On a rollout to the right side in the second quarter against Rutgers, Kasim Hill pointed downfield at running back Tayon Fleet-Davis, who broke out of his crossing route and ran straight towards the end zone. After Hill pointed, he delivered a pinpoint pass, hitting his fellow redshirt freshman in stride for a 20-yard touchdown.
The throw showed why interim head coach Matt Canada has so much confidence in Hill, despite another mediocre day under center. Although he threw a career-high three touchdowns, Hill still finished just 8-of-17 for 76 yards.
“I think after every single game, you always go back and watch the film and learn from things you could’ve done better. There’s always things that you can do better,” Hill said.
Last weekend, then-No. 15 Michigan brought pressure early, which rattled Hill for the rest of the game. Rutgers tried the same approach, and actually had a little success early on. On the second play, an unblocked Scarlet Knights blitzer got in the backfield, and Hill threw it in the direction of Anthony McFarland in the nick of time. Later on the drive, Hill was slightly late in finding Jahrvis Davenport on a crossing route on third-and-6 that came up well short of the first down. If Hill hit Davenport earlier, it would have been a first down.
Rutgers’ blitz was much less ferocious after the opening minutes, and although Hill never completely settled in, he made a few impressive throws that showed why he’s gotten the majority of snaps under center. Facing a third-and-19 in the second quarter, Hill rolled out to his right and delivered a dart to Taivon Jacobs, giving Maryland a 17-0 lead.
But as is common with many young quarterbacks, the touchdown came after a near disaster on the previous play. Looking for Jacobs on the left side of the field, Hill’s pass was tipped and nearly intercepted by a Scarlet Knights defender. According to Canada, it’s all about the next-play mentality for his quarterback.
“Sometimes a little man gets on your shoulder and says ‘I missed the throw’ and you can’t listen to that guy,” Canada said. “The only play that matters is next the play.”
During the rest of the game, Hill continued to show tantalizing glimpses of his potential alongside questionable decisions. On Maryland’s last drive of the first half, he overthrew Jeshaun Jones on a pass that would’ve gone for a touchdown, then threw over Chigoziem Okonkwo’s head for what would’ve been an easy first down. Even on his beautiful eight-yard touchdown strike to Jones in the third quarter, Hill still had Brian Cobbs wide open on the left side of the field for what would’ve been an easier score.
“He’s gotta play better at times, but he made some plays today too,” Canada said. “Some of those throws he made, I’m not sure everyone could’ve made them.”
Hill’s only completed 53 percent of his passes so far this season, an underwhelming figure for the former four-star recruit. But Hill hasn’t had the journey of a typical redshirt freshman.
Instead of sitting out a year to learn the playbook, Hill was busy rehabbing a torn ACL. Then he watched the offensive coordinator who helped recruit him leave and was held out of spring practice. If Hill was healthy, that time could’ve been used to get more experience with Canada’s complex offense and develop chemistry with an unproven wide receiver group. He’s only started seven games, and had minimal action in two more.
“He played in one game,” Canada said. “He played the end of the opener, he played the start of the game [against UCF] and all of a sudden he goes out there and is supposed to be Joe Montana. That’s not how it works.”
Not every team will gift wrap good field positions and big plays on the ground like the Scarlet Knights, so Hill will have to continue to improve and make Maryland’s offense more balanced. It’s something the Terps haven’t accomplished since the first game of the season, but it’s about to become as important as ever.