Last season, Maryland quarterbacks threw more interceptions than any other team in college football. Twenty nine interceptions is an awful lot, six more than the next most-intercepted team.
So that’s the big to-do for the Terps this season: improving the passing game by making sure fewer passes land in the hands of opposing defenders and more land in the hands of Maryland receivers.
How easy that will be remains to be determined.
The same two guys who combined to throw 28 of those 19 picks are the two favorites for the starting job this season, Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe. And while it was quite obvious that neither was very adept at keeping turnover numbers low, indecision couldn’t have helped. Randy Edsall — and then Mike Lockley after Edsall was fired midway through the campaign — couldn’t settle on a starter or a true No. 1, mostly because both guys kept throwing interceptions.
Hills started eight games, playing in nine, while Rowe started four and played in 10. Hills had more statistical success and showed more big-play ability at times, but he threw 13 interceptions compared to eight touchdowns, accumulating 1,001 passing yards with a 50-percent completion percentage. Rowe, meanwhile, threw 15 interceptions and just six touchdowns, passing for 894 yards with a 46.1-percent completion percentage.
Neither option can look terribly exciting to first-year head coach DJ Durkin, who is more a defensive guy anyway. Leading one of the best defenses in the country last year as the defensive coordinator at Michigan, Durkin oversaw a shutout in which the Wolverines held the Terps to a jaw-dropping 105 total yards of offense and intercepted Rowe three times.
All in all, Maryland had one of the worst passing games in the country, averaging just 174.3 yards through the air each week. And while the rushing attack was surprisingly productive, 1,000-yard rusher Brandon Ross isn’t around anymore, putting more pressure on this crop of shaky quarterbacks.
Tasked with solving this riddle is Walt Bell, Durkin’s new offensive coordinator who came over from Arkansas State. Averaging 40 points a game last season, the Red Wolves were the 12th highest-scoring team in the country.
And there are three other quarterbacks on the roster — Tyrell Pigrome, Gage Shaffer and Max Bortenschlager — and Durkin said those guys will all get a chance to compete for the job, too. But not a one of them has any experience, all three freshmen and two of them true freshmen. Still, perhaps a new look would be a positive for a team that experienced a quarterback nightmare last season.