The Terps suffered a huge blow Tuesday night when starting quarterback and team captain C.J. Brown tore his ACL, ending his season less than three weeks before the Terps' regular season opener. With the loss of Brown, the Terps are left with two freshmen quarterbacks in Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe and wide receiver Devin Burns who has made the transition back to quarterback in the past few days.
Edsall said earlier in the week that Hills was ahead of Rowe in the competition for the backup quarterback spot. Now, Hills will most likely find himself starting a lot sooner than he thought. He has been taking first team reps with Rowe practicing with the second team. Even though Hills is not as experienced as Brown, his teammates and coaches feel that Hills will be fine running the offense.
There's things he's got to improve on, but I think the biggest thing is, you got to take a look at first and foremost at who can control the huddle, Maryland head coach Randy Edsall said. Can they get to the line of scrimmage and there's no delay of game and get everyone lined up and those things. Then it's up to a lot of the other people around him. If he can do that and get the plays called and know what the checks are, those sort of things, then it's up to the offensive line when we go pass play, they got to protect, receivers got to get open, he's got to throw it on time. I've been pleased with what I've seen.
It really wasn't an adjustment, if anything, senior wide receiver and team captain Kevin Dorsey said on Hills becoming the starter. He's already taken reps with the first unit regardless, and even during the summer, we were working on routes with both himself and C.J. getting a chance to throw with the ones, the twos, everyone. As far as timing and anything else, it's pretty much the same timing, the same routes. He's doing pretty well.
Coming in as a freshman, it's tough, but we have the utmost confidence in him, senior tight end Matt Furstenburg said. He's done a great job out there, leading the offense in practice.
Dorsey said he speaks to Hills pretty regularly since they share lockers. He said that he did not talk to Hills in depth about Brown's injury.
It wasn't anything we talked about in particular, Dorsey explained. It was, 'Hey, you know, here's an opportunity. Here's a chance. Step up and just make the play.'
One of the more surprising developments since Brown's injury has been Burns. Burn was recruited as a quarterback and practiced as a quarterback during his first offseason before switching to wide receiver. After seeing Brown's injury, Burns approached Edsall and said that he would be willing to help the team by switching back to quarterback.
He definitely transitioned a lot faster than I thought, Dorsey said. He's throwing good. He played the position the offseason before but it's been a little while since he's done it. He's been a receiver for the past few years, but he definitely came and he was still making the right reads, making the right decisions, getting the ball out pretty quick. I mean, it shocking for me to see someone go to receiver and go back to quarterback and still have that smooth transition.
It's kind of been a little bit surprising from the standpoint from coming out and really not having any problems with the cadence and those sort of things, Edsall said. Those are what you look for, fumbled snaps and it's very obvious and you can tell he's been a quarterback before. In high school, he played in a very similar type of offense. Even some of his reads yesterday, I thought he did a pretty good job. I'm glad he came to me. so we could put him there.
Edsall said he and the coaching staff have discussed applying for a medical hardship exemption for Brown. Brown had already used his redshirt year and would have only one year left to play after he recovered from his injury. A medical hardship would allow him to play a sixth year, but requires him to have not played two full seasons. He took a few snaps in his redshirt season, but Edsall said he and the team will appeal for exemption after Brown plays out his fifth season next year.
The running back position could also see some shakeups as redshirt freshman tailback Brandon Ross could beat out sophomore tailback Justus Pickett for the starting position. Pickett is the only tailback with regular season experience, but Edsall has been very impressed with Ross' performance so far in camp.
I've been really impressed with Brandon, Edsall said. He's still got things he's got to work on but I think you saw today a couple of times, he's got the ability to break a run just about everyday. I like his speed, I like his power but we got to make him be a better blocker, a better pass protector. As far as carrying the ball, I like what we've seen out there.
Another playmaker whose stock has been rising is freshman wide receiver Stefon Diggs. Diggs has already been impressing the Terps on special teams as a return man and has been proving to his coaches and teammates why he was one of the top receivers in last year's recruiting class.
He's going to be explosive, Dorsey said. We've seen that already. We actually watched him today catching a little five yard pass, making two guys miss and get the first. It was a critical situation where we needed the first down but that's something he's going to do all season.
Starting safety Matt Robinson was injured earlier in the week and will have to sit out at least three weeks, according to Edsall. He was seen riding a stationary bike during practice and did not participate in drills due to his injured shoulder. Edsall said Robinson will be in a sling for a week and then undergo rehab for two weeks. He will then be reevaluated to see if he is physically able to rejoin the team.
In Robinson's absence, the younger safeties in Sean Davis, Anthony Nixon and Undray Clark are getting looks from the coaching staff in case Robinson misses the season opener. Even cornerback Jeremiah Johnson received a few snaps at safety. Edsall said that Johnson talked to defensive coordinator Brian Stewart about playing safety if the Terps needed him to fill in for Robinson.
I think they improve, Edsall said on the young safeties. I think they're getting better and now you still see some of those freshmen mistakes that they make and we're looking for the consistency, but the thing that I like is that they play really hard and they play aggressive and they're not afraid to stick their nose in there and come up and hit people. Now it's a matter of refining and getting the techniques a little better, them getting their signs down, but I like all the things I've seen so far.
The punting situation for the Terps is also being decided during training camp, but Edsall has not seen one punter rise up above the others to take the starting spot. Nick Ferrara, Nathan Renfro and Brad Craddock have all been competing for the position this offseason.
The thing that bothers me the most right now at that position is the inconsistency, Edsall said about the punters. I haven't seen one guy be consistent day in and day out when we've done punts. That's what I'm looking for and that's why I reserve the right not to make a decision until I feel confident the guy can be the consistent guy punt in and punt out.
The next open practice will be on Aug. 21. There will be a scrimmage on Saturday that will be open to the public.