Maryland quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome has already had a roller coaster of a college career. He's been on the Terps' two-deep since his freshman year, making 28 appearances and scattering four starts across his first three seasons. He's been an injured starter, an injury replacement and seemingly everything in between.
When the Terps visit Purdue Oct. 12, Pigrome will be back in the starting lineup, stepping in for the injured Josh Jackson. He doesn't know how long this opportunity will last, but he knows the team needs him to make the most of it.
"It's the worst way to get the job," Pigrome said, "but at the end of the day, I look at it as motivation. I'm always trying to push myself forward and do whatever I can do for the team."
Jackson, who started the season's first five games with inconsistent results, suffered a high ankle sprain late in the second quarter of Maryland's 48-7 win at Rutgers Oct. 5. Head coach Michael Locksley says he's day-to-day, and a return against Indiana Oct. 19 seems plausible. But until Jackson is healthy, Pigrome is Maryland's starter with redshirt freshman Tyler DeSue as his backup.
Maryland's quarterback competition lasted all through camp, and while Jackson was the apparent favorite from the moment he arrived on campus, Pigrome gave the Terps enough to think about. The redshirt junior is now a veteran of these open competitions -- this was his fourth in as many seasons.
Earlier in the offseason, though, Pigrome being a part of this team wasn't a given. He entered his name in the transfer portal as Maryland openly explored graduate transfer options. He was one of the few Terps who didn't have a prior connection with Locksley. But after meeting with his new coach and evaluating the situation, he decided College Park, Md., was still the place for him.
"There are some good people here," Pigrome said of his decision to stay. "I heard people talking about Coach Locks, how he's a good person. I'm like, 'All right, I have a good relationship with these teammates, so I trust their word.' ... I believed in him, and I trusted him."
Locksley's staff places an emphasis on meeting individually with players several times a year to go through their strengths and weaknesses. Pigrome has always been a more consistent playmaker with his legs than with his arm, but made strides as a thrower behind the scenes all offseason. In his first extended action of 2019 against Rutgers, he went 13-of-18 for 111 yards.
"With Piggy, [his weakness] was his ability to throw the football -- we all know he has the ability to take the ball and run with it, and he's made a lot of plays around here doing that," Locksley said. "But I think creating himself to be a little more versatile in terms of throwing the ball, he throws a great deep ball. I think some of the intermediate stuff is where I've seen the biggest improvement, as well as just decision-making in terms of reading his keys."
Locksley's offense also relies heavily on run-pass options, which are far more dangerous when the quarterback is a serious running threat. Jackson has had occasional success on the ground, but Pigrome will present defenses with a different challenge entirely. If all goes well, his playmaking abilities will make it tougher for defenses to focus on Maryland's trio of explosive running backs.
"I just feel like Piggy's a great runner coming out the pocket, scrambling out the pocket, just continuing plays like that," junior running back Javon Leake said. "I feel like that's just gonna open up the offense a little bit more and defenses are gonna struggle with that -- just him being able to get out the pocket, use his speed to get to the edge. That's gonna be real good for us."
Right now, it looks like Jackson will still be Maryland's quarterback when he's healthy again. But Pigrome takes over during perhaps the most important stretch of the season; Maryland's next three contests are at Purdue, at home against Indiana and at Minnesota. If the Terps win all three, they'll be bowl-eligible for the first time since 2016. If Pigrome struggles, a realistic postseason chance could slip away.
That's a lot of pressure on the backup, but Maryland isn't worried.
"The battle between [Pigrome and Jackson] in summer camp was a close battle and we've got a lot of confidence in both those guys," Locksley said. "We've got a lot of confidence in Piggy and his ability to come in and perform and run our offense. His teammates have confidence in him. I know as a coaching staff, we do."
INJURY REPORT: Jackson's high ankle sprain was Maryland's only notable injury against Rutgers, and the Terps could get as many as three starters back this week. Junior center Johnny Jordan and redshirt sophomore right tackle Marcus Minor are practicing with the first-team offensive line again, while senior cornerback Marcus Lewis has also returned to the field. The offensive line has been an injury hub all season -- only two original starters were at their positions against Rutgers -- but Maryland will need its veterans healthy up front as the schedule difficulty slowly ramps up.
A SPECIAL PERFORMANCE: Leake has been perhaps Maryland's most explosive player since the start of last season, and his three-touchdown performance Oct. 5 was just the latest example. He earned Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week honors for his 100-yard kickoff return touchdown, and added 65 rushing yards on five carries, highlighted by touchdown runs of 42 and 12 yards.
PRO TERP HOPEFULS:
The XFL makes its return next year and holds its inaugural draft Oct. 15-16. The league has spent this week announcing groups of players who will be in the pool for that draft, and four Maryland products are on the list so far: wide receivers Levern and Taivon Jacobs, tight end Derrick Hayward and kicker Nick Novak. The latter has played in parts of 10 NFL seasons and was in the AAF this spring, while the other three are all recent graduates who have yet to establish themselves professionally. There won't be enough spots in the eight-team league for everyone in the pool, so these Terps hope they've done enough to impress.
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Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox