The Maryland football spring game in April offered a glimpse of Matt Canada’s offense. The Terps’ newly hired offensive coordinator opened the game with a jet sweep — a staple of his scheme — and relied on pre-snap motion and positional flexibility throughout.
But with Tyrrell Pigrome and Kasim Hill still recovering from ACL tears, the spring game featured the team’s third- and fourth-string quarterbacks. The results didn’t have much bearing on how Canada’s group would look in the fall.
With days left before Maryland’s season opener against No. 23 Texas, the team’s interim head coach is intent on keeping his plans a mystery. Whether it’s Hill or Pigrome who gets the call against the Longhorns, it will be the long-awaited debut of Canada’s offense.
Canada knows who will start under center on Saturday, but he declined to disclose it at Tuesday’s press conference.
“If there is anything you say about our offense, we do find the strengths. And it all starts at quarterback,” Canada said. “When your quarterback is happy, everybody is happy. So what he does well, we’re going to try to focus on that and do a good job with that.”
In Tuesday’s open practice at Cole Field House, Hill initially led the line of quarterbacks in drills, but Pigrome rotated to the front late in the session. It was a strategic move from Canada, who hoped to avoid betraying too much about Maryland’s biggest position battle of the offseason.
With Maryland’s players grieving the loss of a teammate and the program embroiled in two external investigations following the death of Jordan McNair, the team needs any leg up it can get on a Longhorns team expected to be significantly better than the one Maryland beat 51-41 last year.
In Texas coach Tom Herman’s teleconference with reporters Monday, he said he’ll study Maryland’s spring game. He won’t learn much about the quarterbacks, but he’ll see a mix of the Terps’ top four running backs — a unit that will be counted upon to supply much of the team’s offense — and get a look at the receiving corps without DJ Moore.
But the “vanilla” style Canada employed in that game, Herman said, limits the usefulness of studying it.
Canada said he envisions moving his running backs around the field rather than consistently lining them up in the backfield, as he did in April.
“We’re excited about the different ways we can get those guys the football,” Canada said. “They all are unique runners.”
Pigrome and Hill are far from complete mysteries to Herman. Both quarterbacks ran for touchdowns against the Longhorns in last year’s season opener.
“You’ve got to contain them,” Herman said. “It’s going to be a bit of an unknown, but we’re going to have to be prepared for two very, very athletic quarterbacks.”
In their limited showings last year, Pigrome and Hill excelled. Both of them completed at least 75 percent of their passes and averaged at least 11 yards per attempt. Each threw two touchdown passes and picked up another score on the ground.
For an interim head coach taking on a ranked team, it’s a good problem to have.
“I think that we’re very fortunate at quarterback with the skill sets we have,” Canada said. “I’m excited for them to get out there and play. That’s a long road back, as we all know, and it’s a challenging road, so I’m happy for them.”