Wade Cooper is “willing to bet that most people” in South Carolina are not familiar with Blue Ridge High School. The Tigers’ quarterback, Caleb Rowe, had a similarly under-the-radar reputation heading into his senior year.
Rowe, a 6-foot-3, 211-pound Maryland commitment, might have been one of the Palmetto State’s best-kept secrets before this fall.
What Rowe accomplished in order to live up to his coach’s expectations and surpass everyone else’s was nothing short of outstanding. The three-year varsity starter finished his last year of high school football going 141-for-220 for 2,722 yards and 33 touchdowns with just seven interceptions. Rowe also rushed for three touchdowns in leading Blue Ridge to an 8-3 record and the South Carolina Class AAA playoffs.
“I think he took it to another level in that we asked him to do even more,” Cooper said. “[We put] a lot more of the game on his shoulders. His maturity level, him being more familiar in the offense after being in it for a couple of years and his ability to read defenses and coverages [was improved]. We’ve had him handle a lot of it on the field.”
Rowe finished his Blue Ridge career with more than 7,600 yards passing, 78 passing touchdowns, 12 rushing scores and 20 interceptions in 31 games. His numbers could have been better had the Tigers not run up big leads against lesser opponents, leading to Rowe often sitting in the second half. Rowe’s career statistics, though, speak to a level of consistency throughout his time at Blue Ridge. Cooper said his quarterback was always “steady” and always a good leader.
“I think he took more ownership this year, in that he is a more vocal leader,” Cooper said. “He had the play to back it up. That’s what’s important. You can’t just talk about it. You’ve got to be able to do it. He did that this year. He was a much more vocal leader for us. And he was the guy that these other guys could look to and actually I’d look to for that leadership. His leadership style is he’s an encourager. Anyone can get in there and cuss. He tries to motivate them to be the very best they can be, which I think is true leadership.”
Cooper’s offensive system should serve as good preparation for Rowe at Maryland. The Tigers run a spread, which this year featured a 1,000-yard rusher, but also saw Rowe pass about 60 percent of the time. From what Cooper has seen of the Terps this year, Rowe appears to be a good fit for Gary Crowton’s offense.
“The coaching staff up there, for what they want to do, I think Caleb Rowe is going to be a perfect fit for what they want to do,” Cooper said. “You’re going to have a guy who’s good enough to sit in the pocket and make his reads. And he’s smart. He’s going to be able to manage the game. He’s also athletic enough that if he needs to, he can escape and get out on the perimeter and make things happen.”
Next month will be an eventful one for Rowe. On Dec. 9, the future Terp will find out if he has been selected as South Carolina’s Mr. Football. Rowe is one of five finalists for the award. The following week, he’ll head to Myrtle Beach to quarterback the South Carolina squad in the prestigious Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas all-star game. In Cooper’s mind, every bit of attention Rowe has received this year is well deserved.
“A lot of people around the state saw him going to the Shrine Bowl combine and being selected to the Shrine Bowl,” Cooper said. “That’s a huge, huge deal. He’s only the second player in school history. When he signs with Maryland, he’ll be the first Division IA signee from this school ever. So it’s a big deal. It’s a big deal for the school and a big deal for the community. We’re proud of him.”