The Terps have had rotten luck at quarterback in recent years. Because of injury or lousy play, Maryland hasn’t had one starter last the entire season since Sam Hollenbach back in 2006.
The spot has been absolutely decimated this year. Former ACC Rookie of the Year Danny O’Brien defected in the offseason and is currently sitting on the bench at Wisconsin. Projected starter C.J. Brown tore his right ACL during preseason workouts. Now Hills’ torn left ACL will force another inexperienced quarterback into the spotlight.
Burns, a high school standout in Georgia, was initially recruited as a quarterback by former coach Ralph Friedgen’s staff but moved to wide receiver in college. After Brown’s injury in August, Burns volunteered to switch back to quarterback to add depth.
Burns was the primary backup because coach Randy Edsall hoped to redshirt Rowe, but with Hills out, that’s no longer an option.
Both quarterbacks played in the second half of the Terps’ loss to N.C. State on Saturday.
Burns, who got the majority of the snaps, was 3 of 4 for 47 yards and he rushed for 50 yards and a touchdown. Rowe came in to run the two minute offense. He led the Terps 60 yards in four plays, setting up the potential game-winning field goal (which freshman kicker Brad Craddock missed). Rowe was 2 of 2 for 50 yards on the final drive.
Maryland hasn’t named the new starter–over the weekend, Edsall said it would be “premature” to announce who’d get the nod against Boston College this weekend. Both Rowe and Burns are listed as co-starters on this week’s depth chart.
Burns is more mobile than Hills or Rowe, and back at Carver High School in Columbus, Ga., he led an offense with a system similar to the one first-year offensive coordinator Mike Locksley installed at Maryland this year. Burns executed well on Saturday, but he may have been successful against the Wolfpack in part because they hadn’t planned to face him.
Rowe might have the best arm of any of the Terps’ quarterbacks and he did an excellent job of coming into Saturday’s game late and putting the team in a position to win. He hadn’t taken a college snap before that, but in practices and scrimmages, he’s been known to make some bad decisions to force throws when he’s under pressure.
Whoever the Terps pick as their next quarterback will have to be able to play under pressure, behind an offensive line that’s already given up 24 sacks on the season. Some of those were Hills’ fault for holding on to the ball too long, but being able to get out of the way will be key for his replacement, especially since the already-thin position just got even thinner.
A big plus for Burns is that he can take off and run for extra yardage. Even if Rowe has the better arm, he might not last the season if he can’t scramble out of the way – and Maryland can’t afford to lose yet another quarterback to injury.