Late in the second quarter against Rutgers on Saturday, Maryland football quarterback Kasim Hill rolled out to the right side, searching for an open receiver.
With no good options in front of him, he pointed for running back Tayon Fleet-Davis to run downfield, and lofted a pass toward the back of the end zone. It dropped just beyond a Rutgers defender and into Fleet-Davis’ arms for the second of Hill’s three touchdowns Saturday.
As Fleet-Davis celebrated while running back to the sideline, Hill calmly removed his mouthguard and emphatically pointed toward the turf, as if to signal that plays like those are what the Terps should expect with him under center.
“Some of those throws he made,” interim head coach Matt Canada said, “I’m not sure everybody else could’ve made those.”
Other plays Saturday, however, showed Hill’s need for further development as a passer. With running back Anthony McFarland wide open in the first quarter, Hill couldn’t find a passing lane to hit him. And later, he overshot wide receiver Jeshaun Jones when the freshman had ample space in front of him.
While Hill threw for three touchdowns against Rutgers, he completed less than half of his throws and collected just 76 yards through the air overall, the third time this season he failed to reach the century mark.
But the redshirt freshman, playing with a brace over his knee after a torn ACL last season, is still learning his place in college football. After running through tacklers at will as a high school star, Hill has “developed into a good pocket passer” despite having started just eight college games, Canada said last week.
Given Hill’s inexperience, his coach expects the near-misses to become completions in the future.
“All of a sudden he’s supposed to go out there and be Joe Montana?” Canada said. “That’s not how it works.”
Even Montana needed time to develop into a four-time Super Bowl champion. Before he was “Joe Cool,” Montana threw four touchdowns in his freshman year at Notre Dame.
In 2017, Hill attempted only 21 throws before his season-ending injury against UCF in week three. He completed 18 of those, setting an unrealistic expectation for when he returned to the field this season, though Hill says the brace he wears on his right knee doesn’t affect him.
Late in the Terps’ loss to Michigan last week, the pocket collapsed around the redshirt freshman, and he didn’t see defensive back Brandon Watson sitting in underneath coverage. Hill delivered a pick-six that sealed the result.
And after Hill missed Jones and McFarland on Saturday, they looked toward the sky in frustration, perhaps imagining how they’d still be running through the Scarlet Knights’ defense had Hill delivered a catchable ball.
“All the blame comes on the quarterback, and the quarterbacks understand that. That’s how it works,” said Canada, who also serves as quarterbacks coach. “They get too much blame and they get too much credit.”
Midway through the third quarter, Hill fired into double coverage in the left corner of the end zone. The risky throw found Jones, and Hill became just the 26th college quarterback since 2000 to score three touchdowns with less than 100 yards through the air.
So while the Washington, D.C., native can take solace in his career-high three touchdowns and the adjustments he made after completing a season-low five passes against the Wolverines, when Hill watches film of the homecoming win, he’ll also see mistakes that show his best may be yet to come.
“As a team, and myself, we’re just trying to get better week by week, for every opponent that we face,” Hill said. “We’re not dwelling on the past, no matter how recent the past is.”