COLLEGE PARK — Perry Hills knew he'd put in the work to become Maryland's starting quarterback.
With the return of Caleb Rowe and the addition of Oklahoma State transfer Daxx Garman, it was something not many people outside the program gave him a chance to do, but he remained steadfast that there was the possibility he could come out on top in the three-man race.
Still, when coach Randy Edsall announced he was the starter, there was something unexpected about it for the redshirt junior.
Hills will lead Maryland on Saturday as the team's starting quarterback for the first time since his freshman year in 2012.
"I was surprised, but it was something I also had been working toward and I felt that I was doing a good job through camp so I was really wanting it to happen," Hills said. "But yeah, I was surprised a little bit."
Teammates said Hills asserted himself during his opening drive with the first team during Maryland's open scrimmage at Fan Appreciation Day on Aug. 22. Hills drove his squad 75 yards in nine plays and capped it with a 7-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Levern Jacobs.
The offense moved easily. Hills had total control of the offense. He was confident. He was making the right calls and the right reads. He was showing everyone — coaches, teammates, the public — that he could lead the Maryland offense.
"I think a lot of people probably doubted Perry going into camp because he hadn't really gotten that much time on the field since freshman year," Jacobs said. "But like Coach said, Perry just went out there in camp this year and worked. I think he did a pretty good job. He definitely showed he deserved to be a starting quarterback. I think he's going to keep getting better throughout the season. I'm definitely excited to see what Perry's going to do."
Hills worked hard in the summer to make the changes and improvements in his game necessary to seize the starting job. He worked out with Tony Colaizzi, his quarterbacks coach at Central Catholic High School in Pittsburgh, Pa., every weekend in an effort to become more athletic.
During practices, Hills was more confident in pulling the ball down to run if he didn't see anything open on the field. In the open scrimmage, he scrambled away from defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, Maryland's top pass-rusher, in the end zone.
"I'm sure that some teammates were surprised on the things that I got better at athletically and then make the right reads, take the checkdowns, accuracy," Hills said. "So I'm sure there were people surprised from that standpoint."
Offensive coordinator Mike Locksley said Wednesday that Hills winning the job "wasn't a landslide victory" and "it wasn't an easy decision." But Locksley was impressed with Hills' command of the team at the line of scrimmage in Maryland's no-huddle system and he praised the quarterback's intangibles.
"Players see what's happening on the field," Edsall said Tuesday. "They see and they're in the huddle with them and they understand what's taking place, so they kind of expected it. He does a good job."
Much has changed since Hills first took snaps as a true freshman against William & Mary three years ago. He led his team to a 4-2 record, suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament, watched from the sideline during a redshirt season in 2013, and appeared in spot duty in relief of C.J. Brown last season. He's no longer the fresh-faced state champion wrestler thrust into the starting role.
Hills earned the trust of his teammates and now has a variety of experiences to draw upon once things get under way against Richmond.
"People would look at me as a freshman and pretty much try to throw the phone book at me," Hills said. "So I really got to see a lot and put a lot of tools in my toolbox, so whenever I see it again, I know exactly what I'm looking at. The game's slowed down for me a lot."