No program goes on bad luck streaks like the Maryland Terrapins. The Terps' awful quarterback luck continues today, with Devin Burns the latest to fall victim to the Angry Maryland Quarterback-Hating God, following C.J. Brown and Perry Hills, both of whom suffered torn ACLs earlier in the season. Burns, who replaced Hills last Saturday against N.C. State, is officially out for the season with a Lisfranc injury, leaving Caleb Rowe as the only healthy quarterback on the roster.
Burns came up slightly gimpy after a sack in the third quarter against State, but played the rest of the game without issue. He was spotted around campus in a walking boot and crutches, with rumors swirling that he'd be out for the year - rumors that, ultimately, turned out correct. To make matters worse, news has also hit that Marcus Leak, one of Maryland's top receivers, is also out for the season with a broken toe. Yipes.
For what it's worth, let's just get this out of the way: yeah, seems like the Football Gods are settling some scores right here. That's three quarterbacks down to season-ending injuries, which as we're seeing now could derail an otherwise very strong team. And it's not just QBs, either: 28(!) players are on the injury report altogether. At some point these injuries are going to catch up, if they haven't already. The back stretch could get ugly. But we'll get to that in a later post.
For now: Caleb Rowe, our nation turns its lonely eyes to you. Rowe, initially a third-stringer, is now Mike Locksley's only option under center. (Shawn Petty, a true freshman linebacker who played QB at Eleanor Roosevelt in high school, is the new #2. Never good when your backup quarterback wears number 31.) Rowe's played a grand total of three snaps in his career, and was stuck behind Burns for most of the season on the depth chart so, yeah, not ideal.
That said, he did look darn good in those three snaps, which is at the very least promising. N.C. State played pretty far off as far as coverage goes, but they did send pressure looking to disrupt Rowe, which backfired. Rowe showcased his pocket awareness and, to some degree, athleticism, as well as a good enough arm to hit Kevin Dorsey and Nigel King for 50 yards on two attempts. (310 quarterback rating FTW!)
Still, an ACC defense that's not playing off on coverage and will consistently look to pressure him is another matter entirely. Rowe may have the best arm of all the quarterbacks on Maryland's roster, but relying on a true freshman's arm in his first start ever - especially when it's away against an ACC opponent - is something of a gamble. (Not that Maryland has any choice.)
I'd say that the Terrapins and Mike Locksley might look to replicate the Burns read-option offense, but I'm not sure Rowe is good enough as a runner to do that. In a strange way, I think he is probably a better pure athlete than Hills - he certainly seemed quicker - but is a worse fit for the read-option. For a QB to fit in this system, they either need to be an electric athlete (think Darron Thomas, Denard Robinson, Braxton Miller) or an absolute powerhouse (Tim Tebow, Collin Klein). A read-option QB needs to be able to beat defensive backs - which they can do through either through power or finesse - but also be able to counteract head-hunting linebackers looking for killshots. A powerhouse does that by being big enough to absorb those shots; an athlete, by outrunning them. Rowe is neither an electric athlete nor a powerhouse, so while he can make plays on the run he's not explosive enough to shake linebackers nor strong enough to take hits from them. His running ability is best used letting him gunsling a bit, making plays by getting out of the pocket and either throwing on the run or picking up some yardage with his feet when the defense plays off. I really don't want him near the read option.
In fact, if I had to think of a scheme, I'd probably say it's likely Maryland goes with the WCO spread - almost an Air Raid, really - that they used in the first quarter against N.C. State. It only got them three points, but it was as good as the offense's looked schematically in a very long time. I'm not in love with relying on Rowe's arm to complete all those early-down throws to avoid third-and-longs, but I'm not sure how many other options they have.
Buckle in, everyone. Things could get bumpy.