One awkward cut during a mid-August practice ended Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown’s junior year before it started – and quite possibly altered the trajectory of the Terrapins’ season as well.
Brown suffered a torn right anterior cruciate ligament during Tuesday evening’s practice, leaving Maryland without a quarterback who has taken a college snap less than three weeks before its Sept. 1 opener against William & Mary.
“To see the work he’s put in for this season go away with one cut in a noncontact drill, a cut he’s made a thousand times, is just devastating,” coach Randy Edsall said during a teleconference Wednesday afternoon.
The only scholarship quarterbacks who are eligible behind Brown are true freshmen Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe. Hills moved ahead of Rowe during the first week of camp and will now work with the Terps’ starters.
Brown, a team captain, was the unquestioned starter entering camp after Danny O’Brien transferred to Wisconsin earlier this year. Brown completed just 49.4 percent of his passes last season, but set a Maryland quarterback rushing record with 574 yards. He started five games last year.
Brown was expected to be a solid fit in new offensive coordinator Mike Locksley’s scheme. While Edsall and Locksley described it as a pro-style system with spread principles, Brown noted earlier this month he’d watched film from Locksley’s recent stops at Illinois as an offensive coordinator and New Mexico as a head coach.
Edsall said Brown suffered the injury when he broke through the pocket during a noncontact two-minute drill and was running in the open field when he made a cut to trigger the injury.
“As you can imagine, it’s tough on him,” Edsall said. “He’s got a lot of emotions right now. As I told him, C.J. is going to be as big part of this team as he was going to be if he was the starting quarterback. He’s still a captain and he’s going to be a leader, a coach, a mentor and do all the things he can do to make this team better even though he’s not going to be on the field contributing to the success we’re going to have.”
Edsall said Brown still had swelling in his knee and expected Brown would undergo surgery within the next two weeks.
It is the second time Brown suffered a season-ending injury in three years. As a redshirt freshman in 2010, he took four snaps in his debut against Morgan State before leaving with a broken collarbone. He missed the last 11 games of the season.
Maryland players were not available for comment Wednesday. The Terps’ next media availability is Thursday morning.
Edsall said sophomore wide receiver Devin Burns, who arrived at Maryland as a quarterback before switching positions, volunteered to move back to quarterback. Burns was contending a backup role at receiver after playing sparingly as a redshirt freshman.
“I was pleased with that because it shows guys are concerned about the team,” Edsall said.
Of greater concern is how Maryland, coming off a disastrous 2-10 season, solves its quarterback question going forward, and whether it shatters any hope the Terps have of enjoying even a .500 season.
The Terps have started only five freshmen at quarterback in their program’s history, the most recent being O’Brien in 2010. Only two true freshman quarterbacks, Randall Jones in 1998 and Latrez Harrison in 1999, have earned a starting nod for Maryland. The Terps are 0-6 all-time with a true freshman starting quarterback.
Hills or Rowe, if not both, will add themselves to the list soon. Last month, Edsall said it would be ideal if one of the two could play while the other takes a redshirt season to ensure they are in different eligibility classes going forward.
So much for an ideal plan. Instead, it will be necessary for both freshmen to be prepared to step in immediately.
“[We knew] we had to get both of these guys ready to play because, again, one of them would be the backup and one would the third guy,” Edsall said. “We have to start from the very first day and get them prepared to play in a game just in case an injury situation would come up. … I’ve seen a lot of good things out of them early on. It’s up to us as coaches to get them ready.”