By Joe Foley
Maryland football looks like a rejuvenated program behind first-year head coach D.J. Durkin.
The Terps may not win the Big Ten anytime soon, but there are some encouraging signs moving forward: a top-20 recruiting class in 2017, the transformation of Cole Field House into a $155 million state-of-the-art practice facility and what looks like a head coach that is here to stay. However, what isn’t as clear is how this will translate to the field. Maryland needs to find its identity to become a true Division I powerhouse, and to do so it will need to go in one of two directions. These two options are reflected by the contrasting styles of their two current quarterbacks.
Perry Hills is the Terps starting quarterback and has grit that isn’t easily replicated. He was not only a standout quarterback at Central Catholic High School in Pittsburgh, but also an all-state wrestler who won the state title in his senior year. He doesn’t have an overly strong arm or explosive speed, but his ability to avoid turnovers has been key to Maryland’s 5-3 start this year.
“He’s as tough as they come. He’s about his team and doing whatever he can to help us win,” Durkin said in his postgame press conference after defeating Michigan State on Oct. 22.
However, Hills is a redshirt senior who is on his way out after this year. When Hills has missed time due to a recurring shoulder injury, it’s allowed true freshman quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome to get his chance.
Pigrome won the 2015 Gatorade Alabama Player of the Year award and twice was Alabama Mr. Football runner-up. Things couldn’t have gone better for Pigrome when he was thrown in at quarterback against UCF on Sept. 17. On his one and only snap, “Piggy” raced 24 yards for the game-winning touchdown in a 30-24 double-overtime victory. Although Pigrome found instant success, he has looked more like a true freshman in games against Penn State and Minnesota. He is quick to tuck and run and has struggled to put together long drives. Pigrome has just a 92.9 quarterback efficiency rating so far, compared to Hills’ 151.8 rating.
“I believe with Tyrrell Pigrome our offense was still good, but with Perry, since he’s a more experienced player, he keeps the tempo going,” sophomore running back Ty Johnson said.
With Hills’ injury concerns and Pigrome still learning the college game, it’s likely both quarterbacks will see a solid amount of action for the rest of this year. For now, Maryland’s best chance to win is with Hills starting under center. But these next four, possibly five, games for the Terrapins are crucial for Pigrome’s development. Looking ahead to future seasons, Durkin will need to decide what type of quarterback he wants. A traditional style quarterback like Hills has proven to be effective in his system, and he has another freshman quarterback, Max Bortenschlager, who fits that role. But it’s hard to imagine that Pigrome, a dual-threat quarterback in an evolving college football world, isn’t Durkin’s optimal choice. Either Pigrome or a more pro-style quarterback will be the face of a Maryland football team with major aspirations in the near future. This is crucial, because whoever wins the job might just set a Maryland quarterback precedent for years to come.