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.
How much can linebacker-turned-quarterback Shawn Petty realistically do in his first start as a fill-in for the Terps against Georgia Tech?
Jeff Barker: It’s really quite an experiment, isn’t it? Albeit a necessary one after four quarterbacks were lost to injury.
Take one linebacker who was a high school quarterback and try to gauge just what he can handle.
It’s all about finding the right balance – how much can you teach him so that Maryland has some variety in its offense? You don’t want to pile too much on his plate in such a short time.
I anticipate that Petty will have some success running the ball on the option. He’s big and strong, and Georgia Tech won’t have any college-level video on him.
“Maybe we have to adjust on the fly,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said this week.
What I don’t know is how much Petty will throw. I’m just guessing here, but it makes sense that Maryland will try to get him started with some basic screens. Hello, Stefon Diggs.
Screens and short routes would have the dual benefit of allowing Petty to gain some early confidence while getting the ball into the best playmaker’s (i.e., Diggs) hands.
Among the issues created by all the quarterback injuries is that they complicate Maryland’s efforts to increasingly make Diggs a centerpiece of the offense. I sensed that Diggs had chemistry with the last quarterback, Caleb Rowe, who was injured in the Boston College game last week.
Of course, I’m not the only one who will likely anticipate some early screens to Diggs. Georgia Tech coaches may be looking for that as well.
Psssst, maybe the Terps should fake a short route early and allow Petty to let one fly deep. If only to keep the defense guessing.
If Maryland is forced to turn to its sixth-string quarterback, what can be expected of Brian McMahon?
Matt Bracken: You may recognize this question from last week’s Terps Trio, only with “sixth-string” replacing “fifth-string” and “Brian McMahon” instead of “Shawn Petty.” The topic seemed a bit ridiculous last week, but then Caleb Rowe tore his ACL and all of a sudden it actually became relevant to analyze Petty’s past as a high school quarterback and project how he might fare for Maryland if pressed into action.
The freshman linebacker from Eleanor Roosevelt is a tough, physical player, and I’m sure Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley will take extra precautions with his game plan to minimize the threat of injury. But Barker has that covered above. So at the risk of being a huge jinx again, here’s what we know about Maryland’s newest backup QB.
McMahon guided Atholton to a Howard County championship one year ago. As a 6-foot-4, 210-pound senior, McMahon threw for 1,289 yards and 13 touchdowns, while rushing for 772 yards and eight scores. Despite completing better than 60 percent of his passes, McMahon had almost no college interest at quarterback.
Several Ivy League schools liked McMahon as an athlete, and he eventually landed an offer from Colgate. But ultimately it came down to Johns Hopkins and Maryland, which wanted the 3.9 student as a preferred walk-on at tight end.
“Athletically, I think he’s a Division I athlete,” Raiders coach and former Terps offensive lineman Kyle Schmitt told The Sun last February. “And I told him if he played tight end for us, I really think that he would be at least a 1-AA type of kid, or a Division I type of athlete. That wasn’t what was best for us. But he runs a 4.6, he power-cleans 300 pounds, bench presses 300 pounds. He’s only going to get bigger and stronger. I really think he’s got a great upside as an athlete. It was the best move for him.”
Since he has enrolled, McMahon has gained 20 pounds, according to his UMTerps.com profile. From a physical standpoint, he probably wouldn’t look out of place under center during an ACC game.
But for the sake of Petty and the entire Maryland football program, let’s hope McMahon keeps his redshirt and the football gods stop smiting the Terps.
What should Maryland hope to get out of Friday's exhibition game against Indiana (Pa.)?
Don Markus: Given where Mark Turgeon's program is in its second year, the expectations are pretty high for the upcoming season. With everybody, including the Terps, pointing to next Friday's season opener against Kentucky in Brooklyn, N.Y., it would be easy for Turgeon's relatively young team to look past a Division II opponent.
Turgeon certainly isn't. He watched tape of this Indiana team as if he were scouting the top-ranked Indiana Hoosiers. While his news conference was going on Thursday afternoon at Comcast Center, Scott Spinelli's booming New England voice could be heard in the film study room next door going over IUP’s tendencies.
I recall a year ago when the Terps squeezed by another Division II team, Northwood, in the exhibition with a more experienced, less talented group. Turgeon was not exactly oozing with confidence after a couple of poor practices, and I think he privately fears this team treating the game against Indiana (Pa.) as an extension of Maryland Madness.
What I would like to see in the exhibition is for Maryland to dominate inside, but this isn't going to be a dunkathon. Indiana (Pa.) might be rebuilding itself after losing its two leading scorers off a 23-win NCAA tournament team, but the Crimson Hawks have five former Division I players on the roster, including 7-3 235-pound center Blake Vedder (Rhode Island) and 6-9, 245-pound Josh Wieland, who played at Loyola.
Finding a starting lineup going into the Kentucky game should be Turgeon's first goal for Friday night. Given that he has said sophomore center Alex Len will definitely start, and sophomore Nick Faust will likely start, that leaves three positions to fill.
Junior Pe'Shon Howard probably can solidify the starting point guard job with a strong performance in the exhibition game. Coming off an injury-plagued sophomore year, Howard is facing competition for minutes from Seth Allen this year and ultimately, from top recruit Roddy Peters next season.
I am looking forward to see the freshmen big men, particularly Charles Mitchell, who Turgeon talked up quite a bit during Thursday's media session. He said that Mitchell has a chance to start at some point this season, which means Turgeon could see him as more skilled offensively at this point than Shaquille Cleare.
What you won't see -- or at least who you won't see -- is Dez Wells. The 6-5 guard who left Xavier after being falsely charged with sexual assault -- the charges were dropped and the prosecutor said that Wells got railroaded by a school that had been put on alert for not taking those kind of cases seriously in the past -- is still waiting to get his eligibility back from the NCAA.
The biggest thing to expect from Maryland Friday night is a team that shares the ball. I am sure there are some who think the Terps are going to miss Terrell Stoglin -- that thought has crossed my mind at times -- but Turgeon made it clear that the offense is going to run through Len as its first option. That's a big difference from last year when Stoglin was Maryland's first, second and sometimes third option.