Ohio State is back at home this week, where they’ll play host to Big Ten opponent Maryland at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday. The Terps already bested one conference opponent, Minnesota, on their way to a 3-1 start to the season.
With a former No. 3 quarterback as the starter, and a former Urban Meyer assistant at the helm, we reached out to our friend Thomas Kendziora from SB Nation’s Testudo Times to talk about the state of this Maryland team. You can follow him (@TKendziora37) and the blog (@TestudoTimes) on Twitter. Our corresponding Q&A from their site can be found here.
Land-Grant Holy Land: Dwayne Haskins could have been the QB leading the Terps this weekend, but with flipped commitments, it'll be Max Bortenschlager instead. Is the former No. 3 QB living up to expectations?
Testudo Times: It would be hard not to, because until last week, I don’t know if Maryland fans had any expectations for Bortenschlager. The first two times he saw extensive action were against Nebraska last year and in relief against UCF, and he looked overwhelmed both times. But with a week to prepare with the first team, he held his own and gave Maryland a chance to win a Big Ten road game. Not everybody’s third-stringer can be Cardale Jones, and Bortenschlager is still limited in some ways, but it looks like Maryland will be able to compete without its top two options, which is encouraging in the bigger picture.
LGHL: What does the future of Maryland's QB position look like if Bortenschlager finds success over the next couple of games?
TT: The quarterback of the future should still be Kasim Hill, who was the quarterback of the present until tearing his ACL against UCF. Just three months after Haskins flipped his commitment, the Terps landed Hill, who ended up around the same spot in the rankings Haskins did the year before. But it’ll be weird to see what happens. Both Hill and Bortenschlager lost the quarterback battle in camp to sophomore Tyrrell Pigrome, who tore his ACL against Texas. And then there’s Caleb Henderson, who was in the lead during the spring before suffering a foot injury (he’s currently available as Bortenschlager’s backup, even if his ceiling might actually be higher). All four of those guys should be healthy in fall camp 2018, so we’ll be asking questions about this position for a long time. At least next year, the guys will all be known quantities.
LGHL: It seems like most of Maryland's offense comes by way of DJ Moore and Ty Johnson, are there any other skill players who aren't getting the attention they should be?
TT: I think the only one you’re leaving off is Lorenzo Harrison, who’s as slippery a running back as you’ll see but doesn’t hit quite as many home runs as Johnson does. There’s also wide receiver Taivon Jacobs, who was initially an Ohio State commit and is healthy for just the second year in his career. But Moore and Johnson are the stars, and you’ll see more of them than anyone else.
LGHL: How do you feel the program has been under D.J. Durkin?
TT: The program is definitely on an upward trend. Recruiting is as strong as it’s ever been, as the Terps are starting to bring in top-25 classes. Countless players have made noticeable strides in the past season or two. Durkin has been everything you could ask for, and he brought a superb staff with him (including offensive coordinator Walt Bell, who’s suddenly drawing some Tom Herman comparisons). As Durkin said himself before the season, “We're not there yet in terms of where we want to be from 1-to-85 or 1-to-105, but we're certainly a lot closer and I like where we're at.”
LGHL: Do you think this Terp team could pull off another Big Ten upset this year?
TT: It really depends on what you call an upset. Maryland’s remaining schedule includes four games against current top-10 teams, and I don’t see the Terps knocking any of the conference’s stalwarts off with a third-string quarterback. The other four games are against Northwestern, Indiana, Michigan State and Rutgers, which all seem winnable at the moment. So it probably makes the most sense to measure Maryland by its results in those games (cross off Rutgers if you want), and if they can give some of the juggernauts a run, then that’s a nice bonus.
LGHL: Ohio State's wide receivers struggled early on, does Maryland have the secondary weapons to keep them contained?
TT: The passing defense has looked shaky at times, but is still somewhat of a strength for this team. JC Jackson has turned into a shutdown corner, and Antoine Brooks is making plays all over the field. The question marks, then, are sophomore corners Tino Ellis and Antwaine Richardson, who have looked solid but don’t have the track records. If they step up Saturday, that’ll help keep their team in it.