Surprising Name to Show Up at Spring Practice- In Uniform

Baltimore’s own Wes Brown will be at this year’s spring practice, Rivals.com reveals as part of their running backs preview.

Brown’s status was uncertain given his second suspension by the team towards the end of last season.  Many thought that he would not be back.

Despite his predilection for getting into trouble off the field, and occasional inconsistency on it, the upperclassman would be important depth for the Terrapins, and almost certain to compete for carries if he can keep his nose clean.

Brown backed up the now-graduated Brandon Ross last year and had a small but vocal fan base who called for former head coach Randy Edsall to give him more carries last year.  He got a few more under Mike Locksley, but didn’t look as good as many had hoped.  Even so, every year is another year of experience for a veteran, and another year where more of the toughest run-stoppers he faced previously have graduated from other teams and will be  replaced by younger less experienced players.

It’s unknown at this time whether or not Brown will be eligible to play from game one, or still serve out some extra enforced Saturdays off come next year, but Wes being at spring practice is a good sign.  Though Brown will face some stiff competition, including the returning sophmore Ty Johnson, senior transfer Trey Edmonds, incoming freshman Jake Funk (He of the 57 touchdowns in a single high school season fame), and others; if Brown is allowed to go through all the practices and play from day one, there is a chance he could be the featured tailback.  More likely, if he plays, he’s a role player, but he was last year’s number #2, and last year’s #1 is gone, which means he can’t be ruled out, particularly if the new coaching staff gives him a fresh start and clicks better with him from a teaching and motivational perspective.

The Long Strange Odyssey of Caleb Rowe

Maryland redshirt senior quarterback Caleb Rowe probably expected to be a starter by now. A lot of Terrapin fans certainly thought he would be.

The calls to bring in Rowe got earth shatteringly loud in 2014, when CJ Brown was quarterbacking the Terrapins. Though 2015 may have made most of us wish CJ Brown, Maryland’s eternal quarterback could somehow squeeze in a 7th year, back in 2014, opinions were mixed.

CJ Brown could run, but he couldn’t throw to save his life. Though it was pretty obvious all along, by the time that teams like South Florida were stacking 8 and 9 people in the box on 3&5s (A heavy run-stop formation on a passing down from a team that really shouldn’t have been able to get away with that against a Big Ten quarterback with good receiving options), you knew that they knew that the guy seemingly couldn’t make a completion to save his life. Not only did they know it, opposing teams obviously knew it.

Even then-Terrapins WR, and current NFL star Stefon Diggs’ younger brother, and current Alabama commit, Trevon Diggs knew it, posting a tweet in the middle of a game begging then-Maryland head coach Randy Edsall to bring in Caleb Rowe.

Rowe has a good throwing arm, there’s no denying that. It’s not an NFL caliber throwing arm by any means, but he can get the ball reasonably far downfield at reasonable velocity, a skill that has eluded a lot of recent Terrapins quarterbacks.

Edsall’s decision to go with Brown was seen as an overly cautious coach making an overly cautious decision. Brown could run, and could in theory manage the game enough to beat the bad teams, even if he didn’t provide the type of juice the team would need to beat the nation’s and the conference’s top teams, or provide a come from behind victory. Believe it or not, and many people who watched the games probably wouldn’t, Brown actually set some team records at Maryland.

When Brown graduated, though, it seemed Terrapin nation was more than ready to hand the reigns to Caleb Rowe for the next year or two. They knew the 3-star pro-style passer out of South Carolina was probably not what people would consider elite, but they looked forward to seeing passes of more than 5 yards that didn’t land in the dirt (With all due respect to CJ Brown, who’s passes weren’t always short and didn’t always land in the dirt- that was just the way it seemed sometimes when we were struggling).

The problem with Rowe was not getting the ball downfield, but rather getting the ball downfield to the guys in the red jerseys, or whatever color UnderArmour had cooked up for the chameleon uniform wearing team from the state where UnderArmour is headquartered.

