Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
90’s Song Comparison: Backstreet Boys – Quit Playin’ Games With My Heart
2012 in review:
Not even man’s greatest win (and by that I mean duct tape) could mend the cavity left in my chest after having my heart ripped out and replaced again so many times by Maryland’s QB situation last year.
You know that famous sports call by Howard Cosell?
“Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier!”
Replace every Frazier with Brown, Hills, Burns, and Rowe, and you’ve got Maryland’s season. It was absolute calamity. Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin slapstick comedy for the nation to enjoy. It actually plays out like a movie tagline:
“Four quarterbacks go down; a true freshman linebacker steps up. This is how he led a nation.
But there was no Rudy feel-good story to this one. It was more like when Bambi’s mom got shot.
Maryland had their starter injured before taking a snap, relied on a true freshman who got them to 4-2, had a slew of QBs go down and threw an LB in at QB. They haven’t won since October of last year.
Bringing 2012 to 2013:
I can basically sum up 2013 in one sentence:
It begins and ends with CJ Brown’s health.
Brown hasn’t had a completely healthy season since he’s faced live college action. In 2010 it was a broken collar bone on his very first snap under center. In 2011 it was a devastating hit he took failing to slide early enough against FSU. In 2012 it was a torn ACL before the season even began. His luck has been somewhere between ‘nonexistent’ and ‘had your house built on a fault line’.
If we believe in Bill Shakespeare’s words that what is past will ultimately be prologue, then it’s not entirely unreasonable to assume Brown will be hurt at some point this year. And as I watched every snap the guy took in 2011 the other night, my ultimate conclusion was “Who cares?”
Brown was so much fun to watch, that at this point I think his electrifying style is two things:
1. A much needed respite from that snoozefest of an offense last season.
2. Worth trying out in an offense tinkered specifically to his needs as a quarterback.
Half the plays Brown had weren’t even designed runs against Georgia Tech, but he made something out of nothing time and again with those crazy legs that had announcers losing their chips. Brown wasn’t running a spread, he was running a pro-style offense and improvising basically every time.
As many remember, it was CRWTN (because he had no O) calling the shots that year, too. And he was perhaps the worst hire in Maryland history. For that reason alone, CJ Brown deserves another chance to show how well his legs can carry a team. Imagine how imposing he could be when the plays being called are designed to unleash his speed against any and all defenders. He was waltzing around five-star defenders vs Clemson, why can’t he do it against West Virginia?
With Locksley he just might. If I were Locks, my play calling would go:
1st down: Read option.
2nd down: Read option.
3rd down: Repeat.
Clemson had no answer for it. Now, we should probably note as we begin to creep into the negatives that this was a Clemson team which had no time to prepare for Brown, and also had no defense (never more apparent than when when WVU hung 70+ on them in the Orange Bowl). Brown was still spectacular again top-tier players, but in retrospect it was a pretty bad defense.
The downside to Brown:
The downside to a Brown-led offense is that his arm is feast or famine. He has the ability to connect with receivers cutting across the middle; there were times he made it look easy off his back foot. He has a much better throwing motion than Perry Hills will ever have, and noticeably better velocity on short routes. His vision is also pretty solid, at times; he takes necessary chances and on intermediate throws does a good job of fitting the ball into tight windows.
Then there’s the rest of the time. Balls in the dirt, deep shots that probably injured a trainer or two, atrocious footwork that results in no velocity, dropped balls by DBs (and to be fair, his own receivers). With Brown, your playbook through the air should probably be about three pages. Max.
And that’s the thing. When you have the luxury of so many great receiving options (it’s the team’s biggest strength), why are you running the read option? This isn’t like we have Tebow throwing the ball (and yes, in college his arm sufficed) and us running Gator Heavy every play. This just seems more like the Ford Edsel; a massive misallocation of resources.
I’m not sure Brown is adequately suited to fully optimize all the receiving threats. In 2011, when we didn’t have anyone who could catch the ball, and even fewer who had legitimate skill, Brown was amazing for the team. He reignited the unit when DOB couldn’t muster twenty yards. But now? With the way this offense could air raid? It seems off to me, especially when there are guys with far better arms on the staff. Guys like…
I’ve seen about as much of Ricardo Young as anyone else has: a spring game and a few high school games. He really hasn’t played too much college football; he was scout team at VT where Logan Thomas beat him out, transferred to New Mexico to play with Locksley, transferred to Iowa Western C.C. (along with Deon Long), then ended up at Maryland and sat out a year. In short, there’s scant evidence that Young can perform on the field in any manner.
