Despite starting eight of Maryland’s last nine games in 2017 and putting up respectable numbers in the process, quarterback Max Borteschlager is widely viewed as more a caretaker this spring than a legitimate contender for the No. 1 job in the fall.
With redshirt sophomore Tyrrell Pigrome and redshirt freshman Kasim Hill expected to be fully recovered from the ACL tears each sustained in the first nine quarters last season, it is assumed that Bortenschlager will be relegated to the No. 3 spot on the depth chart that he held before they got hurt.
Third-year coach DJ Durkin doesn’t look at it that way for Borteschlager, who is taking a majority of the reps this spring as one of only three healthy quarterbacks in camp, along with incoming freshman Tyler DeSue and rising sophomore walk-on Legend Brumbaugh.
“I’m proud of Max. He’s obviously had a bunch of reps with the situation we have at quarterback, and he’s done well with those,” Durkin said Wednesday on the Big Ten coaches’ teleconference. “He’s really gained a lot of confidence getting those reps.”
Given that Bortenschlager is the only experienced quarterback who is healthy, he could have a bit of an advantage over the competition with the repetitions he gets this spring in the offense being installed by new coordinator Matt Canada.
“I think a lot of the things we do may even suit him better, which will help him,” Durkin said. “I’m looking forward to Max continuing to do well, compete, so that when we go into camp in August he’s competing for a job.”
Bortenschlager was at a big disadvantage last season. Using an offense designed by former offensive coordinator Walt Bell to suit the running abilities of Pigrome and Hill, the 6-foot-3, 211-pound Bortenschlager got off to a rough start after Hill got hurt.
Coming in against Central Florida late in the first quarter of a 38-10 loss, Bortenschlager completed 15 of 26 passes for 132 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions, including a pick-six. He was also sacked five times.
Though Bortenschlager recovered with a strong performance on the road at Minnesota a week later, helping the Terps to only one of two Big Ten wins, he was viewed mostly as a game manager who struggled in tense situations.
Bortenschlager finished the season completing 121 of 233 passes (51.9 percent) for 1,313 yards, 10 touchdowns and five interceptions. He threw for a career-high 255 yards and three touchdowns in a 37-21 loss to Northwestern.
Many figured he might leave with the expected returns of Pigrome and Hill, as walk-on Ryan Brand did after the season. Brand wound up starting one game, against Michigan, after playing well when Bortenschlager was knocked out with a concussion at Rutgers.
Asked if he was concerned that Bortenschlager would transfer, Durkin said, “Leaving? No. I think Max has done a great job and is very invested in our program. We’re counting on him. I think Max is a guy that has enough confidence to say, ‘I’m competing for a starting job.’
“I know the perception, outward at least, is that the two guys coming back, once they get healthy, they’re the guys. We’ll see. That’ll all shake out as we get into camp. This was a really great opportunity for Max — 15 practices to really be the guy and make his claim for the job. That’s the approach we asked Max to take, and I think he did.”