Shawn Petty, the latest in Maryland’s unexpectedly long line of quarterbacks, is not overly emotional. He also wasn’t expected to play quarterback again after being recruited as a linebacker out of Greenbelt’s Eleanor Roosevelt High School.
It’s little surprise, then, that coaches and teammates believe the true freshman is eager for his chance to start Saturday against Georgia Tech, regardless of the plague of injuries that led to his unanticipated battlefield promotion.
“He didn’t show it, but I know he’s excited,” said defensive end Isaiah Ross who, like Petty, is a Roosevelt grad. “Coming out of high school, he came here to play linebacker, but he always told me he thinks he could play quarterback in college and nobody was going to give him a shot. Finally, this is his shot.”
Petty, who was not available for comment this week, received it only through the Terrapins’ extraordinarily bad luck. Presumptive starter C.J. Brown tore a knee ligament in August. His successor, Perry Hills, suffered the same injury Oct. 20 against N.C. State, and Devin Burns (Lisfranc) also was lost in that game.
Then Caleb Rowe, the lone remaining scholarship quarterback, tore his left anterior cruciate ligament in Saturday’s loss to Boston College.
That leaves the 6-foot-1 Petty, a left-hander who is perhaps conservatively listed at 230 pounds and looks every bit like a linebacker, to try to finish the season for the Terps (4-4, 2-2 ACC).
It is a far-from-optimal situation for Maryland, though Petty’s attitude helps. Offensive coordinator Mike Locksley noticed a far bigger smile from the freshman in meetings than he ever did when Petty was logging time on the defensive scout team during the first half of the season.
“He’s into being a quarterback, and I think for him and for us it’s probably a benefit,” Locksley said. “If this is something he really wants — and I think he wants to prove he can be a quarterback at this level even though he was recruited to be a linebacker — I love that because then I know he’ll put everything into being prepared and put everything into going out and executing. You can work with a guy that wants to do it.”
Petty threw for 1,300 yards and 15 touchdowns as a high school senior and rushed for 550 yards in what figured to be his last real action under center. There also was virtually no chance he would play this season on defense; Saturday was the first time he traveled to a road game this year.
Yet just one week after moving back to offense, things have changed considerably.
“To be able to go out there and just play your true freshman year is super exciting and to do it at quarterback is even more surreal, I guess you could say,” center Evan Mulrooney said. “He’s really stepped up to the plate. He’s out there calling the plays and it seems like he’s been here forever playing quarterback with how he holds himself in the huddle.”
Coach Randy Edsall, who called Petty “a quarterback at heart,” also was impressed with the amount Petty picked up in recent days. What percentage of the playbook the Terps will be able to run against Georgia Tech (3-5, 2-3) is uncertain.
For all that’s in doubt for Maryland, though, Petty’s total embrace of his bizarre shot at quarterback is unquestioned.
“His personality for the situation we’re going into is probably pretty good,” Edsall said. “He doesn’t get real excited and haven’t seen him down in the dumps. He’s just looking for the opportunity and looking forward to taking advantage of it.”
NOTES: Petty will continue to wear No. 31, while his backup (tight end Brian McMahon) will remain No. 87. Quarterbacks typically wear jerseys either in the single digits or in the teens. “It’ll be a little bit different,” Edsall said. “It’ll give everybody something to talk about: ‘Look, No. 31 is playing quarterback. No. 87 is playing quarterback.’”
Edsall said it is “to be determined” who will be the No. 3 quarterback. “Now you’re jinxing me already by even asking that question,” he said.