We all knew accuracy was going to kind of be an issue, but no one dreamed it was going to be quite the issue it was. Edsall tried to start the season with game manager Perry Hills, who also brought some leadership and guts to the huddle, but when your “game manager” quarterback is throwing picks and losing to Bowling Green, you might just have to look to your bench.

As it turns out, Edsall may have had reasons other than “He lacks seniority”, conservatism, or pure stubbornness for not starting Caleb Rowe initially. He’d watched the man in practice, and may have had inkling of what was to come.

In 2015, Rowe, who did finally get to play after Hills sputtered, threw 6 touchdowns to 15 interceptions.  Not a pretty picture.  Even uglier if you were watching it.  At least one of his interceptions came on his first passing attempt of a game.  Not what you’re looking for our of your redshirt junior quarterback.

However, in 2016, Maryland finds itself in a tough sitaution quarterback wise.  They do have two senior scholarship quarterbacks- Rowe and Hills.  However, as alluded to earlier in this post, neither inspire a ton of confidence as a solution at quarterback.  Both were big parts of Maryland’s epically poor play at quarterback next year, when they were statistically among the worst teams in the entire FBS at the position.

Gage Shaffer, a sophmore (or perhaps a redshirt freshman, not sure if the team tagged him with the redshirt last year, though he didn’t play) out of West Virginia, wasn’t rated very highly by scouts coming out of high school, and was considered a project.  Some people liked his performance at last year’s spring game, but that he didn’t get into a game last season when first Edsall and then interim head coach Mike Locksley were fighting to keep their jobs probably says something about his state of readiness.  He’ll get a chance to compete and keep on improving, as will the two senior quarterbacks, in spring practice and beyond, but it’s more of a wish and a prayer situation than someone we could confidently project right now as the starter from day one in 2016.

There are a few other QBs hanging around from last year- Shane Cockerville, most notably, but if they didn’t play last year…. Well, one wonders.

That brings us to the freshmen.  Maryland thought they were going to get 4-star Bullis quarterback Dwayne Haskins.  He committed verbally very strongly and started recruiting guys and…. Well, I’m not getting into that in this post.  Suffice is to say, screw Ohio State.  I hope Haskins enjoys holding a clipboard for the next four to six years.  He’ll be booed when he comes “home” and deservedly so.

But Maryland was able to pick up the pieces a bit from that recruiting fiasco.  Tyrell Pigrome, while short, is a dual-threat QB that may Maryland fans view as having potential, and who new offensive coordination Walt Bell and new head coach DJ Durkin have both talked up big, possibly in part to try to cushion fan panic about Haskins decommitting.  With the quarterback situation as it is, I can’t absolutely rule out him starting day one under the circumstances, I don’t know if the 3-star prospect is going to play at all, or ever start.  And if he does start as a true freshman, well, true freshmen are often pretty raw.

There is another kid coming in, Max Bortenschlager, who some services rate as a 2-star and others as a 3-star, who is a pro style QB without a great arm, but who is excellent at finding and hitting receivers in stride, and placing balls where corners can’t find them.  I see him as potentially an excellent game manager in the making.  I think he’s better than his rating.  But he is a game manager, his throwing arm will never make him elite.  And it’s hard to think he’ll be effective as a game manager as a true freshman.  Usually you need a couple years under your belt before you’re ready to manage games- because game managers are primarily about mistake avoidance, and you need a lot of practice in your offensive system and reading college level defenses before you can fill that role, generally speaking.  And, obviously, he’s not going to be a gunslinger.

So, that brings us around back to Rowe, and the question is, can he start for Maryland and be effective in 2016?  It doesn’t seem likely, but he’s going to have a chance to win the job, and there is a new coaching staff to teach him, and a new system that he might be better suited for.  In a sense, it’s a change of scenery without a change of scenery.

