COLLEGE PARK — The Maryland quarterback carousel, which has been a steady and often depressing part of the football team’s struggles the past five seasons, continues to revolve as the Terps plummet through a stretch of five losses in the past six games. Headed into Saturday’s homecoming matchup against No. 14 Michigan, the Terps have used four quarterbacks this season, and their top two have been injured.
First-year coach Mike Locksley said at his weekly news conference Tuesday that graduate transfer Josh Jackson, who returned briefly in last week’s 52-10 loss at Minnesota after missing two games with a sprained ankle, would take the first-team snaps at practice while redshirt junior Tyrrell Pigrome, who suffered a slight hyperextension of the left knee in the second quarter at TCF Bank Stadium, would be limited Tuesday.
Redshirt freshman Tyler DeSue will be the No. 2 quarterback if Pigrome is unable to play against the Wolverines. DeSue might have been the most effective of the three in the loss to the now-No. 13 and unbeaten Golden Gophers, helping set up Maryland’s first field goal of the season late in the first half and throwing a 59-yard touchdown pass to junior running back Tayon Fleet-Davis in the second half.
“As I said Saturday, us not playing him [after just one series] was a coach’s decision,” Locksley said at his weekly news conference earlier in the day. “I thought after he came off the field the one series in the [Minnesota] game, I didn’t really feel he had his confidence, that was my impression. I spoke with Josh yesterday and I feel he’s in a good place. He felt like he could’ve come back in. We’re going to give him every opportunity to take the reps this week. We’ll create the competition, if Piggy’s available. Then we’ll start and play the guy that gives us the the best chance to win this week.”
Though Locksley said he expects Pigrome to be healthy enough to play, there is no guarantee that he will start. (During his news conference, Locksley did not make mention of true freshman Lance LeGendre, who played a few snaps in the season-opening 79-0 win over Howard, but has not played since and will likely qualify for a redshirt year.
Pigrome played well for most of his team’s 34-28 loss at home to Indiana two weeks ago, but threw an interception late in the game that quashed any chance of a comeback. Against Minnesota, Pigrome threw two early interceptions, including a pick-six, on passes that bounced off the hands of his top receiver, Dontay Demus Jr.
Jackson came in Saturday with the Terps trailing 14-0. Playing in his first game since spraining his ankle in the second quarter of a 48-7 victory at Rutgers on Oct. 12 — Maryland’s last win ― he lasted one series, nearly getting intercepted on his first pass attempt and throwing behind Demus on his second. He was then yanked by Locksley.
Asked about his benching, Jackson said after practice Tuesday: “[The decision] was made by Coach. I went out, I had three plays, I didn’t execute well on that third down. Obviously I just missed. That’s what I told him. From there, he thought it was a better idea to go back with Pig and then Tyler. He’s the coach. That’s his decision. All I can do is support him. I was real happy to see Tyler get his first touchdown. That was awesome. and to see Pig execute."
After Pigrome was injured as he was tackled making a throw, Locksley put in DeSue for the remainder of the game. It was the most extensive action for the former three-star prospect who seemed to put himself in the conversation — or at least in the competition — for a starting job this season with an impressive spring that culminated with him earning MVP honors in the Red-White game. Pigrome sat out the game with an injury.
Asked if Saturday’s performance helped give his confidence a boost, DeSue said after practice: “I think playing in general, it’s a big influence on your confidence. I played all right, I could have played better [than completing four of 12 passes for 88 yards]. Minnesota is a great team and I think I was really happy with what came out of it.”
Jackson’s confidence seemed to take a hit after the transfer from Virginia Tech took a few too many hits himself in the first four games. Even in Maryland’s one-sided wins over Howard and then-No. 21 Syracuse to start the season, when he was sacked just once, Jackson got tackled hard several times. He was sacked a combined eight times in losses to Temple and then-No. 12 Penn State.
“With the time off, I feel he’s better," Locksley said about Jackson, who started his first 16 games at Virginia Tech before breaking his leg in the third game last season. "Based off of yesterday, he feels a lot better. This week will be about building the confidence up, getting back out there and seeing him operate the system and be able to operate it with his full ability. I’m looking forward to seeing what he looks like today.”
Jackson said that he considered himself fully recovered from the injury.
“But luckily, nothing horrible, nothing severe or anything like that, it took some time [to heal],” Jackson said.
When it occurred, as Jackson’s lower leg was sandwiched between two Rutgers defenders, he thought back to what happened last year. A superstitious type, Jackson thought it was “ironic” that his parents, who generally attend his games every week, were not in attendance at the two in which he was injured.
Jackson also said that he was surprised by the nature of the injury each time.
“When I broke my leg the first time I didn’t think I did, and I did,” he said. “Here I was like, ‘Maybe I did [break it]’ and I didn’t. I’m not a doctor. I just know is that I was in pain."
Having torn his ACL in his right knee as a sophomore in the season opener at Texas two years, Pigrome didn’t think he had done the same thing to his left knee at Minnesota. Having also suffered a hyperextended knee when he was in high school in Alabama, Pigrome could tell the different because of “the pop” he heard in Austin that wasn’t as loud or as painful in Minneapolis.
“At the same time I was worried. I didn’t want to do that again,” he said Tuesday.
Both Pigrome and Jackson are well-versed in the history of quarterback injuries at Maryland, which hasn’t had the same quarterback start every game in a season since C.J. Brown in 2014. That came two years after Brown, the expected starter, tore his ACL in preseason and was followed to the sideline for three others before Shawn Petty, a converted linebacker, started the last four games.
Pigrome suffered a similar fate while leading the Terps to an upset win at then-No. 23 Texas in the 2017 opener, only to be followed by his backup, then-freshman Kasim Hill, two games later. Pigrome then watched Hill tear the ACL in his other knee late last season at Indiana. Pigrome just recently gave up the brace he worse since his own injury occurred.
"Got to be unlucky, yeah,” Pigrome said. “It’s kind of weird here. I didn’t know nothing about it until I got here. There was one one time every quarterback tore the ACL one year, I was like, ‘What? Dang, that’s crazy.’ Next thing you me and Kasim [Hill] tear ours in the same year (. That’s weird too. Now come back again, some more injuries. They’re not big injuries, but they’re injuries.”
NO. 14 MICHIGAN@MARYLAND
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