When the Maryland football team trots onto the field for the first time this year, quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome will lead the way.
After making 11 appearances last season, he beat out sophomore Max Bortenschlager and freshman Kasim Hill for the starting role. Keeping the position will likely depend on whether Pigrome progresses from an inconsistent rookie campaign.
Last year, Pigrome’s 245 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns brought energy to the offense. His measly 4.5 yards per pass attempt and two interceptions brought disappointment.
But coach DJ Durkin didn’t hesitate when asked if he trusted Pigrome to handle passing responsibilities against No. 23 Texas on Saturday.
“Absolutely,” Durkin said. “He’s the quarterback. The playbook’s open and he’s going to do whatever we have to do to win the game.”
As a three-star run-first quarterback from Pinson, Alabama, Pigrome stuck with his strengths when pressed into action during his first year in College Park. After entering a double-overtime contest at Central Florida in place of injured starter Perry Hills, he ran for a game-winning 24-yard touchdown on his first play from scrimmage.
But when the Terps needed him to throw, he faltered.
In Pigrome’s lone start – a 31-10 defeat against Minnesota – his 48.6 completion percentage and two turnovers prevented Maryland from staging a comeback. He eclipsed the 100-yard passing mark just once all year.
“Running ain’t never been a big problem for me, but passing I have a lot to prove,” Pigrome said. “Last year the game was just so fast for me that I stayed in panic mode. I never had my feet in the right position to throw the ball.”
However, Pigrome’s offseason work in the pocket provided optimism for a turnaround.
Pigrome looked more confident when he was asked to throw the ball during summer training, safety Denzel Conyers said. The defensive back attributed Pigrome’s growth to his daily timing drills with Terps receivers.
Even late at night, Pigrome would text teammates to come out and catch passes from him. Usually, they obliged.
“Just looking at your phone and seeing your quarterback wants to throw,” wide receiver D.J. Moore said, “that was like, ‘Ok he’s trying to get better, and he’s working to get better.'”
Maryland’s practice sessions also helped Pigrome anticipate coverage schemes and avoid the careless mistakes he made as a freshman.
“He’s very conceptually sound now,” running back Ty Johnson said. “He’s becoming more detailed with his reads and everything. He’s going through his reads much quicker.”
Still, managing an offense against Texas is a perilous task. While the Longhorns haven’t posted a winning record since 2013, they’ve secured four straight ranked recruiting classes. Their defense returns preseason All-Big 12 linebacker Malik Jefferson and defensive end Malcolm Roach.
Plus, this is the first year Texas will play under coach Tom Herman, who led Houston to a 22-4 record over the past two seasons.
“We know they’re a very well-coached team, a very talented team,” Durkin said. “It’s a big test for us, a big challenge in week one.”
In 2016, when Maryland went 6-7 and shuffled through four quarterbacks, the offense might not have held full conviction in Pigrome stepping in against a ranked opponent.
Now, after winning the starting quarterback job with an impressive offseason, the Terps are confident Pigrome can help them compete at Darrell K Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium, one of the most historic venues in college football.
“I trust him,” center Brendan Moore said. “We’re expecting big things from him.”