In his weekly conference call Sunday afternoon, Maryland coach Randy Edsall spoke of trying to implement more of a vertical element to the Terps offense.
In Saturday's 48-27 loss to Bowling Green, a running game that had impressed a week earlier against Richmond was stymied and wide receivers struggled to make plays downfield in the passing game. With the release of Maryland's depth chart Monday for this week's game against South Florida, Edsall appears to be shaking things up with the goal of improving the explosiveness of the Terps offense.
Strong-armed quarterback Caleb Rowe will make his first start since Oct. 26, 2013 against the Bulls, and Daxx Garman, who transferred from Oklahoma State in the offseason, is listed as his backup.
Perry Hills, who started the first two games after winning a three-way competition for the job in August, is not listed.
Additionally, wide receivers Taivon Jacobs and D.J. Moore replace Malcolm Culmer and Amba Etta-Tawo on the depth chart.
"I think we have to do that because we have to have people respect us," Edsall said Sunday. "They have to be able to respect us that so we don't gang people up on us and we're able to run the ball. We got to be able to do that. We've got to be able to stretch horizontally. We've got to be able to stretch vertically. We got to be able to run. We got to be able to have the balance that puts the pressure on the defense that will allow us to take advantage of the people that we have."
Hills was pedestrian in a win over Richmond and loss to Bowling Green, completing 27 of 51 passes for 306 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions combined. In Saturday's 48-27 loss to the Falcons, he was 15 of 30 for 168 yards, two touchdowns and one interception before he was pulled for Rowe in the fourth quarter.
Rowe threw two picks in three pass attempts.
After the game, Edsall said the team would have a "discussion" about the quarterback situation moving forward.
"We'll come up with what we want to do next week and how we want to proceed," Edsall said Saturday. But we're leaving too many plays on the field, so we'll address those things and see where we want to go."
Rowe, a redshirt junior, backed up starter C.J. Brown the last two seasons and was seen as a favorite to win the starting job in August. But Rowe, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament in practice last October, and was third in the three-man race at times.
Saturday's start will be the fourth start of Rowe's career. He started one game as a freshman in 2012 — he tore his ACL in that game — and two as a sophomore in 2013. The Terps are 1-2 in games started by Rowe, with losses to Boston College in 2012 and Clemson in 2013 and a win over Virginia in 2013.
Last season, Rowe appeared in four games and completed 34 of 54 passes for 489 yards, five touchdowns and four interceptions. His last appearance came in Maryland's 52-24 loss to Ohio State on Oct. 4, when he was 13 of 22 for 173 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions. In Maryland's win over Indiana the week before, Rowe entered in the second half for Brown and was 12 of 18 for 198 yards and two touchdowns.
Garman transferred to Maryland from Oklahoma State, where he had mixed results, in May. Last season, he started eight games and appeared in nine for the Cowboys and completed 54.9 percent of his passes for 2,041 yards, 12 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. In a nationally televised game against Texas Tech last September, he led his team to a 45-35 victory and completed 17 of 31 passes for 370 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.
Garman was second behind Hills for most of camp in August, but Rowe overtook him for the backup job before the season opener.
The cast of pass catchers Rowe will have at his disposal will look drastically different and could have almost as significant of an impact on the Terps' production. Though Etta-Tawo led Maryland with seven catches for 70 yards and Culmer was third with five catches for 63 yards and a touchdown, both had been plagued by drops this season.
Moore, a true freshman, and Taivon Jacobs, a sophomore, join redshirt junior Levern Jacobs as the team's top three receivers, giving Rowe an explosive trio to involve in the offense. Moore took a slant 42 yards for his first career touchdown in the third quarter Saturday, while Taivon Jacobs made his first career catch in the season opener.
Both are former four-star recruits who have shown the speed to break big plays.
Levern Jacobs is second on the team with five catches for 64 yards and two touchdowns, including a 23-yard score against Bowling Green. In Rowe's last start in 2013, Jacobs set career highs with eight catches for 158 yards and a 71-yard touchdown catch against Clemson.
Even after Hills won the job at the end of August, Edsall maintained that the best players at each position would start each week and the coaching staff would evaluate any and all options. After a slow start to the season, it now falls on Rowe's shoulders with a revamped group of wide receivers.
"At the end of the day, it's about who's the best quarterback," Rowe said in August. "I don't worry about the competition. I don't put any pressure on myself. I just try to come out and do my job. I really think that's what Coach Edsall is looking for, someone that can make the smart plays and just kind of run the offense the way he wants it."