It was a chilly Veterans Day afternoon when Maryland redshirt sophomore Ryan Brand, a fifth string quarterback, trotted onto Capital One Field as he prepared to go against Michigan’s nationally ranked defense.
Brand–the brother of Bryce, who plays defensive lineman for Maryland–was the Terps’ last healthy quarterback standing in the 35-10 loss to the Wolverines, which distanced them further from a second straight bowl appearance.
Bowl games haven’t been the biggest consider for head coach D.J. Durkin, who is running out of quarterbacks heading into the final two games of the regular season.
“I think every week I come in here someone asks about the bowl eligibility and the bowl number. We don’t talk about it,” Durkin said at his weekly press conference. “[Ryan] Brand just played a full game. We don’t have many more guys at the position. We’ve had to use them all. That’s what we’ve got.”
Brand, who transferred to College Park from the Air Force Academy and junior college, was thrown into the fire against the Wolverines, going 16-34 with 136 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.
“There are plenty of stuff to clean up,” Durkin said. “I liked his fight and how he bounced back in the second half. It was his first game starting at this level and he made some good throws, but he has to protect the ball better.”
Durkin has seen five quarterbacks play at least a snap this season. His top two signal callers–Tyrell Pigrome and Kasim Hill–went down with torn ACLs during the first three games while Caleb Henderson has been battling injuries since training camp. Besides supporting a 4-6 record, the quarterback issues have added to the frustrations within the Terps’ locker room.
The sun is going to come up and you can put two feet on the floor and go try to make it work. Hopefully, it makes me and our team better in the long run.
– Maryland offensive coordinator Walt Bell on quarterback struggles
“There’s a lot of frustration,” Durkin said. “With constant injury or turnover at that position, it makes it sometimes more difficult than really what it could be or should be or would be, if we didn’t have that.”
Maryland’s offensive coordinator Walt Bell understands the struggles of working with a different quarterback on a weekly basis, but he doesn’t dwell on it. Bell has to keep moving and prepare for the road ahead just like the rest of the team.
“It is what it is and there’s nothing you can do about it,” Bell said. “The sun is going to come up and you can put two feet on the floor and go try to make it work. Hopefully, it makes me and our team better in the long run.”
Third-string quarterback Max Bortenschlager, who suffered an injury in Maryland’s loss to Rutgers, is questionable for Saturday’s conference matchup against Top 25 Michigan State.
“Like I’ve said before, Max is a really tough kid, great competitor,” Durkin said. “But you also have to keep in mind what’s best for a young man. I think as Max prepares through this week, we’ll see. We’ll make a decision later in the week but I think he’ll be ready to go.”
Whether or not Bortenschlager plays, Brand continues to practice and prepare like he is the starter.
“My dad always told me especially in the position I’m in, ‘if you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready,’” Brand said. “I’m preparing like I’m the starter and trying to win every rep and take advantage of every situation I get.”
The Terps will go into their game against the Spartans with the same game plan they’ve used all season; go with the quarterback that gives them the best chance to win.
“We’re always going to play the best guy that gives us the best chance to win,” Durkin said. “I think as we’ve all seen, Max has played a lot of football for us this year. It’s more about going through the week and how prepared he is and ready to play. Max is the guy on the depth chart that, if ready to go, will be the quarterback.”