Chances are, Maryland fans won’t be hearing about practice stats as the deciding factor in who will start at quarterback next season.
Barring injury or illness, it will be senior Chris Turner, who has an intriguing chance to leave his name all over Maryland’s passing record book by the time next season is over.
But in a very small way, a starting quarterback is like a president – there’s interest in who is a heartbeat away from taking over.
So a big priority this spring will be determining if Robinson, the second of two scholarship QBs still in the program, has the goods to be Turner’s backup.
“We don’t have a whole lot of choice,” coach Ralph Friedgen said.
Robinson was a grayshirt, then a redshirt and finally a guy who was willing to act as a backup holder just to get onto the field. He saw some time on Maryland’s punt block team (some being a relative term; it was a few snaps in one game).
But Jordan Steffy is gone after having spent seemingly forever in College Park. Josh Portis has transferred. And now Robinson has a chance to etch out a spot for himself this spring.
“I’ve seen a change in Jamarr in the last month, taking it more serious,” offensive coordinator James Franklin said.
Both Franklin and Friedgen seemed impressed with Robinson’s work in Tuesday’s opening spring session (today’s practice was moved to Friday). And Friedgen referenced the two JV games last fall, one of which Robinson looked pretty good in and the other, well, was as much a battle with the elements as it was with a prep school opponent.
Clearly, pretty much all Robinson has to go on is his work as a scout team quarterback the last few seasons. That’s less than ideal for a pending backup, but it also means he has something to gain from the next few weeks.
“He really has taken some strides forward, and I think it’s going to give him a lot of opportunities to get better because he’s going to get a bunch of reps,” Friedgen said. “Chris is there to help him. There’s no substitute for doing something and learning from your mistakes on the practice field.”
The Terps are also savvy enough to realize Robinson might not look as great running a group of plays tailored to Turner. There are other aspects of the offense the shifty Robinson can thrive in a bit more, and chances are any game plan will include some plays more likely to be utilized if Turner is forced out with injury.
“We would probably tweak or adjust some of things we do to take advantage of Jamarr’s strengths,” Franklin said. “He needs to understand even though we’re going to mix some of those things in, it’s not going to be the type of focus it is.”
That adjustment aside, Robinson still has to earn the gig. C.J. Brown and Danny O’Brien will arrive in August, and Maryland could be forced into playing a true freshman quarterback for the first time since Steffy’s less-than-stellar turn in 2004 (to be fair, he was surrounded by a bland offensive cast beyond Vernon Davis and Stephon Heyer).
One of those two guys might well see time this season. The preference would be to redshirt both if the durable Turner can hold up for another season.
It’s on Robinson, though, to demonstrate that plan can work.
“We’re hoping he can be the guy, but we have two really good quarterbacks coming in and we have to make a decision on that,” Friedgen said. “I think the biggest decision is can Jamarr be the backup quarterback coming out of spring. If he can, we’ll just have to make a decision on who the third quarterback is from the guys who are coming in.”