Shawn Petty is listed at 230 pounds, but he looked bigger than that as he took practice snaps in the end zone last week, dwarfing the other skill-position players standing around him.
Petty — the converted freshman linebacker who will start at quarterback for the Terps against Georgia Tech on Saturday — seemed almost as wide as the center hiking him the ball during warmups before the Boston College game.
He outweighs each of the four previous Maryland quarterbacks — all sidelined by season-ending injuries — by at least 25 pounds.
"I was surprised he was listed at 230. I had him at 240 pounds," said Tom Green, Petty's coach at Greenbelt's Eleanor Roosevelt High School, where the player was a linebacker and Navy-style option quarterback. "He's strong," Green said.
Maryland faced a daunting task in fashioning a manageable game plan this week for Petty, a left-hander switched to offense because of the team's dire injury situation.
But at least Petty has some attributes that didn't need to be coached — size and toughness.
"[Petty] is a pretty thick guy up top," center Evan Mulrooney said. "I was sitting next to him on the plane [back from Boston]. I was really bummed that I had to. I was kind of squished up against the window. It's going to be fun to see him run over some people."
Petty was switched to backup quarterback by Maryland when Perry Hills and Devin Burns were injured in the North Carolina State game Oct. 20. He moved to the top of the depth chart when Caleb Rowe tore his anterior cruciate ligament scrambling out of bounds in the fourth quarter against Boston College.
Petty, Hills and Rowe are all in their first seasons at Maryland. Fourteen true freshmen have played for the Terps this year, fifth-highest in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Maryland said it knows of no other school that has lost so many quarterbacks to injury in a season. It calls its precarious situation "uncharted territory."
If Maryland has any advantage from the unsettling turn of events, it's the element of surprise.
Since there is no college-level video of Petty, Georgia Tech (3-5, 2-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) had little to scout on the player.
"We just don't know which they'll highlight, so we have to guess a little bit, just be prepared," Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. "Part of playing defense is hopefully you have a scheme that you can line up and play and be sound, no matter what they do.
"I'm sure the young man [Petty] is a good athlete, and he'll have a set of skills. Maybe we have to adjust on the fly," Johnson said.
Maryland (4-4, 2-2 ACC), which needs two wins to become bowl eligible, must again contend with Johnson's triple-option offense. The Yellow Jackets are unsettled at quarterback and will choose between senior Tevin Washington and redshirt freshman Vad Lee.
A year ago, the Terps headed to Atlanta to face a Georgia Tech team with a 51.6 points-per-game average and a triple-option offense that led the nation in rushing.
The Terps didn't win, but they delivered a strong effort — and one particularly memorable defensive play — in a 21-16 game that they were reminded of this week as they prepared for another potent Yellow Jackets rushing attack.
This season, Georgia Tech is averaging 311.8 rushing yards per game, fourth in the nation. Holding the Yellow Jackets under their average — as Maryland did last year — will be critical to the Terps' chances.
At least the Terps know there is precedent for limiting, if not stopping, the option game that Johnson brought to Georgia Tech from Navy in 2008.
"We did a good job of limiting the number of points that they got [last season], and really it was just guys doing their jobs," Maryland coach Randy Edsall said. "We were disciplined with our assignments. We had guys — most especially Joe [Vellano] — running from sideline to sideline," Edsall said. "It wasn't anything out of the ordinary. They're going to gain some yards — there's no doubt about that."
Vellano, the senior defensive lineman whose 14 tackles-for-loss leads the conference, had 20 tackles in the game — plus a signature moment. Vellano was rushing Washington, who threw the ball over the head of the 6-foot-2, 285-pound lineman to wide receiver Stephen Hill. Vellano raced downfield and caught Hill 35 yards later. "I just ran him down," Vellano said.
After the game, Johnson singled out Vellano for praise. He did so again this week.
Asked if Vellano might be the best defensive lineman in the conference, Johnson replied: "He got my vote a year ago."
Maryland (4-4, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) vs. Georgia Tech (3-5, 2-3 ACC)
Time: 12:30 p.m.
Site: Byrd Stadium
TV: Chs. 13, 5
Radio: 105.7 FM, 980 AM
Series: Georgia Tech leads 14-6.
Last meeting: Georgia Tech def. Maryland, 21-16, on Oct. 8, 2011 in Atlanta.
Line: Georgia Tech by 7 ½
Maryland offense vs. Georgia Tech defense: After losing four quarterbacks to season-ending injuries, Maryland will start converted linebacker Shawn Petty at the position with tight end Brian McMahon as his backup. The Terps hope for a big game from freshman tailback Wes Brown, who has emerged with a combined 194 yards over the past two games. Georgia Tech switched defensive coordinators this season but surrendered 41 points and 411 yards in a loss to BYU last week.
Maryland defense vs. Georgia Tech offense: Georgia Tech has rushed for more yards than any Football Bowl Subdivision team since 2008 and ranks fourth in the nation this season (311.8 yards per game). Quarterback Tevin Washington (15 touchdowns) has split time with redshirt freshman Vad Lee, who has rushed for 282 yards (7.5 yards per carry). After holding Boston College to eight rushing yards, Maryland ranks seventh nationally in total defense (289.3 yards per game) and fourth in rushing defense (77.6 yards per game).Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun