Presumed starting quarterback C.J. Brown suffered a season-ending torn ACL last Tuesday when making a cut during a non-contact two-minute drill, shaking up the Terps' expectations for the upcoming season. With Brown gone, the Terps were left with two eligible quarterbacks for the season in freshmen Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe. Devin Burns, a high school quarterback who transitioned to wide receiver for the Terps, met with Edsall after the injury and decided to make the switch back to quarterback to give the Terps some depth at the position.
A week after Brown's injury, Edsall has decided to go with Hills as his quarterback. Even before Brown's injury, Hills was the frontrunner for the backup position. With Brown gone, Hills has been practicing with the first team offense and has looked composed under center. On Tuesday, Edsall made the news official.
He called us three into the office, me, Caleb and Burns into his office, Hills said on Tuesday. I wasn't quite sure what was going on, I mean, I kind of had it in the back of my mind. Hearing it from him finally making it official is great. It really felt great.
When Hills joined the program this offseason, Edsall told him and the rest of the team that the best player would play. Brown, however, was the obvious choice as the starting quarterback, having started a few games last season, meaning Hills was looking at being the backup for at least a year. As fortune - or misfortune - would have it, Brown was lost for the season and Hills slid up the depth chart to become the starting quarterback, something he had aspired to be for the Terps when he committed to Maryland.
That was always my goal, Hills said. That's always been my mindset that is, hey, I don't want to go there and be the backup or be redshirted. I've always looked at it as I want to be the starter and I needed to work toward that.
As a true freshman, Hills has only been with some of the guys for a month or two, but he has already established himself as a leader on the team despite his age and inexperience. The coaching staff has been particularly impressed with his composure and his leadership ability in the huddle.
I think he's done well, Edsall said. I've been very, very impressed in just how he's handled himself and the poise and the composure and the command that he's handling that first offense with. Here's a guy who's a freshman and he's telling those guys, 'Come on, let's go, get set, get down,' all those things. He's been good at handling all the installations that's gone in, so, like I said, I've been very, very impressed for the true freshman to pick up all the things he's picked up and then to go out and handle the huddle. He hasn't really turned the ball over much and he's accurate and I have not seen him get rattled.
I always try to be a leader, telling the guys, 'Let's go. Let's get on the line. Hey, it's a fourth down, we need to get a first down here,' or whenever we're running gassers at the end, 'Hey, come on, let's go. Let's finish. Finish, finish,' Hills said. I always try to pick everyone else up, even I'm a freshman. That doesn't matter in my eyes.
Hills has been getting a lot of help from his teammates and has the support of many of the veteran leaders on the team, including Brown who has been acting as a mentor and a teacher for Hills and the other young quarterbacks.
C.J., he's always been there for us, said Hills. Even injured, he's answered all my questions, really just supported us through everything.
Also helping out Hills is new offensive coordinator Mike Locksley who has been installing his pro-style offense this offseason, a scheme that Hills is excited about.
The offense is great, Hills said. It works against every coverage, defense and some zone reads. You can give it or pull it so the defense can never be right. That's what I love about it.
When he is not out on the field practicing, Hills can be found in the film room studying to improve as a player. Edsall said Hills has shown his maturity and his work ethic in his determination to be the best player on the team by spending his own free time studying film and the playbook.
I've been studying my playbook as much as I can, Hills said. I've been coming in early watching film, either correcting my mistakes or watching William & Mary already. Taking everything the coaches told me and trying to use it on the field.
Now that Hills is firmly entrenched as the starting quarterback and has the confidence of the coaching staff and the players, the team will have to rally around him for the next season. The Terps took a huge hit in losing Brown, but Hills is determined to help the Terps improve from their 2-10 season last year.
It's a confidence boost and we just all have to step it up this year, said Hills. Everyone. We plan on doing so.
The Maryland Terrapins will open their season at home in Byrd Stadium against William & Mary on Sept. 1 at 3 p.m.