COLLEGE PARK — There's been a change in Caleb Rowe this week, and his coaches and teammates have taken notice.
He's no longer the Maryland quarterback understudy, prepping to be ready just in case there's an injury or if he's needed to make a spot start like he was during his first three years with the Terps.
Rowe is Maryland's starting quarterback this week against South Florida, and he's acting like it. He's no longer signaling plays in to Perry Hills, or spelling an injured C.J. Brown.
He's trying to seize control of the job and jumpstart an offense after a humbling loss to Bowling Green last weekend.
"He came in this week and I think he wants to lock down the position," right tackle Ryan Doyle said. "I can't blame him. I want him in there. I want a vocal quarterback and he's bringing just that."
Previously, Rowe had been a more quite, "go with the flow guy," Doyle said. But in command of the offense, he has to be a more vocal leader for the Terps and make his presence felt in the huddle or at the line of scrimmage.
It was those intangibles that helped Hills win the job coming out of preseason camp and start the first two games.
Despite those traits, Hills' struggles on the field led coach Randy Edsall and offensive coordinator Mike Locksley to make the switch to Rowe, who has three career starts in College Park, the last coming on Oct. 26, 2013. And the coaching staff is looking to Rowe to be a steady presence.
"That leadership role comes with the position," Locksley said. "Caleb understands that. I do see a different side of him now that he has been named a starter from the standpoint of coming in and preparing the way that a starter needs to prepare."
Rowe said he hasn't changed anything about his preparation for the job. He's always had to be prepared during his first three years with the Terps, whether it was making two spot starts for an injured Brown in 2013 or coming in for a few plays against West Virginia a year ago and throwing a touchdown pass.
Rowe's comfortable with the first team after he split time with Hills and Oklahoma State transfer Daxx Garman, and he knows how to handle the offense, even with some transition at wide receiver with Taivon Jacobs and D.J. Moore being elevated to starting roles.
"Taking the one reps is definitely something that you have to do more to take control of it," Rowe said. "Guys are expecting me to be a leader and that's something I feel very comfortable with. I don't feel out of place taking the one reps, so I'm just trying to do the best I can to make Maryland football win football games."
On Tuesday, Edsall said "it takes some time, not only physically but also mentally" to come back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, which Rowe suffered for the second time in practice last October. Before camp started, Rowe said he was 100 percent physically.
But he lagged behind Hills and Garman as he tried to get up to speed mentally and get used to live game action again.
"I think I'm just more comfortable in the pocket," Rowe said. "As a quarterback, you can't be antsy or nervous back there. You've got to be comfortable. I was making the right reads but my footwork wasn't where I wanted it and my timing wasn't where I wanted it, but as kind of things progressed, I feel a lot more comfortable and it's easier to make reads when you're comfortable with your feet."
When Rowe steps behind center Saturday against South Florida, it will be the first time in his career that he's been readied as the starter with the potential to take control of the job for the long haul. He's bided his time in different roles. Now it's his chance to excel.
Said Rowe: "I've been preparing for this moment since I've gotten here."