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Maryland football has options at quarterback in 2019, but there’s still uncertainty

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The position has new faces, and the whole group is learning a new scheme. It’ll be an interesting competition.

NCAA Football: Maryland at Penn State Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland football’s 2019 season starts in 82 days. It’s the first year of the Mike Locksley era, and fans are hopeful it can be the start of something special. Once again, we’ll be spending our summer running through the Terps’ position groups as fall camp approaches.

As always, we’re starting at quarterback, where Maryland has been plagued by injuries and ineffectiveness for seemingly the last decade. Last year, the Terps leaned heavily toward the run and struggled when they needed to pass. Maryland finished 2018 ranked 74th of 130 FBS teams in passing S&P+, but was incredibly boom-or-bust — 10th in explosiveness, 126th in efficiency through the air.

Kasim Hill, Maryland’s 2018 starter, is in the transfer portal and expected to miss all of 2019 with a torn ACL regardless. This year’s position group will have three returning players and two new faces, all competing for the starting job.

Maryland’s 2019 quarterbacks

Player Year 2018
Player Year 2018
Josh Jackson R-JR 36-58, 575 yds, 5 TD, 1 int; 20 rush, 61 yds, 1 TD (at Virginia Tech)
Tyrrell Pigrome R-JR 37-67, 561 yds, 2 TDs, 1 int; 58 rush, 159 yds, 1 TD
Max Bortenschlager R-JR No passing stats
Tyler DeSue R-FR 2-2, 16 yds; 4 rush, 5 yds
Lance LeGendre FR High school (4-star recruit)
Donny Sanders* R-SO DNP
* walk-on

Maryland couldn’t get enough out of its passing game in 2018.

The aerial attack led the offense against Texas, as Hill went 17-of-29 for 222 yards and a score (Jeshaun Jones also had a passing touchdown). But Maryland was one-dimensional the rest of the season. Hill never attempted more than 21 throws the rest of the season, and he only completed over 50 percent of his passes twice in that span. Ultimately, Maryland had five entire games with under 100 passing yards.

Tyrrell Pigrome provided a spark after replacing an injured Hill against Indiana, and he impressed against Ohio State, racking up 181 yards on just 6-of-13 passing. While he misfired on the potential winning two-point conversion, Maryland doesn’t take the Buckeyes to overtime without his heroics. Pigrome’s rushing totals are brought down by taking nine sacks in his two starts, but he had some impressive runs scattered throughout the season as well.

Hill finished 84-of-170 (49.4 percent) for 1,083 yards, nine touchdowns and four interceptions. Pigrome spent most of the season entering sporadically off the bench, but ultimately recorded 561 yards on 37-of-67 passing (55.2 percent) with two scores and a pick. Max Bortenschlager, who started eight games in 2017, didn’t throw a pass and had surgery after four appearances at holder, preserving a redshirt season. Tyler DeSue also redshirted, making four appearances in mop-up duty.

This season brings new faces and a new offensive system.

The first new addition came on National Signing Day, when Maryland landed four-star prospect Lance LeGendre (pronounced “Luh-ZHON”). The New Orleans native had been long expected to pledge to Florida State, but instead he became a signature victory on the trail for Locksley, who had briefly recruited LeGendre to Alabama and spent just two weeks pitching Maryland before securing his Letter of Intent.

Then came Josh Jackson, a rare graduate transfer with two years of eligibility remaining. Jackson broke out as a redshirt freshman at Virginia Tech in 2017, throwing for 2,991 yards with 20 touchdowns and just nine interceptions and adding six rushing scores. He started 2018 strong but went down with an injury against Old Dominion in the season’s third game. He never returned to the field, and Virginia Tech went 6-7. Jackson entered the transfer portal in January and committed to the Terps less than a month later.

Neither of the new faces were on campus this spring, so Pigrome, Bortenschlager and DeSue were the first to learn the new offense. All three took first-team reps during camp, and with Pigrome suffering a minor injury in a scrimmage, DeSue and Bortenschlager battled it out under center in the spring game. Both looked impressive, combining to complete 52 of 82 attempts with four touchdowns and one pick, and DeSue took home the game’s MVP.

Perhaps the most encouraging thing about the spring game was that both signal callers were trusted to throw frequently but not asked to do too much. Plenty of the completions were short and intermediate, with tight ends being heavily involved. This offensive scheme probably won’t have quite the same success it had at Alabama, with Tua Tagovailoa and a million weapons, but there are reasons for optimism.

Maryland won’t be in a rush to settle this competition.

Jackson is the widely assumed favorite, but it’s not a guarantee that he’ll be the same player he was before last fall’s injury. None of the three quarterbacks present in spring practice separated themselves, so there isn’t a real leader out of that group at the moment. And LeGendre has the talent to put himself in the mix immediately. Maryland has waited until Week 1 to announce its starter each of the last three seasons, and don’t be surprised if this competition lasts well into fall camp.

Having five options is never a bad thing — Maryland has shown in recent seasons that it can never have too many bodies at quarterback. But the Terps hope someone can seize the opportunity this fall and become the face of the offense for 2019 and beyond.