Maryland head coach DJ Durkin speaks to media about the 2018 Maryland football class. (Don Markus/Baltimore Sun video)
At the time Bishop Sullivan Catholic (Va.) quarterback Tyler DeSue committed to Maryland in April, some questioned why the three-star prospect was coming to College Park in the first place.
Caleb Henderson appeared to be the favorite to start for the Terps in 2017, having transferred from North Carolina. Kasim Hill, the centerpiece of the 2017 recruiting class, was arriving in June.
Much of DeSue’s decision to commit to Maryland so early had to do with his comfort level with Walt Bell’s offense and the confidence DeSue had in himself.
“They really preach that the best guy plays,” DeSue said after committing. “So I’m going to come in and compete — if not the first year, I’m certainly going to come in there and try to compete and play every week, practice hard. I think the competition is going to help me play even better than I am right now.”
When DeSue arrives to start school next month as one of 11 or 12 players in the 2018 recruiting class announced Wednesday who are enrolling early, according to coach DJ Durkin, the quarterback picture will be have changed dramatically from when he committed.
With both Hill and sophomore Tyrrell Pigrome still rehabilitating after suffering season-ending knee injuries in September, and with Henderson coming off a disappointing junior year in which he didn’t appear 100 percent healthy, the opportunity will be there for DeSue.
Along with Max Bortenschlager, who started eight of the nine games after Hill and Pigrome were hurt, as well as walk-on Ryan Brand, DeSue should get his share of repetitions when Maryland begins practice in March.
A dual-threat prospect, DeSue seems a better fit for Bell’s offense than any of Maryland’s healthy quarterbacks.
Bishop Sullivan Catholic’s Chris Scott, who coached DeSue all four years in high school, said the quarterback is aware of the opportunity that could present itself when spring practice begins.
“Knowing Tyler, he goes in knowing he’s got to prepare himself for [being] the next man up,” Scott said Thursday. “Watching Maryland and knowing that he’s been committed to them and seeing [what happened] this year puts it in that much better perspective.
“Whether he was going to be the freshman who was No. 3 or 4, he was going to make people uncomfortable in making decisions difficult. The mentality he’s always had prepares him for the opportunity that awaits him in the spring.”
DeSue is one of the players Durkin raved about at the coach’s signing day news conference Wednesday.
“Tyler is a tough quarterback,” Durkin said. “He’s tough and competitive. That’s not to take away from his throwing talent and mobility. You can watch the tape — he’s as good as it is out there. But I love his toughness and competitiveness. He has all the ‘it’ factors that you want your quarterback to have.”
Though not physically imposing at 6 feet 1 and 210 pounds — with much of his strength coming from his lower torso — DeSue’s toughness is what has Durkin and Bell excited.
“I think when you evaluate quarterback, to me the first thing you evaluate is toughness,” Durkin said. “I really believe he needs to be mentally and physically tough because that’s the heartbeat of your team and that’s the guy who is naturally your vocal leader. He’s a great decision-maker. He’s very smart. He loves being around the game — watching and studying. He’s got really good arm talent and mobility. We think Tyler will be another great player at the quarterback position for us.”
Scott, whose program also sent defensive linemen Breyon and Brandon Gaddy as well as wide receiver Tahj Capehart to Maryland last year, said Thursday that his former quarterback is ready to take the next step with the Terps.
As a senior, DeSue passed for 2,248 yards and 26 touchdowns, and ran for 533 yards and three touchdowns. He did it against a schedule ranked among the most difficult in high school football. Despite finishing with a 6-5 overall record, DeSue’s team was ranked among the best in Virginia.
Scott said DeSue kept his team competitive against three of the nation’s top programs, including IMG Academy and St. Frances. Against No. 9 American Heritage Plantation, one of the top teams in Florida, DeSue led Bishop Sullivan from its own 10-yard line to the opponent’s 20 in the final minute in an attempt to tie the game.
“He got knocked off his feet, he took a shot to the chin and he delivered an unbelievable pass to a receiver who was met by their safety [who knocked the ball away],” Scott said. “Against that kind of competition he just stepped up every game.”