Terps re­solve to pro­tect the QB

If Hills, who ‘likes hit­ting,’ starts, he’ll need to con­trol his urge to go the ex­tra yard

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Don Markus

COL­LEGE PARK — The health of in­jured Mary­land quar­ter­back Perry Hills and his sta­tus for to­day’s home game against Min­nesota has been a ques­tion that first-year coach DJ Durkin has danced around for much of the week.

But one thing is clear about the way the Terps will ap­proach their of­fen­sive scheme in to­day’s noon game at Mary­land Sta­dium: The line will have to do a bet­ter job pro­tect­ing t he quar­ter­back, whether it’s Hills or fresh­man backup Tyrrell Pi­grome.

Given the phys­i­cal na­ture of the way Hills, a fifthyear se­nior, plays and the fact that he doesn’t shy away from con­tact, Mary­land might have to fig­ure out a dif­fer­ent way to use him and cer­tainly try to get him to change his game a lit­tle to stay on the field.

“He’s such a com­peti­tor, which is a great thing,” Durkin said of Hills, who was in­jured last week­end against Penn State. “If you ask me the No. 1 at­tribute in a foot­ball player, on any po­si­tion, I’d say give me com­peti­tors. Com­peti­tors find a way to get the job done. He’s the ul­ti­mate com­peti­tor.”

Durkin said he has tried to con­vince To­day, noon TV: ESPNU Ra­dio: 105.7 FM, 980 AM Line: Mary­land by 61⁄

Hills, a for­mer state high school wrestling cham­pion in Pitts­burgh, that he doesn’t have to prove how tough he is. “You can avoid get­ting hit,” Durkin said. “You can step out of bounds in­stead of try­ing to grab 2 more yards in­stead of low­er­ing your shoul­der on a guy.

“You can slide and get down in­stead of get­ting one more yard and tak­ing a hit. There’s ways to get bet­ter at that. We’ve had all those con­ver­sa­tions; we’ll con­tinue to. Maybe this will help him to learn that les­son. And ob­vi­ously we’ve got to do a bet­ter job pro­tect­ing him.”

Sopho­more cen­ter Bren­dan Moore said pro­tect­ing Hills can be a chal­lenge be­cause of the quar­ter­back’s will­ing­ness to put his body in harm’s way by tak­ing on a line­backer head-on — or hel­met-on. Hills did that against the Nit­tany Li­ons on one play as he was go­ing out of bounds.

“As an of­fen­sive line­man, we al­ways try to pro­tect Perry,” Moore said this week. “No mat­ter what he likes to do, Perry is a gritty, tough guy. He likes hit­ting. He likes do­ing that kind of stuff. It doesn’t change what we do on of­fense. We’re go­ing to try to pro­tect him whether he likes get­ting hit or not.”

The Terps are tied for last in the Big Ten Con­fer­ence for sacks al­lowed, with 16, in­clud­ing four by the Nit­tany Li­ons. If there is a bless­ing for who­ever starts at quar­ter­back for Mary­land (4-1, 1-1) to­day, the de­fense for Min­nesota (3-2, 0-2) is tied for third from the bot­tom in sacks with 10.

Though not speak­ing specif­i­cally about the pro­tec­tion break­downs Mary­land had last week at Penn State, Moore said he and the other line­men have joked with Hills — “Hey, Perry, maybe you should slide,” he said — but re­spect the way he plays.

“As of­fen­sive line­men, we hit, we get hit,” Moore said. “We’re very phys­i­cal ev­ery play. It’s kind of re­fresh­ing to see a quar­ter­back that’s will­ing to do that. I like the char­ac­ter that it shows. He’s al­ways try­ing to get plus-2 [yards] af­ter con­tact. He’s just a com­peti­tor.”

At least one of the teams will not go into to­day’s game with its reg­u­lar starter at quar­ter­back. Min­nesota an­nounced Tues­day that fifth-year se­nior Mitch Lei­d­ner will be out with con­cus­sion-like symp­toms; ju­nior Conor Rhoda will start.

Hills was in­jured on a run­ning play up the mid­dle late in the sec­ond quar­ter at Penn State and sat out the en­tire sec­ond half. Af­ter ini­tially say­ing Mon­day that Hills Mary­land coach DJ Durkin, fac­ing cam­era, looks on as quar­ter­back Perry Hills is tended to af­ter he was in­jured against Penn State last week. Durkin says that though he ap­proves of Hills’ com­pet­i­tive­ness, he’s en­cour­aged him not to seek out con­tact. should be ready to play Min­nesota, Durkin back­tracked a lit­tle Tues­day. “He’s day-to-day,” Durkin said. Pi­grome had im­me­di­ate suc­cess re­plac­ing Hills against Penn State, as he did com­ing in when Hills first in­jured his shoul­der in the sec­ond over­time pe­riod of a 30-24 win at Cen­tral Florida last month — scor­ing on his first snap in each game — be­fore the Nit­tany Li­ons ad­justed.

With Mary­land forced to play catch-up af­ter fall­ing be­hind 24-14 at half­time last week, Pi­grome had to be­come as much, if not more, of a passer than a run­ner. It led to more break­downs on the of­fen­sive line in the sec­ond half.

Of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Walt Bell said the team will con­tinue to ro­tate a large num­ber of line­men to help build the unit’s depth as the sea­son wears on. Bell said that project, along with in­creas­ing the of­fense’s pace of play, means much of prac­tice has been spent work­ing with the line.

“As many young line­men that haven’t played sig­nif­i­cant min­utes, ev­ery sin­gle day, ev­ery game, ev­ery rep, ev­ery prac­tice pe­riod, ev­ery live-fire sit­u­a­tion, we’re out there coach­ing them,” Bell said. “As the pass-pro­tec­tion piece con­tin­ues to im­prove, I feel that will be the next big hur­dle for us.”

CHRIS KNIGHT/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

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