In what feels like an all-too-familiar situation, Maryland football’s quarterback position is in flux as spring practice has begun.
The two “incumbent starters”—if that’s what we’re supposed to call Tyrrell Pigrome, who lasted three quarters, and Kasim Hill, who played less than a full six quarters before suffering season-ending injuries—are still sidelined with rehab responsibilities. Max Bortenschlager, who started eight games as the third-stringer-turned-starter, is leading the Terps through their first foray back into live football activity since last fall. Freshman early enrollee Tyler DeSue and sophomore walk-on Legend Brumbaugh are flanking him and rotating with each of the units.
“Obviously, the two quarterbacks will both be out for spring, they won’t be practicing,” DJ Durkin told reporters Monday afternoon. “The two quarterbacks are doing a great job recovering. They’re on track—in fact, a little bit ahead of schedule—but they won’t be in any of these spring drills right now. We’ll do some stuff with them on the side.”
Ryan Brand transferred out of the program in the offseason, while Caleb Henderson seems to have moved to some kind of off-field role, leaving Bortenschlager, DeSue and Brumbaugh as the only healthy quarterbacks on the roster. It’s not an ideal situation, but “spring is about development,” Durkin said. And new offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Matt Canada isn’t holding anything back in terms of installing his offense.
“Obviously the skill set of each quarterback is unique with the guys we have,” Canada said. “The beauty of that is we’re going to put it all in right now—put our system in and then whoever it becomes, the guy who’s a winner, the guy who’s a student of the game and the guy who’s the most accurate will be the quarterback. And then we’ll run the plays based on who gives us the best chance to win.”
The stark and maybe unfortunate reality for now is that either Pigrome or Hill likely gives this team the best chance to win. Even though neither lasted into conference play in 2017, the way in which the offense functioned with Pigrome and Hill at the helm looked much more capable of competing with the powers that be in the Big Ten. Both Hill and Pigrome possess a running threat Bortenschlager didn’t, but Canada doesn’t want his offense to rely on a quarterback who can run for it to be successful. His scheme and playcalling will fit regardless of the quarterback’s style of play, as long as the offensive line can block both the run and the pass.
“If you can block them and your skill set says throw it, you can throw it,” Canada said. “If you can block them and your skill set says run it and you can run it. If you can’t block them then it doesn’t really matter what your skill set is. I think that’s where it always starts, is up front.”
Maryland, of course, returns all its running backs from last season and will have to find ways to add Javon Leake, Anthony McFarland and Tayon Fleet-Davis to the mix. Even with a more well-rounded threat in Hill or Pigrome under center, the Terps will likely rely on the ground game to matriculate the ball down the field. And while both are expected back for August camp, nobody knows right now how each one will recover or how he’ll be able to play once he’s back. Durkin is confident for when they do come back, though.
“I think that when we’re healthy at quarterback,” he said, “we’re as good as there is.”