If Maryland‘s first nine preseason practices have produced some separation among the four quarterbacks competing for the No. 1 job, the 10th session might give second-year coach DJ Durkin even more clarity when it comes to who’ll take the first snap at Texas on Sept. 2.
That could happen Saturday, when the Terps will hold the team’s first intrasquad scrimmage at Maryland Stadium. Closed to both the public and the media, Durkin and offensive coordinator Walt Bell will have a chance to assess the situation in private.
Though the scrimmage is “live” — meaning there will be some hitting — the quarterbacks will still be off-limits.
“All the quarterbacks that are competing for it will be able to play and do everything,” Durkin said before practice Friday, the second that was open to the media. “‘Live’ is a relative term for the quarterbacks; it really won’t be live in the scrimmage. Everything we’ll do at game speed and we’ll try to split those reps as fairly as you can numbers-wise [among] who’ll be what group.”
Based on some of Bell’s comments to Big Ten Network earlier this week, as well as what could be surmised watching practice Friday, it appears that sophomore Tyrrell Pigrome and freshman Kasim Hill are running with the first and second teams, with redshirt junior transfer Caleb Henderson and sophomore Max Bortenschlager behind them.
In what appeared to be a two-minute scrimmage late in Friday’s practice, Pigrome connected on two well-thrown balls to freshman wide receiver Sean Nelson — the first floated perfectly between defenders — before having a third-down pass picked off at the goal line by freshman safety Markquese Bell.
Henderson, who missed the end of spring practice including the spring game because of a serious foot injury, showed he has recovered sufficiently when he moved out of the pocket and turned the corner with a nice sideline run before his group settled for a field-goal attempt.
Senior wide receiver Jacquille Veii said after practice that he has been impressed with all four quarterbacks — “They’re all pretty different, they all make plays,” Veii said — but one comment about Hill seemed to point to the former four-star prospect ultimately landing the job.
“We’re all just excited to see who’s going to come out on top. It’s a real close battle between all of them,” Veii said.
Asked what Hill has shown so far, Veii said, “Specifically, he’s shown a really great deep ball. You just look at the deep ball, it’s just a beautiful deep ball. That’s what stands out to me.”
NOTES: Durkin said that two players who missed spring practice after undergoing knee surgery last fall are still working their way back to form.
Senior safety Denzel Conyers tore an ACL in the third game last season and was granted a waiver by the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility.
“He’s probably 75 percent, he’s cleared to do everything and he’s doing everything. He’s not full strength yet, full speed,” Durkin said. “You could tell he’s favoring it a little bit. We have a plan with him of a couple of days practice and then peel back a day, kind of give him a chance to recover and rehab.”
Durkin doesn’t know whether Conyers, who started the first three games last season before getting hurt at Central Florida, will be ready for the opener in Austin.
“In the whole grand scheme of things, his timetable coming off a significant knee injury like he had, he’s still on or ahead of schedule but not quite ready to be out there going,” Durkin said. “If he’s ready for Game 1, then great; if not, I anticipate in the coming weeks, Games 2, 3, 4, somewhere along there he will be up to full speed. We’re just going to keep being smart and bring him along.”
Freshman cornerback Deon Jones missed his senior year of high school (he had transferred from Potomac High after three years) because of a knee injury. Jones was the highest-rated recruit in this year’s class. Jones enrolled in January.
“He’s coming along,” Durkin said. “He’s really made strides since he’s been here. … He’s out there practicing. He’s not full speed yet. These reps are really valuable for him. He’s another guy we’ll make a determination on how much he can help or if he can help right away.”