On Aug. 14, Maryland lost its quarterback. Its coach issued a somber statement:
“I feel terrible for C.J.,” Maryland head coach Randy Edsall said. “We’ll do everything we can to make sure he gets the best treatment to help his recovery.”
On Oct. 20, Maryland lost its quarterback. Its coach issued a somber statement:
“I am very disappointed for Perry,” Edsall said. “We will do everything we can to support him through the rehab process.”
On Oct. 25, Maryland lost its quarterback and a receiver. Its coach issued a somber statement:
“Obviously this is something that is very tough on both of these guys and our team,” Edsall said. “We will be here to support them as they begin the rehab process.”
On Oct. 27, Maryland lost its quarterback. Its coach issued a somber statement:
“I feel awful for Caleb,” Edsall said. “Caleb has a bright future ahead of him and we will do everything we can to support him through the rehab process.”
On Oct. 28, Maryland was out of quarterbacks. But somehow, some way, Edsall, hadn’t lost his composure – or his sanity – through the string of injuries and all-too-familiar statements.
“I don’t feel jinxed,” he said on a teleconference Wednesday. “I think it’s one of those situations this year that we’re a little bit unlucky at the quarterback position. I think if you take a look historically at teams throughout the years, you’re probably going to lose maybe two to five players a year with knee injuries. For us, it just happens that we lost our quarterbacks.”
Though the coach has done his best to downplay what’s transpired to Terrapin quarterbacks, the injury situation Edsall, his fellow coaches and his team now face is without parallel in recent college football history. Nevertheless, through every press conference, every statement, the coach has remained unfailingly positive despite the fact that all four of the aforementioned quarterbacks – C.J. Brown, Perry Hills, Devin Burns and Caleb Rowe – are gone for the season. Three suffered ACL tears while Burns was sidelined by a Lanfranc injury.
Maryland, now 4-4, is in the second year of a rebuilding phase under Edsall, though rebuilding must seem impossible with the foundation crumbling beneath the Terrapins nearly every week. Four games – and, potentially, a bowl – remain for the team. They’ll take the field for each those contests and, by rule, they’ll have to snap the ball to someone. For now, that someone is true freshman linebacker Shawn Petty, who was plucked from the pool of position players and tossed into the quarterback meeting room because he excelled as a quarterback in high school.
But Maryland converted him to a linebacker because of his size (6-foot-1, 230-pounds) and athleticism. The Terps can only hope that that size will translate to durability and that Edsall doesn’t have to release yet another statement expressing sorrow and wishes for a quick recovery. Petty will take his first snaps since high school Saturday against Georgia Tech. And should injury befall the new quarterback? Brian McMahon, a freshman tight end who hoped to redshirt this year, will step under center.
“I can’t say that I have [ever experienced this before], going through what we’ve gone through at the quarterback situation,” offensive coordinator Mike Locksley said in a press conference this week. “But, like we talk about here, it’s the next man up and we’re going to find a way to prepare a quarterback to go out and come up with a game plan that’s capable of executing and find a way to win.”
The implausible injury streak began during the second session of a two-a-day practices this preseason. Starting quarterback C.J. Brown – a junior who tossed seven touchdowns last year and ran for five more after taking over the starting job late in the season – tore his ACL in mid-August.
Brown’s replacement, freshman quarterback Perry Hills, led the Terps to a 4-2 start – impressive given that the team won only a pair of games last season. It seemed the team could cope with the loss of Brown, but Hills tossed an interception against NC State on Oct. 20 that would deal a blow to his career and the Terrapins’ season. The young quarterback targeted receiver Kevin Dorsey over the middle, but led him a foot too far. That subtle miscue morphed into a mistake of enormous consequence when the ball hit NC State defensive back David Amerson squarely in the chest. Amerson was already in full sprint toward the Maryland end zone when the ball reached him, so Hills had the first chance to intercede. But as he reached to make the tackle, an NC State defender laid a crushing block from the side and the young quarterback’s knee buckled.
Later that same week, news trickled out that sophomore Devin Burns, who completed three of his four pass attempts and ran for 50 yards and a score as Hills’ substitute in the NC State game, had suffered a Lanfranc injury in his foot, and would be out for the season.
|Maryland has had more than its share of injury problems at the quarterback position this fall, but other teams in the ACC are flourishing at the spot. A total of 10 returning QBs have helped the league jump up with the premiere passing conferences. Check out more on the ACC from NCAA.com college notebook writer Matt Castello.|
With three quarterbacks gone, the starting job was handed to freshman Caleb Rowe, who attempted a pair of passes against the Wolfpack. Last Saturday, only a week after the Terps had lost Hills and Burns, Rowe’s season, too, was finished prematurely. On the second-to-last-play of the loss to Boston College, the freshman was flushed out of the pocket and took an awkward hit along the sideline. He wasn’t removed from the field on the back of a cart like Hills, but the ensuing MRI revealed a torn ACL.
Four quarterbacks had fallen; four morose statements had been delivered. Edsall can only hope he doesn’t have to issue a fifth.
Petty, the linebacker-turned-quarterback now at the helm for the Terps, was unavailable for comment this week as he’s been forced to work furiously to prepare for the Yellow Jackets. His formidable task has compounded by the lingering effects of Hurricane Sandy on the region.
Petty was a stellar dual-threat quarterback in Greenbelt, Md., and was named all-state as a senior on a 10-1 team. Without question, asking a fifth-string quarterback to win a game will be a significant hindrance for Maryland, though the Terps may be able to rely on the element of surprise. Georgia Tech, after all, has no idea what to expect from Petty on Saturday.
“We have to guess a little bit,” Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson said in a teleconference this week. “I’m sure the young man is a good athlete, and he’ll have a set of skills. Maybe we have to adjust on the fly.”
And Maryland coaches maintain that Petty is excited, not daunted, by his unusual assignment. He relished playing the position in high school and yearns to earn respect running an offense against college defenses. The schedule – and the timing of all of those injuries – played into Petty’s favor as Georgia Tech ranks only 74th-nationally in total defense and 80th in scoring defense. Better to start his college career at quarterback this week than next week against Clemson or in two weeks against a Florida State defense that ranks second nationally.
“Well I know this, this is about as big as a smile I’ve seen on his face all year long,” Locksley said. “He wants to prove he can play quarterback at this level even though we recruited him to be a linebacker. I love that, because now I know he’s going to put everything into being prepared.”
Should injury befall Petty, fellow true freshman McMahon will have to step in. He’s listed as a tight end on Maryland’s roster and has manned the position in practice, but played quarterback for his high school in Columbia, Md., where he threw for 1,289 yards, ran for 772 and had 22 total touchdowns as a senior. McMahon and Edsall hope he can maintain his redshirt status this year and that Petty can guide the Terps through their final four games unscathed. If not, McMahon will lose his redshirt and be thrust under center.
And if, somehow, McMahon and Petty both suffer the same fate of their predecessors, who will play quarterback for the Terps?
“That’s to be determined,” Edsall half-joked with reporters this week. “You are jinxing me by asking me that question.”
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