When Josh Jackson announced he was transferring to Maryland from Virginia Tech in February, he wasted little time in getting familiar with his new football home.
Jackson, a redshirt junior quarterback, took several weekend trips up to College Park, Md., from Blacksburg, Va., to get to know the names and personalities of his future teammates and coaches, making sure to build the relationships he knew he would need to have when fall came.
His new offensive coordinator, Scottie Montgomery, was impressed with Jackson’s efforts to build relationships with not only his fellow quarterbacks but other offensive and defensive players.
“The thing that he’s done that’s most impressive is to understand our personnel away from the building,” Montgomery said. “Those are the things that it’s going to take for him to continue to be successful.”
A native of Ann Arbor, Mich., Jackson chose Maryland in part because of his father’s relationship with first-year head coach Michael Locksley. Fred Jackson was a longtime assistant at Michigan who has known Locksley for decades.
“My dad trusted him and his scheme and how everything would go here,” Jackson said. “It wasn’t too hard to make that decision once I got on campus.”
As Maryland football grinds through the first week of fall camp, the program finds itself in a familiar spot to the past several years. There’s a competition at quarterback. At least five candidates are vying for the job, though many consider Jackson to be the favorite.
Yet, Locksley is in no rush to name a starter. The eventual winner will both take care of the ball and make his teammates around him better, Locksley said.
“The guy who gives us the best chance to win a ball game is the guy who will run out there Aug. 31,” he said. “We’re not going to hurry to figure it out. We’ll let it play itself out over the course of our camp.”
Jackson is no stranger to competition. He won the starting job for the Hokies in 2017 a full two weeks before the season started, but said he is starting on equal footing with his teammates at Maryland.
“It’s a full competition. Everybody’s going to have a chance and I’ve competed many times, so I’m going to try to be the best I can and hopefully that means I get to be on the field,” he said.
He started all 13 games as a redshirt freshman in 2017, leading the Hokies to a 9-4 record and a bowl appearance. His 2,991 passing yards led all freshmen in Power Five conferences.
Three games into the 2018 season, Jackson fractured his leg against Old Dominion, ending his year. He said the injury was a life lesson.
“It definitely makes you appreciate the game more,” Jackson said. “It was upsetting going out with the injury but … you get to learn about yourself going through that.”
Redshirt junior Tyrrell Pigrome will likely be Jackson’s biggest competitor for the job. Pigrome started the final two games of last season after Kasim Hill tore his ACL. Hill left the program this spring.
Redshirt junior Max Bortenschlager, who started eight games in 2017 after both Hill and Pigrome tore their ACLs in the season’s early stages, is another competitor.
Tyler DeSue, a redshirt freshman who impressed in the annual spring game, and true freshman Lance LeGendre are also in the mix.
Senior receiver DJ Turner said Jackson impressed him when he first saw him on the field.
“I had never seen him play when he got out here,” Turner said. “I didn’t know much about him so my first time seeing him, he kind of surprised me a little bit and impressed me a little bit. Him and the rest of the guys, they’re all working right now and we’ll see who ends up with the job.”
One name Jackson didn’t have to learn on his weekend trips during the spring was that of his former Hokie teammate, Sean Savoy. Savoy, a wide receiver, transferred to Maryland in January and was granted a waiver to play this fall. He and Jackson are now roommates, cooking dinner and playing Fortnite together as they adjust to their new college home. Both expressed excitement at getting to take the field together as Terps.
“Me and Sean connected a lot at Virginia Tech,” Jackson said. “I’m excited to hear he’s playing receiver. Definitely excited to play with him again.”
Since Jackson was still finishing his degree at Tech in the spring, he was unable to participate in Maryland’s spring practices but he’s started to pick up the plays and terminology of the new system already, he said.
“I’m not as athletic as everybody or as big or strong or whatever but me knowing defenses and me knowing this offense can do nothing but help,” Jackson said.
Montgomery called Jackson’s football intelligence “really, really high,” which has helped him catch up.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Virginia Tech Athletics