C.J. Brown, the only quarterback with any college experience on the Terps roster, is done for the season. Where do our hopes and fears go from here? The junior tore his ACL on Tuesday at practice in the latest setback of Randy Edsall’s Frank Grimesian tenure as Maryland’s head coach.
Brown was to be the centerpiece of an exciting, de stijl spread offense orchestrated by Mike Locksley. It would’ve taken advantage of Brown’s athleticism and high motor to dictate the tempo of the game. As loaded as the comparison sounds, some even suggested that with his penchant for breaking off big gains on the read option and throwing on the run, Brown could’ve been the ACC’s own incarnation of Tim Tebow.
Now, two high school quarterbacks and a sophomore receiver will need to learn how to become FBS quarterbacks in under three weeks. Now, what seemed like hope and optimism is tempered with the foreboding and agony of “here we go again.” Now, what seemed like a potential bowl season is looking more like another year lost before it begins.
Perry Hills has been named the starter by Edsall. Caleb Rowe, the other true freshman, seems close behind in the competition. Meanwhile, Devin Burns, a receiver convert and redshirt sophomore, is moving back to QB. It’s not fair to write any of these players off before they take a snap, but to paraphrase Darth Vader: “I find your lack of depth disturbing.”
True freshmen don’t have a sterling track record in FBS football for obvious reasons. When they win, they do so with a monster cast of characters around them. Terrelle Pryor went 10-3 in 2008 with a loaded Ohio State squad. Matt Stafford’s 9-3 Georgia team in 2006 was full of talent. Ditto for Chris Leak’s 8-3 Florida Gators in 2003. With less skill around them, even the best true freshmen have struggled. Robert Griffin III went 4-8 his first season on campus. Mitch Mustain, one of the most coveted high school quarterbacks of all-time, is perhaps the best argument for playing a true frosh. Mustain led an overachieving Arkansas team to a 10-4 record in 2006, serving as part-time starter. Chad Henne had four other offensive NFL players alongside him when he guided the Wolverines to 9-3 in 2004.
Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe are not, at least on the outset, Mitch Mustain and Chad Henne. Hills is a three-star prospect from Central Catholic High School in Pittsburgh, PA. That may sound familiar to you, because it’s where Dan Marino did his prep signal-calling. His reported offers other than the Terps were all MAC or FCS schools. Rowe is a ginger, thus, I am rooting for him to go on to do great things. However, is also a three-star quarterback according to most recruiting services, but only got reported offers from Gardner-Webb and Presbyterian.
These players who very recently were playing on Friday nights will soon ascend into an echelon of the quarterbacking trade few have known. On a given Saturday, there are 124 FBS teams playing meaningful football. Only one per team, or just about 1%, get to be called the starting quarterback. It’s a pressure that cannot be simulated on any practice field, but one Hills or Rowe will have to face nonetheless. If there was ever an argument to be made for scheduling an FCS opponent in your opening game, then I think “only upperclassman QB tears ACL second week of camp” qualifies as good as any.
“Shell Game” is season-long a chronicle of Maryland football’s recovery from its disastrous 2011 campaign. The University of Maryland athletic department chose to deny our request for access. It was probably a wise move.