Maryland looks for a shot in the arm at QB

With Hills done for year, Burns, Rowe become top options

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Maryland is on to its third (and, arguably, fourth) quarterback since the start of preseason practice after Perry Hills’ year-ending left knee injury.

Meanwhile, life goes on for the Terrapins with nearly half of a season left.

“I’m not panicked, I’m not upset, I’m not frustrated,” coach Randy Edsall said Tuesday. “You just roll with the flow.”

And really, what choice does Maryland (4-3, 2-1 ACC) have?

Sophomore Devin Burns and freshman Caleb Rowe will prepare for Saturday’s game at Boston College (1-6, 0-4), the last two options remaining after Hills was lost for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Junior quarterback C.J. Brown suffered an ACL tear in August.

Edsall predictably did not tip his hand on who might start against the Eagles and said the soonest he would likely know for certain would be after Thursday’s practice.

The quarterback options beyond Burns, who was playing wide receiver when preseason camp opened, and Rowe aren’t ideal. Edsall said freshman linebacker Shawn Petty (who played quarterback at Greenbelt’s Roosevelt High) and freshman tight end Brian McMahon (a dual-threat quarterback in his days at Atholton High School in Columbia, Md.) would get work as emergency options.

At this point, Edsall might be open to suggestions on how to craft new emergency plans after Hills was injured in Saturday’s 20-18 loss to N.C. State.

“I told coach Edsall, ‘You know, I played quarterback in sixth grade,’” defensive lineman A.J. Francis said. “He looked at me and said, ‘I figure you have a pretty good arm, but I don’t know if you could run the zone read. Because of that, I’m going to have to put you 18th-string.’ So I’m on the depth chart.”

Burns and Rowe, neither of whom met with reporters Tuesday, are the top options for the moment.

Burns, who was recruited to Maryland as a quarterback before a position switch last year, looked comfortable running the offense for most of the second half. Rowe played the first four snaps of his career in the final minute Saturday, doing his part to set up a potential game-winning field goal try.

If Maryland is to make something of its season, including bowl eligibility, either Burns or Rowe (if not both) will have a chance to play a role in any accomplishment.

“We’re going to make the game plan as simple as we can for them but still go out and be the offense we want,” right tackle Justin Gilbert said. “It was a shame with C.J. It’s a shame with Perry. But it’s the middle of the season, and we have five games left. Give him a hug, tell him we’re sorry, but we have to get ready for Boston College. We have another game this week.”

While Edsall remained mum on a potential starter, it was Burns who took over for Hills and helped ignite Maryland’s stagnant running game. Rowe was a possibility for the two-minute offense, and that’s where much of his meaningful practice work has occurred in recent weeks.

Edsall said Rowe is “a more than adequate runner” but made the obvious point that Burns is the faster of the two. It’s a noteworthy trait as Maryland prepares for a Boston College outfit ranked 119th nationally in rushing defense (though at 117th in total defense, 118th in sacks and 120th in tackles for loss, the Eagles’ defense isn’t just feeble at stopping the run).

“We’ll put a plan together knowing either one of those guys can go in the game and play at any given time,” Edsall said. “We’ll find out on Saturday what that plan will be.”

Whatever it is, it will be suboptimal compared to how things stood less than three months ago when Brown was poised to start after a full offseason to work in new coordinator Mike Locksley’s system. Instead, the Terps will need multiple starting quarterbacks for the sixth straight year and eighth time in nine seasons.

“It’s a patch-up job at this point,” Francis said. “You have to get guys ready. We have full confidence in Devin and Caleb. Hopefully, they can stay healthy.”

And if they can’t, the Terps will move on just as they have twice already this year.

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