In the spring game earlier this year, I saw an incredibly rusty looking quarterback who had some solid arm strength and speed, but not the consistency to become a starter. 12-for-21 for 185 yards, six sacks, and an interception. After that performance, I was hoping CJ Brown would be healthy as heck come season’s start.
But there’s no denying one thing about Young: intangibles. Young had some serious chemistry with Stefon Diggs during that game, he already has tremendous chemistry after playing with other stud target Deon Long in junior college, and he has some serious speed to his game as well.
Young hasn’t played in what feels like forever, but what if he shook that rust off? He’s not nearly as elusive as CJ Brown, plain and simple. Young almost looks to pass first most of the time, but he can improvise a little, too. If Young were able to get his game under control in a short amount of time, with his arm and legs, he seems like a better fit for the offense than Brown.
But how confident am I in playing a senior who hasn’t played a single year of D-1 football? Ask me about Drew Allen, Syracuse’ new quarterback, who sat his entire career at Oklahoma behind Landry Jones.
The chemistry is what makes him an intriguing option. Running the offense through the receivers seems to me the most sensible move, and throwing a guy out who understands his targets makes even more sense. Diggs and Long are downfield threats, but they’re limited when playing Brown because you have to put them on 10-15 yard routes since that’s mostly what he’s shown capable of. With Young, that’s simply not the case.
But what about the other guys? Hills, Rowe, and Cockerille.
I’m just going to throw Cockerille out of the race right now. The staff isn’t looking to play a true freshman this year unless the guy way upstairs deems it necessary. He’s not a feasible option at this point.
That leaves Hills and Rowe. Hills, for as much poise as he showed last year despite being a true freshman, was a very limited quarterback. His arm, too, was very feast or famine. You played safe football with Hills to avoid those mind-numbingly bad throws to opposing linemen, linebackers, and DBs. As a stopgap, Hills did just fine. I’d go so far as to say I have confidence in his performance that, in a pinch, you can win with Hills at QB.
But as the air raid QB of the future? Probably not. He’d limit these receivers too much. His touch on deep balls isn’t suspect, it’s guilty. There’s just not enough velocity on his throws, and his throwing motion looks more like a shot-put than an actual QB toss. You have to simplify the playbook significantly with Hills, and that isn’t what we want.
As for Rowe, the body of work I have with him is only slightly larger than Young’s: one spring game and one game against Boston College. What did I see out of Rowe? He’s the gunslinger of the bunch, that’s for sure. Rowe has great velocity on his passes and has the touch of an actual, pro-style quarterback. He’s got pretty good footwork for a very unheralded high school recruit, and he definitely likes to take shots downfield and do more with his arm than his legs.
Against Boston College, Rowe wasn’t too impressive in the first half. A couple three-and-outs, and couple interceptions, no points scored. Nothing to write home about. But in between those freshman stutters was some real potential. Marching down the field on his second drive into enemy territory, only to have Craddock miss a field goal. Actually moving the chains with his arm and hanging tight under pressure. Tossing two touchdown passes in the second half and very nearly mounting a comeback against the Eagles.
Rowe has the stuff to be a good quarterback at the college level, make no mistake about it. He has to fix his decision making; he thinks like Brett Favre, but he’s not Brett Favre at all. He also has to become a more mobile quarterback until Maryland can fix that offensive line. Still, I like Rowe’s game, but that’s also a personal preference because I think this offense ought to be tailored to a pro-style scheme.
In a Locksley offense? He may not make a bunch of sense. But if Locksley tinkered with the playbook a bit, I think Rowe could be the best option, crazy as that sounds. For Rowe it’s about getting that opportunity and coming back completely healthy. I still think he might even be better suited sitting out this year entirely. But if Maryland so chose to put him in, the Terps will be extremely exciting to watch.
Maryland’s quarterback situation will be better than last season, to be sure. Brown has to shake off the rust early or risk being benched for other options, and we could relive the 2011 quarterback carousel all over again.
As Forrest Gump would say, “That’s all I got to say about that”.