Today TT begins a summer series breaking down the Terps football 2015 positional units, with a look at quarterback first, where there could be a lot of intrigue this fall.
After all the passing woes of a year ago (see C.J. Brown's injury/confidence roller-coaster), Randy Edsall and OC Mike Locksley finally have two gunslingers capable of moving the ball around, and quickly.
Junior hurler Caleb Rowe returns with an extra medical hardship year after tearing his left knee, again during non-contact, mid-season last year. Meanwhile, the Terps have added a more-than-capable insurance policy in former Oklahoma State transfer fifth-year Daxx Garman, who started eight games a year ago for the Cowboys and is proven.
Both throwers are quite similar, with quick releases and accurate balls, be it intermediate or deep. And Terps receivers, local prep coaches tell us, have been raving about their very catchable balls this summer in voluntary 7-on-7 passing drills, especially Garman's.
But Rowe has been the leader out there, organizing the events among his teammates, and is back from surgery and ready for fall camp. This is his year to grab the reigns after serving as understudy and twice getting hurt.
Garman reminds us of a rich-man's Chris Kelley, the Terps former four-star quarterback out of Seneca Valley High School, "rich-man" in that he is a superior thrower to Kelley. They kind of stand and look and walk the same (and even sport the same haircut), but Garman can chuck it around better than the pass-run threat Kelley, whose UMD career was slowed by knee injuries. Garman can make all the throws, throws the deep ball well, and has quiet confidence while taking care of business on the field running the show. Neither are known as overly athletic quarterbacks, but both can tuck it and move around enough when the pocket breaks down, Garman a bit better than Rowe.
We still see Rowe as the guy to beat, at least for now. But it will be an interesting fall camp next month for if Rowe stumbles, be it due to health or any other slip-up, Garman will be right there making it a very competitive situation. Rowe has improved a lot in reading defenses and getting the Terps into their plays quickly, and not throwing into risky situations as much since his early years at UMD. He also has the best command of the offense, though Garman is a quick learner and a student of the game.
The Terps, obviously, won't be running as much zone read as before with Brown. And hopefully with the return of starter Andrew Isaacs (torn knee last year at Syracuse) and summer new addition Avery Edwards, they now have two weapons/field stretchers at tight end to utilize, which they rarely did last year on a slim unit, to help the QBs even more in the short game, etc.
Overall, numbers are still a bit low at the position, what with former Gilman standout QB Shane Cockerille moving to fullback this month in search of a better fit/more field time. Cockerille had a big opportunity in spring camp to assert himself at QB, but it just didn't happen for the rugged lefty, who was still coming around as more of a pocket quarterback from his days as a runner at Gilman. And of course, former four-star prep quarterback/athlete Will Ulmer was moved to slot receiver last year.
That leaves yeoman backup junior Perry Hills, who is still competing away and had some quality reserve work last year when Rowe got dinged, as next in line, followed by the biggest Terps quarterback we have ever seen, freshman Gage Shaffer out of West Virginia. Shaffer is massive, pushing 6-foot-7 now, with huge hands and feet, and has a strong arm and good "football IQ" as well. But we see him as a developmental, Sam Hollenbach-type who is a few years away, as he develops into a college passer, gets stronger and becomes a bit more mobile over time. Shaffer is a true pocket guy who is not going to run around much. But he's got a big arm, no doubt.
While quarterback was hurting at times last season with all the inconsistency, this year the Terps should have two viable options to move the chains via the passing game. That is if a suddenly-thin receiver unit can stay healthy and over-achieve a bit.
TT's Summer Football Thoughts: Quarterback
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