A year after sticking with senior quarterback Perry Hills despite clamoring from fans and media to put in some packages for then-freshman Tyrrell Pigrome, Maryland offensive coordinator Walt Bell said Wednesday that he plans to show the 5-foot-11, 196-pound sophomore the same loyalty as a starter.
Pigrome, who played in 11 games and started against Minnesota when Hills was injured, was named the team’s No. 1 quarterback Monday, beating out touted freshman Kasim Hill. The Terps open the 2017 season Saturday at No. 23 Texas.
“Pig has had a great fall camp, he had a great spring,” Bell said during his weekly news conference. “He is really improved. … This should be a redshirt freshman who hadn’t played a game. He had to play before he was ready. Sometimes those failures can make you a better human being and a better player.
“Everyone is excited about Kasim. I am incredibly excited about Kasim. Kasim someday is going to be a really special player. But Pig held him off. He did a great job. I think at that position, like a lot of the others — especially with some of the youth we have — the future, I think offensively the future is pretty bright.”
Asked if can foresee putting in a package for Hill, who has shown the ability to throw a much better deep ball than Pigrome, Bell was adamant.
“Nope, because their skills are pretty similar,” Bell said. “Kasim’s just a 6-2½, 240-pound version of [Pigrome]. You either have a quarterback or you don’t. And right now we have a quarterback. And the other 10 guys know he’s the quarterback. The only time I’ve ever seen it work is when that other quarterback has a very specific role that everybody knows that’s what he can do and that’s all he does.”
Bell used former Florida star Tim Tebow as an example, when he was a freshman playing behind Chris Leak.
“He was going to run power and counter and then get out of there,” Bell said. “I think if you’re ever going to give a kid a chance to be successful, you’ve got to give him a chance to be successful. I know I don’t like it when somebody’s looking over my shoulder. Those kids are the same way. If they know that they’re one mistake away from getting yanked out there, then typically they don’t play really well.”
Pigrome said earlier in the day on a conference call that he was often “in panic mode” in passing situations last season, leading to balls being thrown off-target or him running from the pocket, as he did for many of his career-high 25 carries for 71 yards in his only start, a 31-10 homecoming loss to the Gophers.
In spring practice and even more during preseason camp, Pigrome said the game slowed down for him as he worked against the starting defense rather than a scout team, as he did for much of last season.
“As far as slowing down, he can play without thinking now,” Bell said. “Where you have seen the game slow down for Pig throughout fall camp and in the spring is in communication at the line of scrimmage, managing the sideline, managing the offense.
“The real good ones, they actually don’t do a lot of thinking. They can process and just play. In terms of the game slowing down for him, I’m sure in his way it’s him saying he’s a lot more confident because, ‘I actually know what I’m doing now.’”