As schools’ academic years are virtually wrapped up, last season’s juniors are now this season’s seniors, and with that comes extra responsibility and expectations. In the ACC, while there were plenty of players selected in the NFL Draft, the conference still returns a strong group of seniors — many of whom are set to make a strong impact in their final seasons of eligibility.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be going team-by-team in the ACC to identify the “standout senior” that’s key to his respective squad, and why he’s so important. Think we should’ve featured another player, though? Feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments.
The Terps’ quarterback, C.J. Brown might be a standout player; we’re unsure of that, actually. But if nothing else he, and his health, are integral to the team’s success this season, and his potential as an offensive catalyst appears to be quite high. As you’ll recall, Brown was the undisputed starter heading into the fall of 2012 until an August ACL injury sidelined him for the year. Since it has been a full 17 months since the last time we saw Brown take an in-game snap, a quick reminder about what he accomplished while splitting time with former Maryland (now Wisconsin) QB Danny O’Brien:
In just 10 games in 2011 (and only five full contests), Brown managed to throw for 842 yards and seven scores, while running for over 550 yards and another five touchdowns on top of that. Admittedly, it’s a bit difficult to see if he can keep it up — especially following the ACL injury — but with more weapons at his disposal this time around (hello, Stefon Diggs!) it does at least look plausible he’ll at least rack up 25 or so combined touchdowns on the year. His abilities as a dual-threat also will also completely change the Maryland offense from last year’s lackluster, pass-first attack (with minimal returns) to one that can actually create opportunities for receivers by keeping defenders at home to stop the run. If there’s one big question about him, though, it’s in terms of his throwing accuracy.
Brown’s 2011 saw him complete just 49 percent of 166 passes, nearly all of which for short yardage, with his accuracy actually headed down as he attempted more throws. Again, better receivers will help here, but having players like Diggs who can catch passes deep in coverage also means an enormous risk for Brown. If he can’t make the throws, those passes either don’t get thrown at all (under-utilizing Diggs’s talents) or they turn into picks. For this reason, even more than his recovery from injury, it is hard to be fully confident in projecting Brown as the Terps’ true “standout” senior. But just like his game, the risk may just be worth the reward. I’d argue of all the passers in the ACC, Brown has the third-largest impact on his respective team’s winning percentage, putting him in pretty elite company. It doesn’t mean Maryland’s winning 10 games this year, but if things fall right, they might just be contending for a bowl spot.