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As Maryland interim coach, Matt Canada not ready to name starting quarterback or call himself head coach

Maryland interim coach Matt Canada greets players during football practice.
Maryland interim coach Matt Canada greets players during football practice. (Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

Maryland interim head coach Matt Canada said Tuesday that he has decided on a starting quarterback for Saturday’s season opener against No. 23 Texas at FedEx Field, but is not yet ready to reveal who it will be. Redshirt freshman Kasim Hill and junior Tyrrell Pigrome are listed as co-No. 1s on the Terps’ depth chart.

Canada also said he has not assumed the title of head coach since third-year coach DJ Durkin still holds that while on paid administrative leave that began Aug. 11, in the wake of what ESPN called a “toxic” culture surrounding the football team.

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Canada, who made Maryland his seventh coaching stop in the past nine years when he replaced Walt Bell as the team’s offensive coordinator this past offseason, opened a regularly scheduled news conference by talking about Jordan McNair, the 19-year-old offensive lineman who died June 13 after suffering heatstroke during a team conditioning test.

“Our players did a tremendous job of focusing on each other, focusing on sticking together, obviously continuing to think about, talk about, grieve about and finding different ways to play for Jordan,” Canada said, “and that’s something our entire program is doing and we’re very proud of the way our players are handling that going through that.

“As we said, the last time we spoke, that's an ongoing process. Our players are doing a great job with that. We’re focused on our players. We’re focused on the safety and well-being of our players and getting through this process. And it is a process, as anybody who has ever lost somebody realizes. That’s where we’re at. We’re excited that it’s game week and we get to play somebody else.”

Asked if the players are focused on Saturday’s game with the obvious distractions the past two months, Canada said, “The honest answer is I hope so. We’re working very hard at it. We talk all the time about ‘being right here, right now. The best I can be is what I can do right here, right now. Everything behind me is behind me.’ We talk about it daily as a team. We’re helping each other. … I think we're as ready as we can be given the situation that we’re in.”

Except for an appearance by three players at the Big Ten Media Days in Chicago last month, Maryland has not made any of its players available to the media for comment.

As for his starting quarterback against the Longhorns, Canada did not have much to say.

“I have decided on a starting quarterback, but we’re not going to discuss that today,” Canada said.

Canada made it clear he’s not ready to assume the title, or even the full responsibility of being the head coach since Durkin’s future has not been decided, pending the outcome of an external examination of the football culture at Maryland.

“I’m really focused on being the offensive coordinator, because that’s my job most of the time. That’s my job,” Canada said. “Obviously this situation has occurred. I’ve met with the defensive players as I mentioned the last time we spoke and certainly I’m more involved with the players on defense, trying to get around them and letting them know I’m there, I’m available. That’s a different situation than when you’re just the OC.

"But as far as the football part, I’m focused on football. I’ve talked to a couple of guys who call plays who are head coaches, certainly not in this situation, and trying to map out a schedule and how I'm going to do it. But the main focus for me is to make sure I do the job that I’m supposed to do, which is to be the offensive coordinator.”

NOTES: Some interesting takeaways from the team’s two-deep depth chart. Redshirt sophomore guard Terrance Davis, who has started every game since early in his freshman year, is now listed as a backup to senior Brendan Moore, who has moved over from center with sophomore Johnny Jordan taking over there. Senior Ty Johnson and junior Lorenzo Harrison III are listed as the co-No. 1s at tailback. On defense, redshirt senior Jesse Aniebonam, who broke his ankle in last season’s opening win at Texas and missed the entire year, is back starting at outside linebacker.

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