Terry Totten, who coached Maryland freshman quarterback Perry Hills at Central Catholic High School in Pittsburgh, received the news from the player's family Wednesday night that his former star had suddenly gone to No. 1 on the depth chart in the aftermath of junior C.J. Brown's season-ending knee injury.

Totten said Hills is the most talented of the three quarterbacks he has sent to Division I in his 11 seasons as head coach at Central Catholic.

"There's no doubt he's the whole package," Totten said. "He benefited from having four years of coaching with our quarterbacks coach that the others did not. He also has a little bit of an upside in his physical abilities, he's a big strong kid. I've been telling people all along that he's taking off like a jet. I don't think you've seen him fully grown, or his full arm strength yet. He's getting better and better."

Totten said that the 6-2, 205-pound Hills, who was also an all-state wrestler, "is a tough kid [who] would have started at defensive end for me if I needed it."

Hills started for Central Catholic from the middle of his sophomore year. He threw for nearly 1,600 yards and 10 touchdowns as a junior and for around 2,000 yards and 13 touchdowns, with only two interceptions, as a senior. The team went 24-2 his last two years. Totten said that he runs an I-formation, pro-style offense that at times featured four wide receivers.

"He can make all the throws," Totten said. "He's not prone to [interceptions]. And I tell you another thing, the kid can run. The kid is a weapon as a runner."

Totten knows there will be a learning curve, but he doesn't think Hills will be intimidated by the surroundings.

"He's a leader, he's tough, he will be in command of the huddle," Totten said. "I think everyone will be pleasantly surprised by how he leads the football team. He's got a ton of potential and nobody will outwork him."

Totten recalled how Hills stepped in midway through his sophomore year in a "pressure game" against rival Penn Hills.

"He performed very well, he put a lot of balls on the money, they had a pretty good rush with guys who went on to play Division I, no mental mistakes, the ball was not on the ground," Totten said. "He kept getting better and better and better. He kept expanding, he kept getting wider, stronger, better and I don't think he's done yet [growing]."

Totten played in high school with Central Catholic's most famous football alum.

"I played with Danny Marino," Totten said. "I also got to see Marc Bulger play here."

Totten said of Hills: "It would unfair to compare him to the greatest guy who ever played under center, but his potential hasn't been reached yet. We started to notice that at the end of his junior year and he's continued to go and go and go. I think the sky's the limit."

don.markus@baltsun.com