Nobody knew quite what to expect from the Maryland football team and new coach Randy Edsall this season, but there was one thing we assumed was a constant. Danny O'Brien was coming of an ACC Rookie of the Year campaign and figured to be the team's best player and face of the program. We didn't know what kind of offense the Terps were going to run, but we knew that O'Brien would be at the center of it and that he would run it effectively.
Five games later, and nobody really knows what is going on with the Maryland quarterback situation. O'Brien was pulled out of the game against Georgia Tech on Saturday in the second quarter and Edsall handed the reigns over to C.J. Brown, a redshirt sophomore who is more of a dual threat. Brown wasn't effective throwing the ball, but he did have an electrifying 77-yard touchdown run and he orchestrated another scoring drive. He didn't exactly come in and take the job, but Edsall passed up numerous opportunities to get O'Brien back in the game while it was still in the balance.
On the year, O'Brien has completed 64 percent of his passes but is averaging just 6.09 yards per attempt; down from 7.23 in his freshman season. He has also thrown just four touchdowns to six interceptions, hardly the measure of excellence we expected after last year.
Edsall said in his post-game press conference that he would have to look at the film before deciding which quarterback would be under center against Clemson next weekend. Even when O'Brien had struggled so far this season, Edsall had made it a point to say that he was "his guy." He did not do that on Saturday. So why C.J. Brown? Why now?
Despite O'Brien's superior passing ability, Brown might just be a better fit for Gary Crowton's offense. He is obviously a better runner than O'Brien, and that is the kind of player that is perfect for Crowton's read and react offense. He doesn't have the arm, but he doesn't necessarily need it in Crowton's offense.
Now, you may be asking why Edsall chose to bring in an offensive coordinator who's scheme conflicted with his best player, but that's a question for another day. O'Brien's struggles this year may just be the result of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Brown is a round peg, even if he is not a particularly effective one.
The funny thing is that once Brown was brought into the game, the offense stopped running the short passing plays that have been so frustrating in their first four games. Brown started the game 0-10, so you know they weren't running very many of their trademark wide receiver screens. You would think that the offensive coordinator would want to put in some easy reads and layup completions for a QB getting his first real serious game action, but that isn't what happened. Brown was asked to throw the ball more downfield than O'Brien had been during the season, which is a bit counterintuitive. I wonder how much success each player would have running the plays their counterpart was asked to run.
The good news is that the running game has been very effective this year, so whichever quarterback they put under center will have some help. But based on what we've seen so far this year, neither is really in a position to succeed; either due to lack of experience or a poor fit. If Edsall decides to install Brown as his quarterback, I will be interested to see how he improves with the ability to practice with the first team on a full-time basis.
But he has to bench Danny O'Brien permanently to make that happen, and that is a decision that only Edsall can make.