Brown tore his ACL in a non-contact drill on Tuesday afternoon, and will miss the entire 2012 season. The other two quarterbacks that were behind him on the depth chart are both true freshman. Former starting QB Danny O’Brien was lost in the spring when he transferred to Wisconsin. Brown and O’Brien had split QB duties last year, but because of O’Brien’s departure, Brown was the unquestioned starter heading into camp. Now that he is sidelined, one of the true freshmen will be expected to start.
This is a serious blow for the Terps. While Brown may not have been as good a passer as O’Brien, he was extremely good with his feet. Even splitting time with O’Brien last year, Brown was able to set a Maryland rushing record for quarterbacks with 574 yards and had started five games. His teammates had also voted him to be one of the captains for the 2012 season, and he appeared to be quite ready to be one of the new leaders of the team. He had put on muscle in the off-season, worked on his accuracy, and was one of the fastest players on the entire team during drills.
With Brown out for the season, the expectations for the Terps will drop. Despite the 2-10 season from a year ago, there were signs that things were looking up. A new turf field had been installed, a good recruiting class was coming in (and a good one for 2013 is in progress), and the chaos of last season had been put behind them. Now that they will not have an experienced quarterback leading the team, it will be a much tougher road ahead.
If there is a silver lining to this, it is that there is still some time remaining before the season starts. True freshmen Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe will be competing for the starting job, and they will take more snaps with the starting offense. Hills had moved higher on the depth chart and was expected to be the primary backup for Brown.
The depth chart now lists Hills as the #1 quarterback, Rowe as #2 and former QB-turned-WR Devin Burns as #3. Burns is a redshirt sophomore that was listed second at the “WR-X” position behind senior captain Kevin Dorsey. Both Hills and Rowe were rated as three-star QB’s by Rivals and 247 Sports. Given that there are still two weeks remaining before the opener against William & Mary, there is no guarantee that the QB’s will stay in this order on the chart.
Burns had offers from several SEC schools and has played in college, but his disadvantage will be that he hasn’t been learning the playbook from the QB’s perspective up until now. He is a talented athlete, and if he learns the plays quickly enough, may be able to at least take the number two position (and allow one of the true freshmen to redshirt). How well he performs remains to be seen.
There will be a lot of pressure on the offensive line and the rest of the offense to get the job done. There is a lot of competition at the running back position (four players), and while the players are relatively inexperienced, they are quite talented, including incoming four-star Wes Brown.
The fact that there are two solid senior wide receivers in captain Dorsey and Kerry Boykins will also help. Highly touted incoming five-star recruit Stefon Diggs may also have an impact at wide receiver, as well as on punt and kick returns. Also helping whomever starts at quarterback will be an extremely experienced group of tight ends, with three seniors and one junior in the mix. Expect O-coordinator Mike Locksley and the Terps to rely on this group for support.
Many had expected the Terps to at least have a chance to win enough games to become bowl eligible this season. Without Brown under center, those chances are slim. Head coach Edsall and the rest of the Terrapins will put their best effort forward, but no true freshman at quarterback has ever won a game for the team in its history. All Maryland fans will obviously be hoping that record of futility comes to an abrupt end this year.