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Perry Hills remains clear starter at quarterback for Maryland

Maryland quarterback Perry Hills (11) throws a pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Howard, Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016, in College Park, Md.
Maryland quarterback Perry Hills (11) throws a pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Howard, Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016, in College Park, Md.(Nick Wass / AP)

Throughout his five years at Maryland, Perry Hills has never felt solid footing in his position at quarterback.

When Hills started the opening game of his freshman year after C.J. Brown suffered a season-ending knee injury, Hills knew it had come down to a last-minute choice between him and fellow freshman Caleb Rowe.

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When he started the season opener a year ago, Rowe again was right behind him. Hills saw his starting job taken away after he was benched in the fourth quarter of a home loss to Bowling Green the following week.

According to Maryland offensive coordinator Walt Bell, the fifth-year senior is the clear No. 1 quarterback going into Friday's road game at Florida International.

"I'm a firm believer that if you have two quarterbacks [thinking they're No. 1], you have zero quarterbacks," Bell said Wednesday.

Bell said there are no plans to rotate quarterbacks as readily as the Terps did in Saturday's 52-13 victory over Howard, when true freshmen Tyrrell Pigrome and Max Bortenschlager played most of the second half.

"Perry Hills is the starter and he will be the starter until he renders himself not the starter," Bell said. "I think one of the things that's really important about the quarterback position is that you play confidently."

Bell said it's difficult to play that way if a quarterback is looking over his shoulder, which Hills has done during his up-and-down college career.

"The demeanor with which you play the position from a command aspect and from a decisive, decision-making standpoint, you can't do those two things if you have somebody else coming in to replace you all the time," Bell said.

Said Hills: "It's definitely nice for all the coaches to have your back. Coach [DJ] Durkin will tell you every day he has all of our backs. All the coaches have unbelievable confidence in us. That helps your own confidence."

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Hills played more efficiently and with more confidence than many had seen him play before. After completing just half of his passes last season, Hills connected on his first 10 passes and finished 14-for-19 for 126 yards in a little over a half against Howard.

"He played as clean a game for a first-year system quarterback than probably that we've had," Bell said. "I think for him to go out and play clean was huge from a confidence standpoint. Not saying he won't turn the ball over Friday night. Hopefully that's a big boost of confidence for him."

Bell said that he while he has confidence in Pigrome, who made some impressive plays with both his arm (4-for-6 for 60 yards) and his legs (seven carries for 53 and a touchdown), Hills gives the Terps what they need as the rest of the offensive players get accustomed to the pace of the run-oriented offense.

"Is Pig going to be a great player someday? Absolutely," Bell said. "Are there packages in which he can help us? Yes. Is his percent of error at the line of scrimmage no matter how explosive he can look between the white lines very high? Absolutely.

"He's got plenty of things that we've got to fix as well. A couple of mistakes, third-down issues that we had, behind the scenes that you don't notice, he's got to work and improve on. That's what you expect from a freshman quarterback. Also, I've got to do a better job coaching him."

While Rowe has moved even with Bortenschlager on the depth chart after missing a chunk of the preseason with an injury, Hills will remain Maryland's starting quarterback for the foreseeable future, barring injury.

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"I don't foresee a two-platoon system," Bell said.

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