Despite the struggles for redshirt freshman Kasim Hill in Maryland’s two losses this season, interim coach and offensive coordinator Matt Canada doesn’t plan on making a change at quarterback going into Saturday’s game against Rutgers.
Canada said at a news conference Tuesday that he hopes to play both Hill and redshirt sophomore Tyrrell Pigrome for homecoming at Maryland Stadium, as he has done throughout the season.
“When you go through as a staff, you look at your best players and who you think your best players are and the skill set,” Canada said. “We think both those young men are very, very good players and they both create issues for the defense.”
But how much Hill and Pigrome play might depends on how productive they are against the struggling Scarlet Knights, who, despite ranking 10th overall in the Big Ten in overall defense (434.5 yards per game), are fifth in pass defense (205.5).
“I think they’re both going to play and whoever’s playing the best in a game will play,” Canada said. “Kasim’s still starting, but Pig will continue to play.”
Hill, who has started every game this season, completed just five of 10 passes for 62 yards and threw a pick-six on his last snap in Maryland’s 42-21 loss Saturday at then-No. 15 Michigan.
For the season, Hill has completed 47 of 86 passes (54.7 percent) for 578 yards, with three touchdowns and two interceptions, both of them resulting in a pick-six. The other pick-six occurred in a 35-14 loss to previously winless Temple in the home opener Sept. 15, when Hill went seven of 17 for 56 yards.
Pigrome was more effective in mop-up duty against the Wolverines, completing 2 of 3 for 11 yards and rushing five times for 63 yards — including a 42-yard run — and a touchdown. For the season, Pigrome is just six of 11 for 40 yards passing, with an interception, but has run 19 times for 113 yards.
“Pig probably hasn’t played as much as maybe we thought at times, obviously we saw what he could do Saturday,” Canada said. “He got in there and had the big run. They do have different skill sets. Both of them can throw the ball very well. It’s not that that’s not a skill set for either.
“Certainly under center, Kasim is developing into a good pocket passer, he’s doing well there. Obviously we’ve got to continue to give him opportunities and protection, call better plays. And Pig comes in there and he’s dynamic with the football. He can still throw it as well.”
Canada said that Pigrome’s ability to make plays with his feet precludes using a Wildcat formation, as former offensive coordinator Walt Bell tried with little success last season when both Hill and Pigrome were out with torn ACLs.
“You look at some programs that might have a Wildcat package and bring in a running back,” Canada said. “We don’t need to do that. We can bring in another threat and hopefully with all the things we do on offense … and then we bring in a running quarterback as well, that’s something else they have to prepare for.”
Asked later during the Big Ten coaches’ teleconference whether Hill is hesitant to run because he is coming off knee surgery, Canada said, “He’s a tough guy, he enjoys running, he enjoys mixing it up. He ran down the field and tried to block in one game. He’s done a lot of different things.
“He’s good [in terms of a full recovery from knee surgery]. The doctors say he’s good. He’s adapting to the different style of play he’s going to evolve into. Obviously he has a lot of goals, plans. I don’t think he’s hesitant at all in what he’s trying to do.”
Graduate wide receiver Taivon Jacobs, who has played with eight quarterbacks during a career that began in 2014, said that he is comfortable with either quarterback.
“They’re both exceptional, they both can run, they both can pass,” Jacobs, who is tied for the team lead with junior DJ Turner with 13 receptions, said after practice Tuesday night. “They’re always a problem for a lot defenses. Just trying to find ways to get them the ball is hard as well.”
Canada said the extra duties he’s assumed since being named interim coach after third-year coach DJ Durkin was placed on administrative leave in August have not prevented him from spending the normal amount of time working with his quarterbacks.
“I have continued to do my job, which is being the quarterback coach and offensive coordinator and focus on that,” Canada said. “There are some other things I’m doing. But I don’t think we’ve had anything there. I'm not spending time on a lot of other things. I am certainly working as hard as I feel I possibly can.”
Maryland ranks 12th in offense (363.8 yards a game) — two spots above Rutgers, which is last — in the Big Ten. A large reason for that is the Maryland passing game, which ranks dead last (126.7). The Terps are fourth in rushing (236.2).
“Both quarterbacks would say they haven’t played well enough in the two games we’ve lost,” Canada said. “Both quarterbacks want to play better. I certainly want them to play better, I want to coach 'em better. We’re certainly focused on those things. Our guys are going to continue to get better.”
NOTES: Maryland redshirt senior defensive lineman Brett Kulka is out for the year with a knee injury, the team announced. Kulka, a captain for the first three games of the season, had seven tackles in four games this year. ... Junior running back and special teams standout Jake Funk, who missed the past three games with a broken hand, was on the field during the portion of practice viewed by the media Tuesday. He was still wearing a soft cast on his left hand.