Borten­schlager goes from QB un­der­study to lead­ing man

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Don Markus

COL­LEGE PARK — As a high school quar­ter­back in In­di­anapo­lis, Max Borten­schlager had orally com­mit­ted to Buf­falo be­fore Bullis star Dwayne Hask­ins Jr. flipped his own pledge from Mary­land to Ohio State.

On the eve of Na­tional Sign­ing Day, the three-star prospect an­nounced that he was headed to Col­lege Park to take Hask­ins’ spot in new coach DJ Durkin’s first re­cruit­ing class.

Four games into his sopho­more year, Borten­schlager has re­placed Kasim Hill, the in­jured fresh­man who was the cen­ter­piece of the 2017 re­cruit­ing class, as Mary­land’s start­ing quar­ter­back.

With Hill and sopho­more Tyrrell Pi­grome out for the sea­son with torn ACLs, and with red­shirt ju­nior trans­fer Caleb Hen­der­son work­ing his way back from a foot in­jury, Borten­schlager will start Satur­day at Min­nesota.

Asked how Borten­schlager has looked in prac­tice this week, Durkin said Thurs­day: “He’s had a re­ally good week of prac­tice. I know that’s the ob­vi­ous an­swer, but it’s true.

He’s done a great job with his prepa­ra­tion. He’s in po­si­tion to have a great game.”

The ques­tion is how quickly Borten­schlager can put a shaky per­for­mance in re­lief of Hill in last week’s 38-10 home loss to Cen­tral Florida be­hind him.

On his first series, Borten­schlag­ger was stopped on fourth-and-inches at the UCF 41. Af­ter a three-and-out series, Borten­schlager was in­ter­cepted on first down on Mary­land’s next of­fen­sive series.

Borten­schlager wound up com­plet­ing 15 of 26 passes for 132 yards. His lone touch­down came when ju­nior re­ceiver DJ Moore jumped in front of a de­fender to catch a pass and run 20 yards for a touch­down.

He also threw two in­ter­cep­tions, one that bounced off Moore’s hands and was re­turned 57 yards for a touch­down. He was sacked five times, in­clud­ing a cou­ple when he hung on to the ball too long.

“The po­si­tion your­self, you’re al­ways go­ing to have a lit­tle bit of a mag­ni­fy­ing glass on you,” Mary­land of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Walt Bell said Wed­nes­day. “When you don’t com­plete a ball, it’s be­cause you’re not in sync, when there’s a sack it’s be­cause you did this or that.

“Were there times when he held ball a lit­tle too much? Yeah. Were there other times when we didn’t do a great job in pro­tec­tion? Ab­so­lutely. There were two in­ter­cep­tions in the game, and both times they were on the hands of our guys.”

Bell said that get­ting a full week to prac­tice with the No. 1 of­fense — along with hav­ing more than a year in the sys­tem — should make a big dif­fer­ence to Borten­schlager, who started a late-sea­son game at Ne­braska as a fresh­man.

Borten­schlager’s team­mates say they have con­fi­dence in him.

Ju­nior cen­ter Bren­dan Moore, who has played with five dif­fer­ent quar­ter­backs the past two years, said Tues­day that he was im­pressed with the way Borten­schlager came in be­hind Hill.

“A lot of peo­ple could have pan­icked un­der pres­sure, he did a good job of not do­ing that,” Moore said. “I can’t wait to see what he does against Min­nesota.”

Said red­shirt se­nior wide re­ceiver Jac­quille Veii, “”I feel he’s more con­fi­dent in him­self, he knows he can make the throws, it’s a mat­ter of just do­ing it and tak­ing ad­van­tage of the op­por­tu­ni­ties that arise.”

Cathe­dral High coach Rick Streiff said Borten­schlager led by ex­am­ple dur­ing the three years he played on the var­sity there, start­ing his last two sea­sons and lead­ing the team to a state ti­tle as a ju­nior.

“Max is un­flap­pable, he’s one of those guys that he never seemed too high and he never seemed too low,” Streiff said Wed­nes­day. “He just comes in and does ev­ery­thing he needs to do. He just doesn’t let too much faze him. He’s al­ways been that way.”

Durkin re­cruited Borten­schlager on the rec­om­men­da­tion of spe­cial teams coach Pete Lembo, who had been the head coach of Ball State in Mun­cie, Ind., prior to com­ing to Mary­land.

“He’s a tal­ented player,” Durkin said Thurs­day. “He’s got good arm strength, he makes good de­ci­sions, he’s in­cred­i­bly in­tel­li­gent. You spend some time with him, you know he’s a great kid, he’s got con­fi­dence. [Mak­ing a schol­ar­ship of­fer] was an easy one for us.”

First-year Min­nesota coach P.J. Fleck knows the skilled play­ers sur­round­ing Borten­schlager — DJ Moore, as well as run­ning backs Ty John­son and Lorenzo Har­ri­son III — are dan­ger­ous.

“They have a very ex­plo­sive of­fense, play­mak­ers around him, 18’s a very good quar­ter­back, he proved that in just how he played [against Tow­son] and we have to be at the top of our game,” Fleck said on the Big Ten coaches’ tele­con­fer­ence Tues­day.

Mary­land de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Andy Buh has pre­pared for enough quar­ter­backs to know how im­por­tant a player such as Borten­schlager might be.

Buh learned the hard way last year when former walk-on Conor Rhoda started for the Go­phers and played a role in the team’s 31-10 vic­tory in Col­lege Park.

“The quar­ter­back is ev­ery­thing, the man who has the ball has the team,” Buh said Wed­nes­day. “The man who’s touch­ing the ball has a lot to do with way the game is go­ing to play out.”

On Satur­day at Min­nesota, the out­come of a game, and the di­rec­tion of the sea­son, might hang in the bal­ance.

PA­TRICK SEMANSKY/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Mary­land sopho­more quar­ter­back Max Borten­schlager com­pleted 15 of 26 passes for 132 yards and a touch­down in a loss to Cen­tral Florida. He also threw two in­ter­cep­tions.

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