The Terps went looking for a quarterback this spring that could win games (based mostly on the fact incumbent Caleb Rowe was still out, and has twice torn his left knee), but the grade at the end of camp was still an “incomplete.”
Redshirt freshman Shane Cockerille began the spring atop the depth chart, ahead of the only other healthy QB on campus, junior Perry Hills, and was given every chance to affirm the back-up spot come the fall behind Rowe.
But after beginning spring camp fast, showing better pre-snap recognition, throwing mechanics, and accuracy, Cockerille fizzled down the stretch, culminating in his 5-for-20, 91-yard Red-White spring game performance on April 11. Not quite what the Terps were looking for as they forge ahead to a somewhat uncertain quarterback future, and try to ramp up the former Gilman standout.
Rowe is expected back in time for August camp, but twice he has torn the knee non-contact. The Terps needed some separation this spring among Cockerille and Hills, but neither did enough last month to prove they could be “the guy” that could win games.
Cockerille seemed more and more mentally fatigued as camp wore on, and in the spring game things broke down for him in the pocket, where he had a lot of hasty, sidearm balls batted at the line, he was harried by ends such as Yannick Ngakoue, and when he did throw the ball he often threw risky and into traffic. The body language wasn’t great, either.
Cockerille had turned the corner some with his work ethic and film-room study time this winter, and came out strong at the beginning of camp, more decisive and pinpoint with his throws, as well as strong in the run game as always. But it waned down the stretch, and seemingly he was back to the starting gates by the end of the spring game.
He did have a few nice balls – a dart he uncorked across the middle to Levern Jacobs, who turned it into a 52-yard gain to set up a score, as well as another big pass play to Juwann Winfree – but mostly he was under, and looked, like the picture of duress most of the afternoon. When the pocket seemed to break down so did he, and Cockerille took too long to get rid of the ball at times, which also led to mistakes.
He has the arm (as long as his release is higher, as it wasn’t in the Red-White game), and everyone knows what the former zone-read star at Gilman did on the ground with his feet. But the poise and mental side of things was not there in the spring game as he became flustered.
Hills, who missed a chunk of spring camp due to a hamstring pull, had a better afternoon in the Red White game, completing 12-of-24 passes for 212 yards, three TDs (all to Marcus Leak) and one pick, by freshman corner Antwine Carter. But he also missed a wide-open Leak down the left sideline in the first half, while DeAndre Lane dropped a sure TD pass Hills threw in the end zone on an up and down day for the journeyman thrower.
But Hills looked more poised and in control of the offense than Cockerille, and clearly made his case to be Rowe’s backup in the fall. Hills threw some good balls, a few wobblers, but looked improved pre-snap and getting the Terps into their plays.
It was a "vanilla" day for the offense mostly, and behind a patchwork offensive line with both left tackles Derwin Gray (shoulder) and Michael Dunn (back) out, but Hills shined the most among Maryland’s limited QB rotation.
He doesn’t look like the same athlete he was before a devastating knee injury suffered three seasons ago at Byrd Stadium, but the yeoman backup will be a solid option if Rowe cannot go, or Maryland doesn’t land a fifth-year insurance policy transfer this spring, which they are expected to land.
The play in the defensive secondary was not exceptional in the Red-White, which led to some busted plays and even more “gash” plays by the offense, which helped the QBs case/numbers even more. So “incomplete” has to be the grade when looking back.
The plus side was that through the first few weeks of camp, Cockerille was throwing with touch and accuracy and looked in command of the huddle, far more than in the culminating game on April 11. Hills was a “steady Eddie” who had his good and bad moments, on the downside several interceptions, including some “pick-sixs,” which persisted through spring scrimmage situations.
Going forward, it will be a big summer for both throwers, voluntary in the film room and in seven-on-sevens, to try and win that backup spot with more work, both mental and physical.
Spring Football Rewind: Quarterback Analysis
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