Terps Trio: Caleb Rowe, Shawn Petty and hoops starters

October 26, 2012

Baltimore Sun reporters Jeff Barker and Don Markus and editor Matt Bracken weigh in on the three biggest topics of the past week in Maryland  sports.

Can Maryland survive the loss of three quarterbacks and still make a run at becoming bowl eligible?

Jeff Barker: The answer is yes, provided Maryland’s offensive line can keep Caleb Rowe healthy.

I’ve said before that there wasn’t that much separation in training camp among Rowe, Perry Hills and Devin Burns.

It’s a shame that Hills and Burns went down last week -- it’s terrible to see these guys endure injuries, especially when you know there are long, demanding rehabilitation periods ahead of them.

But Rowe wasn’t far behind the other two. In fact, his passes in August were the ones that made you take notice. Stefon Diggs said Rowe can make "kind of like NFL throws that you don't see too often.”

He’s also been called a “gunslinger,” which can have positive and negative connotations.

But I suspect his performance will be fine, even as he has to learn on the fly.

The concern here is whether he can stay on the field, because there are no true quarterbacks behind him.  You Redskins fans may have noticed how Robert Griffin III got better last week at running out of bounds. That’s what Rowe needs to do.  And he needs to slide. A lot.

If you’re a Terps fan, you hope for continued improvement from Maryland’s offensive line, which  -- like much of the rest of the team – has been hit by the injury bug.  The linemen will need to block as if the season depends on it because – increasingly – it does.

If Maryland is forced to turn to its fifth-string quarterback, what can be expected of Shawn Petty?

Matt Bracken: There was a time when Eleanor Roosevelt coach Tom Green had Petty pegged for a college quarterback. The 6-foot-3, 240-pound player was best known in Prince George's County football circles as a signal caller. But with Hills and Rowe already committed to be part of the Terps' 2012 recruiting class, the Maryland coaching staff targeted Petty last summer as a prime prospect at middle linebacker.

A three-year starter at QB, Petty impressed Maryland's coaches at a one-day camp and committed to the Terps a few weeks after earning his offer. Petty said shortly after his commitment that he was "flexible" with his college position. When it came to Maryland's pursuit of Petty, it was linebacker or bust. But in every conversation I had with Green, he always found a way to praise Petty's QB skills.

In Eleanor Roosevelt's 27-20 win last fall over Suitland, Petty was at his best.

“He had a lot of big moments against Suitland,” Green said last fall. “The score was tied and he broke a tackle and threw a 50-yard bomb to give us the lead right before the half. We were playing for the [Prince George’s] County championship and he made some real big passes in the first half."

Petty threw for 1,300 yards, 15 touchdowns and four interceptions as a senior, in addition to rushing for 550 yards and 10 scores. He was a powerful dual-threat quarterback who probably didn't have a DI arm, but was absolutely a BCS-conference-level athlete. 

The previous five paragraphs are in no way an attempt to make Maryland's dire quarterback situation sound better than it is. The Terps' starter is a true freshman who picked UM over Gardner-Webb, and their backup is a true freshman linebacker who probably would have gone to Howard -- where his father coaches -- had Maryland not offered. The defense will have to carry this team to a bowl game. Rowe simply needs to manage the game and stay healthy.

If the unthinkable happens and Petty's number gets called, expect to see a tough, physical leader who can make plays with his feet.

“He moves really well,” Green said last August. “He’s a big kid, he’s strong, he’s a good tackler, and he knows football. Starting at quarterback for three years helps.”

Mark Turgeon said after last Saturday's scrimmage that Alex Len is the only player who has earned a starting spot so far. What should be made of that announcement and who is going to be in the starting lineup come opening night against Kentucky on Nov. 9?

Don Markus: I think Len is clearly Maryland's best inside player, if not its best player period. The 7-1 center from the Ukraine has bulked up and improved his shooting, particularly a near automatic 10-to-12 foot turnaround on the baseline. It's pretty easy to see why Len has earned a starting spot.  

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