Red(shirt) alert

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Meaning, such as it is, is pretty much gone for the Maryland football team.

It has pride to play for, and the slimmest of slim hopes of winning the ACC’s Atlantic Division (a scenario that requires at least eight things happening, only three of which Maryland controls). And that’s about it.

It certainly doesn’t seem like the time to throw away a full season on a true freshman who, at most, would play in three games down the stretch.

Ah, but that situation could be afoot for the Terrapins, who will likely start Jamarr Robinson is senior Chris Turner (knee) is unable to play Saturday against Virginia Tech.

“He’ll definitely play, and if Chris can’t play we have to be ready to play Danny O’Brien and C.J. Brown,” coach Ralph Friedgen said.

It would seem highly, highly unlikely that Brown would get in this week, given that it would require at least two injuries for him to see the field.

But O’Brien? He might be one sprained ankle or concussion or whatever from using a year of eligibility on the final quarter of a lost season.

“To me, I’ve been ready to play Danny for two weeks,” Friedgen said. “I think if he’s the best guy, let’s find out whether he can do it. If Jamarr’s doing well, that’s great, too. If Chris doesn’t play, at least we’re going to be able to see where we’re at at quarterback.”

From a strictly external standpoint, it seems at best counterintuitive to trade three games of O’Brien without significant meaning in 2009 for at least a dozen games of O’Brien in 2013.

Future O’Brien, in all likelihood, will be better than Present O’Brien, and he’ll be available for at least four times as many games.

Here’s the variable that’s completely missing: If there’s one thing Friedgen has virtually no recent experience in, it is playing for the future.

Ever since his opening two years as offensive coordinator at Georgia Tech in 1987 and 1988 were trying (2-9 and 3-8, respectively), there have been very few times a team Friedgen was associated with wasn’t in position to prolong its season beyond the end of the regular season.

* In 1993, it appears the 6-8 Chargers didn’t have a shot at the wild card in the final two weeks. The 9-5 Broncos, 9-5 Dolphins and 9-5 Raiders were all locked into finishing ahead of San Diego that season for AFC wild card slots, though Pittsburgh eventually bested Miami for a playoff berth.

San Diego, by the way, won both games.

* In 1996, the 7-8 Chargers could not catch the 9-6 Colts, the 9-6 Chiefs or the 9-6 Bills in the final weekend of the season. Ultimately, Jacksonville at 9-7 earned a berth over Kansas City, but that was one week San Diego was playing out the string.

The Chargers, it should be noted, won their regular-season finale.

* In 2004, a 4-6 Maryland team starting its No. 3 quarterback (hmmm) faced 4-6 Wake Forest in a game with zero bowl implications for either team.

And, yes, the Terrapins won that game.

So in the last 20 seasons, Friedgen-associated teams have played four games in which there was no postseason-related benefit at stake. And those teams have won all four.

Still, that’s not a big track record.

It appears the most compelling storyline of the final three games could be figuring out whether or not O’Brien actually gets in a game. In a season when inexperience of the players was usually bemoaned as a major culprit in the Terrapins’ struggles, it is appopriate their coach’s inexperience in predicaments like the current one could have some influence in what decisions are made in the final three games.

Patrick Stevens

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