The 6-9 center from Troy, Ohio was about to find himself between a rock and a hard place.
First he waited patiently behind Terence Dials, quickly receiving a crasher course on what major college basketball was all about. Even the most optimistic of progress was coined as a good game by the backup of the Big Ten Player of the Year in 2005-06.
But before the junior ever saw the light at the end of the tunnel as the future center in Ohio State's plans, the once-in-a-generation Greg Oden was committed and eventually signed to revolutionize Buckeye basketball.
"I was looking to play the four this year because I knew he was coming in and I was playing behind Terence anyways," Terwilliger said at OSU Basketball media day. "I kind of came in at four and I've been playing the five because that's what they needed me to play."
Now that the 7-1 Oden is at Ohio State, not all is lost for Terwilliger. As Oden's wrist continues to heal, putting a conservative return anywhere from the middle of November to early January, he's worked himself into the temporary starting center position.
By virtue of his constant outside shooting during the summer, ball-handling drills and quickness for defensive purposes, Terwilliger hopes to find his niche at power forward even when the McDonald's All-American makes his Ohio State debut.
"That's going to help him a lot and he's really looking forward to it," said Terwilliger's friend and teammate Jamar Butler. "The Matt I know doesn't back down to anybody and I know those are big names but he's going to go at them."
Terwilliger spent the summer working on his shot, which he now says is the best it's been – so much so that he routinely takes shooting drills with the rest of the guards and forwards.
He's got his body fat under eight percent, and says he's stronger, quicker and leaner than ever before. That's something even his former AAU running mate attests to.
"He's come a long way – he's been playing good all summer," Butler added. "He's gotten stronger, he's gotten quicker and he's going to have to step up and play that five for us until Greg gets back."
When Oden does get back, Terwilliger can finally return to the position that former head coach Jim O'Brien recruited him to play – power forward.
"I've been working on my four skills for 10 months waiting to play that position," Terwilliger said.
Seeing the writing on the wall, Terwilliger approached Matta last year in hopes of making himself a candidate to play the four this year as a junior.
Matta knows that especially if Oden is unable to make it back for the North Carolina game or both North Carolina and Florida games, he will need to rely on Terwilliger in the post. Is that a blessing in disguise perhaps?
"I don't know if it's a blessing not having Greg," Matta joked. "I think that will be good – there's no question guys are going to get thrown into the fire early and guys are going to have to develop early."
In limited time last season, or at least taking a limited number of shots, Terwilliger shot 51 percent from the field and averaged 2.3 points and 1.6 rebounds a game.
For the upcoming season, Matta cited the need for Terwilliger to be able to guard two positions as well as an increased need for his expected versatility as important issues in his development.
He's hoping Terwilliger continues to build off the reported progress this summer and late last season.
"He was playing his best basketball last year and then he had that appendectomy and he was never able to recover fully from it – that really hurt our team," Matta said. "I'm hoping we get a lot out of him."
Terwilliger is hoping to steal a couple of those headlines this season. Even when Oden is injured, that seems like an improbability.
But for now, it's his show. That's a headline in itself.