First, there was the firing of Ralph Friedgen after he was named ACC Coach of the Year. Then, declining to give up-and-coming coach James Franklin the reigns to the team, the Terrapins opted for Randy Edsall — the nice but underwhelming former Connecticut head coach. Of course, these events led to last season’s 2-10 debacle that culminated with Danny O’Brien transferring in the offseason. This season was supposed to be the redemption year, with all systems go as Edsall was able to bring in his guys and implement his style of coaching.
However, the proverbial gut punch to the Terrapins struck again. This time with starting quarterback CJ Brown tearing his ACL during a night practice on Tuesday. The injury is going to hurt a lot, as CJ Brown was the only quarterback on the roster with any college experience at all.
Yep, that’s right: Maryland is going to have to enter into this season starting two true freshman at one of the most important positions on the field. (Gut punch). Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe are the future of Maryland now, whether we like it or not.
Hills is, according to most reports, slightly ahead of Rowe in terms of manning the starter position, so allow me to introduce you to him. Hills played his high school ball at Central Catholic which, coincidentally, is in the same Pennsylvania league (the WPIAL) as CJ Brown. He was a dual-sport athlete, at one point being recruited by Maryland in both wrestling and football (it’s worth noting because he’s 6’2, 205 lbs., and incredibly solid). While at Central Catholic, Hills started slowly but finished his senior year passing for 1,571 yards and 14 touchdowns. None of those numbers were meant to wow you, honestly. I actually got a chance to watch him play on ESPN last year, and I was surprisingly impressed with his ability to run; he’s been clocked in the 40-yard dash between 4.5 and 4.6 seconds (more on this later).
Rowe, on the other hand, attended Blue Ridge in Greer, South Carolina, where he was ranked a 3-star prospect by Rivals.com. Standing at 6’2 and weighing 185 lbs, he is definitely a pro-style quarterback and doesn’t really run much, preferring to instead “sling” that rock around the football field. That’s not to say he can’t scoot, but at the next level he isn’t going to blow by anyone. In 2010, he tossed 27 touchdowns to only 4 picks, along with 2,700 yards in the air. I was a bit surprised to see that Rowe wasn’t recruited as heavily (instead drawing offers from only Gardner-Webb and Presbyterian) given that he seems to have a pretty good arm. It is worth noting however that he committed to Maryland early and that could’ve very well kept other high majors from offering. He doesn’t have Joe Flacco velocity behind his throws, no, but it’s not a limp noodle, either.
I may be in the minority here, but I’m of the mindset that losing CJ Brown isn’t going to be as big of a hit as people want to make it out to be. Yes, having only two true freshman quarterbacks on the roster is a recipe for going 2-10 yet again, but I think we have to be rational in looking at the Terps right now. Let’s look at the facts on the guy these two freshman will be replacing in Brown.
CJ Brown only completed 49.4% of his passes last season through 10 games.
He threw 7 touchdowns against 6 pick, and averaged a meager 5.07 yards per attempt.
He ran for 574 yards (57.4 Y/G) and 5 touchdowns, averaging 7.3 yards per rushing attempt.
The Terrapins lost 9 of the 10 games he appeared in, including 8 straight.
I don’t say any of this to discredit CJ Brown; I loved watching him create something out of nothing and zip around the field just as much as anyone. Instead, I just want to put things into a little perspective so the boo birds don’t rain down on Byrd Stadium and attribute every error on the field to the Terrapins having lost Brown. Realistically speaking, Maryland isn’t losing Michael Vick here.
CJ Brown was, at his best, a quarterback who failed break the 21 point threshold in every game but two. Let’s not kid ourselves into believing that the Terps were an offensive juggernaut with him on the field. In fact, you could argue that the many three-and-out stagnated drives that Brown had were the death of Maryland. The defense was always on the field and eventually wore down over the course of the game (remember Florida State last year?). Edsall and Brown (and O’Brien) guided the Terps to a paltry 87th overall in the nation in points for total last year with 23.1 per game. They were 42nd in rushing yards and 75th in passing as well. Maryland ran the ball pretty well, but it never amounted to very many points on the board because, eventually, opposing defenses cued in on the fact that we couldn’t throw well.
Therefore, I really don’t think the drop off in the passing game is going to be that significant with CJ Brown out. At least, it’s not so much of a drop off that this team will go 0-12 strictly because they lost Brown. It has the potential to be absolutely horrible, given the lack of success not-so-highly heralded true freshman tend to have in college football. It also has the potential to be better than last season, where we flat out stunk up the joint through the air. I mean we had more interceptions than passing touchdowns last year (16 to 14). So my question is this: can it really get that much worse?
Obviously it probably can, but I just don’t think that it’s going to. Randy Edsall is going to nurse these freshmen like crazy, and there will be no questioning the mentality of this team going forward: run, baby, run. Recall, if you will, the UConn Huskies back in 2010 under coach Edsall, where he guided that formidable unit to an 8-5 record en route to the Big East championship. That team relied on, more or less, one person: Jordan Todman. Todman was essentially their entire offense, and he ended up running for 1,695 yards that season on 341 carries. Edsall doesn’t focus on the passing game that much, and he made it work with a pretty meh QB in Zach Frazer (who?) by picking and choosing very carefully when to throw. For the record, Frazer finished that year with 5 TDs and 6 INTs, throwing for only 1,425 yards. Do you really think a true freshman can’t do that? How about two of them combined? How about two with different, off-setting skills on the field?
The Terrapins are going to run so much next year that no quarterback was really going to be throwing the ball that much. Wes Brown, the highly coveted RB recruit out of Good Counsel, came to Maryland specifically so he could get carries all game long. With Davin Meggett moving on that’s exactly what Wes is going to get, and I think that’s a good thing for Maryland because he should be an absolute stud. He’s a 6’1, 220 lb bruiser who had 22 touchdowns last year, so I think he can take a pretty good pounding. And because he is a very north-south runner, more carries tends to mean better results. It’s not like Maryland has just Wes Brown, either, as he is considered second to Justus Pickett. Pickett was disappointing last season, sure, but now he has all the carries in the world to prove himself or get out of the way for Albert Reid and Brandon Ross. Reid, by the way, is yet another four-star running back who has been showing great signs all throughout camp.
Seriously, Maryland is stacked to the brim with incredibly talented backs, and this is should be very pleasing for Edsall, since he loves to run as much as possible. If Maryland can abuse and confuse opposing teams on the ground with a versatile stable of runners, I think it will make these young QBs life a whole lot easier. All Perry Hills or Caleb Rowe will have to do is hand it off and make a few select passes against run-wary defensive secondaries who are likely to be cheating. In other words, manage the game.
Losing Brown hurts as he has two seasons of experience under his belt. Couple that with the fact that he could run very well and pass competently enough to not have to rotate a quarterback in to do the job for him and you see why Edsall wanted to run with him at QB. He was a pretty darn good fit for Edsall’s offense, and next season there’s a solid chance he will slide right back in as the starter. In the meantime, as I said before, all these freshmen have to do is not turn the ball over, and complete 5 yard passes to help move the chains.
If that’s the case, then Maryland should be at least as alright as they were last year (which was horrendous). I happen to think they could still be better.