Caleb Rowe Welcomes The Challenge

COLLEGE PARK, MD -- He could be a bit salty, but Caleb Rowe is beaming these days, his cup definitely half-full. Though Maryland brought in a fifth-year senior transfer -- Daxx Garman, a former starter at Oklahoma State -- to compete with him this fall for the quarterback job at College Park, Rowe has a long checklist of reasons he is happy these days.

COLLEGE PARK, MD -- He could be a bit salty, but Caleb Rowe is beaming these days, his cup definitely half-full

Though Maryland brought in a fifth-year senior transfer -- Daxx Garman, a former starter at Oklahoma State -- to compete with him this fall for the quarterback job at College Park, Rowe has a long checklist of reasons he is happy these days.

This fall he'll become a uncle (twice, mind you) for the first time, as both his brothers' wives are expecting.

This year he also became a Terrapin Council member for the first time.

And, finally, his twice surgically-repaired knee is holding up just fine, thank you, as he told the gathered media after the Terps first open practice last week.

Rowe, the presumptive starter (if he can stay healthy and stave off the talented Garman), has twice, non-contact, injured his left knee, ending seasons where he was seemingly just getting started and could have ascended the top rung amidst Maryland's recent QB woes. Last season, he played in just four games, completing 63 percent of his passes for 489 yards and five touchdowns. But Rowe blew out the knee during a practice in Byrd Stadium just as the Terps needed him to come on for the struggling, and injured, C.J. Brown. Rowe showed his gunslinger ability on the big stage when Maryland hosted Ohio State on Oct. 4 at Byrd Stadium, when he completed 13 passes for 173 yards and a touchdown, though three interceptions (only one was his fault) slowed his momentum a bit. But his ability to move the chains, and get the ball out quicker and more accurately than Brown, had him poised to take over the top job before injury hit again.

Rowe is also happy the NCAA rewarded him an extra medical hardship year, but this season is what he's all about these days. The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder missed spring camp but was fully cleared for all fall activities as camp opened this month. And in the hot summer months of June and July, Rowe was the team ringleader in voluntary summer 7-on-7's, asserting himself as a new leader as part of the Council and beyond.

"I am good. It was way easier the second time," Rowe said of the second surgery. "I am not lying, my body feels great. I had all spring to really get a grasp of the offense and I feel good. I feel the guys are kinda rallying around me a little, and I am just trying to make plays when I can."

Rowe, Garman and Perry Hills have been splitting reps, and on the first day of open camp to the media (which was five days in), he said of the competition, in which each has struggled a bit and Rowe threw two picks of his own:

"Yeah, I think we are all kind thinking a little bit too much, not running the offense....not trying not to make a mistake, but trying to be perfect when we should just be going out there and trying to have fun," Rowe said. "But I think that comes with repetition. And you know, Daxx is just coming in, he has had just five days here, and I am coming off not playing for 10 months. So it is just a matter of getting more comfortable."

Randy Edsall said he wants to name a starter soon, but someone has to manage the offense better, get the team in and out of the huddle quicker, etc., as there were some breakdowns this day between the line and the QB, QBs and receivers and the like with timing and alignment and other issues.

Rowe said his biggest off-season work was, well, shedding some of that 'gunslinger' rep that put him on the map as a freshman hurler a few years ago. Focusing now more on the game management and consistency Edsall and OC Mike Locksley want from him. For years, Maryland followers had preferred Rowe as the better thrower, though Brown had better command of the offense and was a better dual-threat in the Terps zone-read attack.

"And C.J. [Brown] had it, and seeing it from him, I just have to do it more often," Rowe said of the little things. "Really hone in on that and get better each day and do what he wants. You know, taking my check-downs a little more and not trying to force balls in. In high school I always did it because you had the arm strength to do it. But in college you can't always squeeze one in there. So just being a little smarter with the football."

Rowe went on to explain other things that he has to avoid like, "not throwing a fade on third-and-five and taking a check down and run instead." He said he's catching himself in those situations more and more, and making progress.

Edsall wouldn't comment with too much specificity about either QB after the first open practice, only in generic terms. It would still appear it is Rowe's job to lose, but clearly Edsall wants to name a starter soon and get those first-team reps going:

"They’re competing hard,” Edsall said. “They’re coming on. We’re going to evaluate it based on how they do in practices and scrimmages. I’d like to make a decision as quick as we can so we can get some continuity, but they’re competing and we will continue to evaluate it through the next week or so. “They’ve all had their moments – I’m just looking to see who is going to be the consistent guy. Who is the guy that can manage the game and who is the guys that understand situations. It’s a combination of things and they have done those things, but nobody has done it on a consistent basis to my liking yet."

Rowe said the receiver corps -- and some of the vets like Malcolm Culmer and DeAndre Lane -- are stepping up in camp as well. Rowe has the stronger arm, while Garman may be sharper with timing routes. Both throw catchable balls and are quite similar, really, with their skill set with quick deliveries and the ability to make just about all the throws. The day we observed, Garman got into the plays quicker, while Rowe had some miscues with center as well. But he missed the spring, and Maryland is still trying to find a first-team center between Evan Mulrooney and Brendan Moore.

"It's fun having them out there, guys I have worked with since I have been here, and just having them out there really helps my confidence," Rowe said of chemistry starting to establish between him and the Terps elder receivers, several of whom need to prove themselves as well. "Knowing timing....I am comfortable with these guys knowing that I can coach these guys....even if I am very stern with them, well they know my heart and they know where I am coming from and I can coach them as hard as I want to because we have that respect level."

Rowe said the leadership role has expanded, since he and Brad Craddock approached Edsall about wanting to start the council before camp, and he helped suggest to Edsall 8 of the 10 council members that the head man approved.

"So we're pushing each other, even guys not on the leadership council, and they kind of expect that from me know. And that's what I want to be," Rowe said. "I feel like I am a natural leader, even when I came in [as a freshman], just trying to push guys as much as I can. But I have to be perfect before I can start coaching people, so I am really just trying to be the best quarterback and help Maryland win football games."

Rowe arrived at Maryland at 190 pounds three years ago, and now is over 220 pounds and hopes to max at 225, adding more strength and mass and hopefully avoiding the injury bug again. He said, in fact, that he enjoys running the ball, "and I am not going to shy away from it, no way," if needed this fall in the offense. But given his injury past, and Maryland's lack of overall numbers at the position, the Terps had to bring in a fifth-year this off-season just in case, as well to keep Rowe on his toes. And it promises to be a tight race throughout, regardless, as QB production at Maryland, for whatever reason, has been slim the last few seasons.

"I mean, what are the odds of it happening again? It was like 9 percent of it happening [a second time], so now it has to be .00 something [laugh]. So I am not worried about it. And I believe everything happens for a reason, and it happened to me and I got another year, so..."

Finally, Rowe is banking on other good odds -- that he will become an uncle in November rather than December (it could happen either month, he said), as he expects the Terps to be bowling again come December.

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