but showed flashes of a guy that can get the job done. Bortenschlager’s first start ever for Maryland was at Nebraska, one of the most hostile environments in college football. But he showed no fear and great poise by completing 14 of his 29 pass attempts for 191 yards and a touchdown. The then-true freshman was under duress all game long and was sacked five times, but he still was able to protect the ball and was not responsible for any turnovers. With that valuable experience as well as his first full college offseason under his belt, don’t be surprised to see Bortenschlager turn some heads in spring practice. But as Terps head coach D.J. Durkin has said many times, competition breeds success, and Bortenschlager’s presence could help get the most out of a very talented passer in Henderson, who should still be considered the favorite to win the job.