I’m not real confident that we’ll get much out of Rowe in his final year at College Park, but you never know.  It’s looking like we might have a half dozen or so quarterbacks in the mix, all of whom have potential in one respect or another, and Rowe might have the best arm of the bunch.  He’s going to need to look to cut down on turnovers and increase his accuracy significantly if he wants to win the job and play, though, and, well, we’ll see…

A quick uptempo Walt Bell offensive could cut either way for him.  Some quarterbacks throw picks because they don’t have time to think, which an uptempo offense would worsen the effect of, especially if you add to that the possibility that he’ll have to make a lot of option-reads after the snap.  On the other hand, sometimes guys have good instincts, and overthink things and get nervous and throw picks because they have *too much* time to think- something the Bell offense could conceivably cut down on.

My gut tells me that a senior transfer quarterback might be out best bet, and that’s still a possibility.  But Rowe will be in the mix if he plays well in practice.

Spring Football!

One of the great parts of living in Maryland is that you can experience all four seasons in their fullness. Sure, you can argue that spots south may have a more summery summer, or that points north have a more wintery winter, and you’d probably be right, but when you move too far north or south, you tend to mostly lose the season opposite of what a given region is most known for.

Summer time in Maryland brings warm weather, with thoughts of surf, sand, beaches, and bikinis, the trees with their seasonal leaves green and healthy and full grown, the flowers in bloom, sweat trickling down your brow while you walk the city concrete or the country path. Crabs, of course, when you can afford them. The Chesapeake Bay. Maryland actually even has a little bit of the Appalachian Trail within it’s borders (Not the South American Mark Sanford version 😉 ).

Two Appalachian Trails:

at

Maria-Belen-Chapur_1432161c

Which would you rather hike?

Anyway, summer’s opposite is kind of a neat experience, too, at least until about the beginning of February when the snow starts to feel like the plague and the electric/heating bill starts to resemble the Ohio State Buckeyes’ player payroll (See what I did there? 🙂 ).

The Christmas season, huddling by the fire, snowball fights, and so on and so forth can hold a lot of appeal to both traditionalists and young people alike:

Even fall (aka “Autumn” to those of you from the University of Virginia), is anecdotally a favorite season for many in the region.  Traditionally thought of as beginning around Labor Day (The earth’s rotation around the sun aside 😉 ), the first weeks of fall feel like one last gasp of summer.  Some days even require air conditioning (Most window air units don’t come out until October), but others you can feel like you almost, but don’t require need something other than a t-shirt (or pants- which are optional only if you rate  a 7 or better attractiveness wise 😉 ).

Those gentle days, as the summer sunsets, drinking Octoberfest beers, are many people’s favorite.  Football season, college and pro, is in swing, the weather is still nice but milder, there’s just a hint of a chill at night, the air conditioning bills are down, the heating bills are not yet on the radar, etc..  This melts into October and November with a beautiful display of red and brown leaves, breaking out the windbreaker light jackets, Halloween, Thanksgiving (Don’t forget the sauerkraut with that turkey if you’re in Baltimore!  It’s a longstanding tradition, and it’s delicious 🙂 ), etc..

sauerkraut

Spring, somehow, seems undefined.  March almost feels like winter.  There’s a lot of rain.  There’s no football.  Baseball season starts if you’re into that.

In DC (College Park is within the DC beltway, despite being within the state of Maryland), you do get a beautiful view of Cherry Blossom trees, which only bloom in the spring for a short amount of time:

cherryblossoms

For football fans, though, there is only spring practice, where the players who will be returning to fight for Maryland in the fall and early enrollees and transfers hone their skills.  The highlight of spring practice, for the fans, is the annual spring game.

We now have a date, and a time, and a bonus lacrosse game:

 

The nice thing about the spring game is, Maryland always wins:

There will also be autograph opportunities, and a chance to look at available season tickets by actually walking around the stadium and finding the seats that are tagged as available.

And, did I mention *FOOTBALL* in the Spring?

I believe I did. 🙂

Hat tip to PeachesTerp.