On this dreary Sunday morning...
1) 1) Not since the star-crossed days of Joel Statham and Jordan Steffy have the Terps had such angst at the quarterback position.
Under Ralph Friedgen, Statham was wildly erratic, a recruit ‘reach’ with few other big offers, and could rarely focus in on the task at hand, despite Maryland doing all it could to prop him up as starter. He was a running QB who could never get the job done under center, and he took fans on a merciless roller-coaster ride.
Steffy, also under Friedgen, was beat up so bad with knee and concussion injuries, well it wasn’t all his fault, the former four-star from Pennsylvania who turned down offers from Michigan State and other powers to become a Terp but had little success at College Park on his own roller-coaster.
Now Maryland has hit absolute rock-bottom in recent decades with Caleb Rowe, who has 12 picks in four games, seven in the last two, and should never be trusted with the Maryland offense again. Ever. And the Terps offense, led by him, has just six points in the last two games, while the season is now in total free-fall.
And these are not just picks, but the most heinous, repeated ones. Like throwing across your body into the middle of the field; like throwing repeatedly when the corner has inside leverage; or throwing into heavy traffic/tight windows where there is little hope and high risk. And those are just the ones that have been picked, as countless others this season could have been nabbed Rowe has been so reckless with the ball. He must think he's still in the backyard with his brothers back home in South Carolina chucking it around carelessly on a Sunday afternoon.
Lack of focus, discipline, and the belief he can make any throw, well it’s all added up to a toxic brew that should now land him permanently on the Terps bench.
The Terps enjoyed three Michigan turnovers yesterday, but all they could get out of it was (-)1 yard as Rowe and the offense sputtered through the embarrassing display. All in a game that was there for the taking in the first half despite Maryland being out-manned and losing even more starters to season-ending injuries.
But at least way back then there was some sliver of hope – like when upstart rookie Chris ‘Sunshine’ Turner came on in relief for Steffy -- and led the Terps to some bowl games. Oh, for the days of a ‘heady’ QB, even a blue-collar, unheralded one like Sam Hollenbach, who you knew you could trust.
2) 2) Which leads us to our next point, where do you go from here?
No. 2 Daxx Garman, who came on in relief yesterday for the second straight week, looks lost, a few steps slow and devoid of any confidence. He barely got a few snaps off when he entered the game, assessed a delay of game call on his first rep. Meanwhile he was slammed to the ground several times as the Wolverine line teed off. Garman looks shell-shocked in the pocket, slow to react and tentative in all aspects. He even threw an easy pass to a receivers’ feet yesterday on what should have been a gimee toss. The damage of his past injuries and losing his job at Oklahoma State, plus being third on the UMD depth chart after much pre-season hope, well he’s almost sleep-walking now.
That leaves previous No. 3 only to be season-opening starter then No. 3 again, junior Perry Hills, who may just be the lesser of all evils now. He is the smartest Terps QB, can get them into their plays with the least amount of exposure/damage, and he can run a little zone read. And with the way the Terps offense is going right now, well that may be the short-term panacea. The throwing game playbook will have to be curtailed some for Hills, who we know is limited in the vertical game, and when he was starting this season he was having difficulty reading things and locking in on receivers at times. Bu it may be all Maryland has left now in a punchless offensive look/attack with everyone standing around looking for answers or alternatives but not a ton there. At least Hills won’t be throwing 12 picks, and could give Maryland some modicum of a chance to get them into their sets, run the ball, get a little play-action, and maybe breathe a tad bit easier. The players trust Hills more, and maybe soon the coaches even more.
3) 3) And continuing on the theme of ‘offensive’ performances, man, Maryland’s receivers’ corps has now officially hit a three-year drought.
Two years ago it was the injury loss of both Stefon Diggs and Deon Long that gutted the unit, but last year and this, well it is gross underachieving under coach Keenan McCardell, who was supposed to shake the unit up given his resume, etc.
Yesterday the Terps had six drops (though the Rowe rocket on a dump-off to Brandon Ross came in a little hot and heavy), and they were well spread around. There was Taivon Jacobs early, which killed some momentum the Terps had in the opening moments; there was prized rookie D.J. Moore on a deep ball; there were two gosh-awful drops in a row by junior Amba Etta-Tawo, who should probably never see the field again; then there was a drop (and later a damning penalty) by end Avery Edwards, and he had been pretty sure-handed to date. Yeah, the UMD receivers may not know half the time what they are getting from this rag-tag collection of Terps quarterbacks, who aren’t exactly throwing catchable balls with consistency. But yesterday it was also Michigan man coverage which the Terps receivers couldn’t get off of, either. Michigan loaded the box with an extra defender, played man, and dared Maryland to make plays. And neither the QBs or WRs could. But six drops? Sheesh.
4) 4) And staying on the offense yet again, folks, let’s be frank, the offensive line is patchwork, now banged up, and still (after all these years) a mid-major product. Yeah, the former walk-on success stories are great, but not when you are trying to compete in the Big Ten. The middle of the line especially got blown up and pushed back yesterday, while when Damian Prince got nicked at right tackle, prized redshirt freshman Derwin Gray showed his rust when he badly whiffed on a Terps sack. The Terps have had to go max-protect all season, use 2-step drops, and still can’t get much push in the run game, especially on the left side, where back Brandon Ross was stringing things East-West again yesterday with no daylight to be found between the tackles. The Terps lack elite, top-shelf talent at so many spots on offense it is scary, but this one keeps coming back to haunt them in droves. A thin and average line lost starter Mike Minter for the season a week ago, and no true depth has developed otherwise as for other alternatives.
5) 5) The one positive yesterday was a resurgent defense, at least until it got gassed in the second half after getting no help from the offense. The Terps trailed just 6-0 at intermission thanks to the ‘D,’ which came to life after last week’s beat-down at WVU. The line, oft-maligned, held point and made more athletic and sudden-change plays; the linebackers read and filled and tackled better, while also applying more pressure; and the secondary got far more aggressive with the ball in the air and made some big, big plays. Quinton Jefferson, Jermaine Carter, Will Likely and Sean Davis all shared in real success, while back from the abyss was LB Jalen Brooks, who fitted well, made countless plays and strips, and last-minute starter and former walk-on DT Azubuike Ukandu, who was called up with starter David Shaw lost for the season this week to an elbow injury. Though only 6-foot, he looked like he belonged, was more athletic than Shaw, and occupied Michigan linemen so the Terps linebackers got cleaner looks to finish off plays than in recent weeks. Talk about a pleasant surprise, from a total unknown in recruiting out of Towson High School.