COLLEGE PARK — Halfway through preseason camp and two weeks before the 2019 season opener, first-year Maryland coach Mike Locksley is not ready to name his starting quarterback. Even if it seems to be a foregone conclusion that graduate transfer Josh Jackson will win the No. 1 job, redshirt junior Tyrrell Pigrome is at least making a strong case for playing time.
After Saturday’s closed scrimmage, the second in as many weeks, Locksley was effusive in his praise for Pigrome, who as a sophomore beat out highly acclaimed four-star prospect Kasim Hill for the top job in 2017 before suffering a torn ACL in a season-opening victory at then-No. 23 Texas. Pigrome also replaced Hill after the former Terp tore his ACL for the second time in as many years late last season at Indiana.
Locksley said he evenly split Jackson and Pigrome with the starting unit in the scrimmage at Maryland Stadium, and used true freshman Lance LeGendre for one series in a live situation to see how he would handle the speed. Locksley intimated that redshirt freshman Tyler DeSue has regressed since being the MVP of the Red-White spring game, leaving the battle between Jackson and Pigrome.
Locksley said Pigrome’s improvement as a passer this summer has made his decision more difficult.
“To me, that’s been the missing link with him,” Locksley said. “He’s been a guy that’s won some games around here, he’s a guy we know that can make plays with his feet. The improvement we’ve seen in the passing game has been a pleasant surprise.
“If you know Piggy, he’s such a competitor. The competitiveness he shows and displays when you bring in guys like Josh and Lance LeGendre, and seeing how Tyler DeSue has been playing, or had been playing, I think those things have really forced him to work on the things that he didn’t do well. I think he’s made progress from summer to now as a thrower.”
Locksley said he doesn’t have to make a decision until the team starts putting in its game plan for the Aug. 31 opener against Howard
“Sunday or Monday before the Howard game, you’d like to get a little consistency in the units and have an idea of who that guy will be,” Locksley said. “I think both guys, Piggy and Josh, have done some good things. … He and Piggy both battling it out. It’s going to be interesting.”
Coming into camp, it appeared as if DeSue had jumped ahead of Pigrome in terms of being Jackson’s likely backup. But that seems to have changed, especially after the two scrimmages.
“Tyler has some ground to make up just in decision-making and leading the offense,” Locksley said. ”Coming out of spring, I was really pleased with where he was at, but after the last few practices, I’d like to see a little better out of Tyler DeSue, which I’m sure we’ll get from him.”
Though he will likely redshirt this season, LeGendre continues to impress.
“He’s got some work to do, but he also showed that he has some ability to make plays. And he’ll be a guy that in space will be tough to get down on the ground, which was one of the reasons we wanted to put him in a live jersey,” Locksley said of the four-star prospect. “If we have to end up playing him, or if he ends up playing for us, we don’t want that to be the first time he faces the live bullets. I thought he responded the way we wanted to see him respond.”
It appears it’s still Jackson’s job to lose. Jackson was a breakout star as a redshirt freshman two years ago at Virginia Tech, when he threw for nearly 3,000 yards, with 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Jackson played in just three games last year before breaking his leg.
Saying Jackson appears to be “100% healthy”, Locksley likes the demeanor the transfer has demonstrated in the huddle and at the line of scrimmage.
“The thing that really stands out with Josh is his composure, and how he manages the offense and manages the team when he’s out there,” Locksley said. “You can tell the experience of being a starter. You can see it in the moxie he shows. He doesn’t get frazzled really quickly with all the things our defense has presented him.”
Not that there isn’t room for improvement.
“I’d like to see him get the ball out a little quicker and make some faster decisions,” Locksley said.
Redshirt junior quarterback Max Bortenschlager, who made eight starts as a sophomore two years ago after both Pigrome and Hill were sidelined with torn ACLs, continues to struggle with injuries. After redshirting last season when he wound up having ankle surgery, Bortenschlager has suffered a stress fracture in the same leg, Locksley announced Saturday.
Deeper at corner
There is not much experience or depth behind senior cornerbacks Tino Ellis and Marcus Lewis with the moves of Rayshad Lewis and Sean Savoy back to wide receiver.
But Locksley said he has been pleased with the play of redshirt sophomore Kenny Bennett and redshirt freshman Vincent Flythe, as well as true freshman Deonte Banks (Edgewood).
“We’ve got a lot of good, young players at the position at corner,” Locksley said. “Kenny Bennett has been a guy that’s done some nice things, he was a little nicked up today. I also like the way Deonte Banks has looked when he’s given some opportunity to play."
Aug. 31, noon
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