Terps Trio: Caleb Rowe, Shawn Petty and hoops starters

Baltimore Sun reporters Jeff Barker and Don Markus and editor Matt Bracken weigh in on the three biggest topics of the past week in Maryland  sports.

Can Maryland survive the loss of three quarterbacks and still make a run at becoming bowl eligible?

Jeff Barker: The answer is yes, provided Maryland’s offensive line can keep Caleb Rowe healthy.

I’ve said before that there wasn’t that much separation in training camp among Rowe, Perry Hills and Devin Burns.

It’s a shame that Hills and Burns went down last week -- it’s terrible to see these guys endure injuries, especially when you know there are long, demanding rehabilitation periods ahead of them.

But Rowe wasn’t far behind the other two. In fact, his passes in August were the ones that made you take notice. Stefon Diggs said Rowe can make "kind of like NFL throws that you don't see too often.”

He’s also been called a “gunslinger,” which can have positive and negative connotations.

But I suspect his performance will be fine, even as he has to learn on the fly.

The concern here is whether he can stay on the field, because there are no true quarterbacks behind him.  You Redskins fans may have noticed how Robert Griffin III got better last week at running out of bounds. That’s what Rowe needs to do.  And he needs to slide. A lot.

If you’re a Terps fan, you hope for continued improvement from Maryland’s offensive line, which  -- like much of the rest of the team – has been hit by the injury bug.  The linemen will need to block as if the season depends on it because – increasingly – it does.

If Maryland is forced to turn to its fifth-string quarterback, what can be expected of Shawn Petty?

Matt Bracken: There was a time when Eleanor Roosevelt coach Tom Green had Petty pegged for a college quarterback. The 6-foot-3, 240-pound player was best known in Prince George's County football circles as a signal caller. But with Hills and Rowe already committed to be part of the Terps' 2012 recruiting class, the Maryland coaching staff targeted Petty last summer as a prime prospect at middle linebacker.

A three-year starter at QB, Petty impressed Maryland's coaches at a one-day camp and committed to the Terps a few weeks after earning his offer. Petty said shortly after his commitment that he was "flexible" with his college position. When it came to Maryland's pursuit of Petty, it was linebacker or bust. But in every conversation I had with Green, he always found a way to praise Petty's QB skills.

In Eleanor Roosevelt's 27-20 win last fall over Suitland, Petty was at his best.

“He had a lot of big moments against Suitland,” Green said last fall. “The score was tied and he broke a tackle and threw a 50-yard bomb to give us the lead right before the half. We were playing for the [Prince George’s] County championship and he made some real big passes in the first half."

Petty threw for 1,300 yards, 15 touchdowns and four interceptions as a senior, in addition to rushing for 550 yards and 10 scores. He was a powerful dual-threat quarterback who probably didn't have a DI arm, but was absolutely a BCS-conference-level athlete. 

The previous five paragraphs are in no way an attempt to make Maryland's dire quarterback situation sound better than it is. The Terps' starter is a true freshman who picked UM over Gardner-Webb, and their backup is a true freshman linebacker who probably would have gone to Howard -- where his father coaches -- had Maryland not offered. The defense will have to carry this team to a bowl game. Rowe simply needs to manage the game and stay healthy.

If the unthinkable happens and Petty's number gets called, expect to see a tough, physical leader who can make plays with his feet.

“He moves really well,” Green said last August. “He’s a big kid, he’s strong, he’s a good tackler, and he knows football. Starting at quarterback for three years helps.”

Mark Turgeon said after last Saturday's scrimmage that Alex Len is the only player who has earned a starting spot so far. What should be made of that announcement and who is going to be in the starting lineup come opening night against Kentucky on Nov. 9?

Don Markus: I think Len is clearly Maryland's best inside player, if not its best player period. The 7-1 center from the Ukraine has bulked up and improved his shooting, particularly a near automatic 10-to-12 foot turnaround on the baseline. It's pretty easy to see why Len has earned a starting spot.  

Turgeon has also said previously that Len and Shaquille Cleare are the two hardest working players on the team, which leads me to believe that Cleare will also be starting come opening night. There's a part of me that thinks Turgeon will start James Padgett because he's from Brooklyn, N.Y., where the game will be played, but if Kentucky starts its two prized freshmen, 6-10 Nerlens Noel and 7-foot Willie Cauley Stein, I think Cleare will get a bulk of the playing time if he can stay out of foul trouble.

After Len, and possibly Cleare, the rest of Maryland's starting lineup, is still up for debate.

Considering how much Turgeon has talked up junior Pe'Shon Howard since Media Day, I think Howard will be the point guard, with freshman Seth Allen as his backup. That leaves sophomore Nick Faust, freshman Jake Layman and transfer Dez Wells as the other candidates to start. 

Faust, who had a great second half to his freshman year, would likely start at shooting guard if Wells remains ineligible after leaving Xavier. From everything I've seen and heard, Wells has had a much better preseason than Faust, who still tends to play a little out of control. Faust can play three positions in Turgeon's offense - point guard, shooting guard and small forward - so Turgeon can find a play in the starting lineup if he deserves one.

If Wells doesn't get his eligibility back until January, or even next season, then Faust will likely start the season as the shooting guard and Layman at small forward. Faust was Maryland's best defensive player on the perimeter, and that goes far with Turgeon in terms of playing time. Layman has put on some muscle since arriving on campus this summer and can be used at power forward if Turgeon to back up Cleare along with Charles Mitchell.

Based on what Turgeon did his first season in College Park, his starting lineup can change a bunch of times between now and Nov. 9. I think he is probably going to keep everyone - his players in particular as well as fans and media - guessing so that his players don't take it for granted and keep working hard in practice. I think that might be the case all the way the non-conference schedule as well.




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