ACC Football Standout Senior 2013: Maryland

A Healthy C.J. Brown is Critical to Maryland's Offense -- Will He Return to His 2011 Form?

A Healthy C.J. Brown is Critical to Maryland’s Offense — Will He Return to His 2011 Form?

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.

Maryland Terrapins: C.J. Brown, QB

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.

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Rushel Shell Transfer: Where to, and What’s Next for Pitt’s Backfield?

Rushel Shell's Leaving Pittsburgh, But Where Could He End Up Next?

We Know Rushel Shell’s Leaving Pittsburgh, But Where Could He End Up Next?

As has been the news for nearly a week now, presumed starting running back Rushel Shell has elected to transfer out of Pittsburgh’s football program. SB Nation’s Cardiac Hill has a detailed breakdown of the various puzzling aspects of this move, so for discussion around that front, feel free to wander in that general direction.

What we’re interested in here is where he could potentially end up (touched upon over at CH as well), and then what’s next for the Panthers’ backfield as they continue with spring practice. With little information available right now, please keep in mind this is almost entirely speculation at the moment.

Where could Rushel Shell transfer to?

Just one year ago, Shell was in high demand as one of the top-rated running back prospects in the nation, and he was expected to deliver on those lofty goals as Pitt’s featured back in 2013. Now, he’s an impressive sophomore runner with 641 rushing yards and four scores under his belt, looking for a new home where he’ll sit out a year before regaining eligibility in 2014.

The top transfer choices are the ones in closest proximity: West Virginia and Penn State, but there’s chatter that Pitt would not allow him to head to either long-time rival program. Same goes for Arizona State, where former Panthers coach Todd Graham currently resides as head coach. The Cardiac Hill guys believe Pitt would block any move to those three schools, but is that the right move? Not siding with Shell here, but based on a recent tweet from the mother of Shell’s children, it would almost seem like he’s trying to run from some issues (purely speculation). However, rewind the clock a year, and let’s remember what happened when former Terps QB Danny O’Brien was trying to leave Maryland and head coach Randy Edsall was adamant about limiting his possibilities. The backlash was pretty far-reaching and ultimately, amounted to nothing since O’Brien failed to go to a future scheduled opponent or another ACC team (he went to Wisconsin).

So with that said, where could he potentially land? The top two choices are obvious:

Arizona State: Graham and his staff initially recruited Shell, and perhaps that was part of the initial appeal to the Panthers program (beyond just local tie-ins). The Sun Devils currently have a veteran backfield set for fall, giving Shell ample opportunity to contribute come fall 2014.

West Virginia: Still local, and like many Pitt players, Shell certainly knows plenty of Mountaineers players. With the Big 12 sort of lacking for an elite back, Shell could get an opportunity to really shine in that conference, though who knows how much opportunity he’d get in Dana Holgorsen’s air-raid offense.

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Maryland QB C.J. Brown Tears ACL, Will Miss 2012 Season

 

Maryland Starting Quarterback C.J. Brown’s Injury Spells Doom for the Terrapins This Season

Maryland has seen its worst case scenario for 2012 come true. Its only QB with college experience, starting quarterback C.J. Brown, has been lost for the season due to injury.

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. Continue reading

ACC 2012 Season Preview: Maryland Terrapins

Quarterback C.J. Brown Needs to Take Less Hits if Maryland’s Offense Wants to Progress in 2012

Team: Maryland Terrapins

2011 W-L: 2-10 (1-7)

Head Coach: Randy Edsall (2-10; one season)

Returning Starters: 15 (5 Offense, 10 Defense)

After arriving at his dream job coaching the University of Maryland football team last year, Randy Edsall proceeded to rub both media and players the wrong way while turning a 9-4 squad into a 2-10 disaster. The team’s defense allowed over 34 points per game. The team’s offense scored just 23 per game. Only two of the team’s 10 losses occurred by a single-digit margin, they barely defeated a suspension-depleted Miami team on opening night, and only beat FBS team Towson, 28-3. Additionally, they managed to choke away double-digit leads against Clemson and NC State, with the latter putting up 42 in the second half to come back and win. Needless to say, Edsall’s first year on the job was a challenging one. But it appears he’s taken steps to fix it.

First up was the offense, which demanded radical changes after a tumultuous 2011 campaign. So the ineffective Gary Crowton was fired, and in his place, the team returned former recruiting coordinator Mike Locksley, who spent the last three seasons at New Mexico. Now, he’ll have to figure out a way to mold C.J. Brown — who showed some signs of success in 2011 — into a program-defining quarterback. On top of conditioning the junior passer to take less hits, he’ll also have to work to replace several major pieces on offense, lost by the major attrition since Edsall took the helm. Beyond the obvious departure of former starting QB Danny O’Brien, Locksley will have to sort out former star tackle Max Garcia‘s replacement as well. With major question marks on the offensive line, it won’t be easy for Brown to quickly establish himself in the pocket. He’ll be relying on top targets Kevin Dorsey and Stefon Diggs to get open often, as well as the questionable running game to help pick up the slack; all uneasy propositions beyond the senior, Dorsey. Again, Locksley was brought back into the fold for a reason, and he’ll have his work cut out for him.

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Far-Too-Early 2012 ACC Power Rankings (April 16)

Florida State Will Rely Heavily On QB EJ Manuel This Season. Is He Up for the Task?

With spring practices nearing completion, we have another installment of our early power rankings for the entirety of the ACC. As always, we take into account what’s happened both on and off the field, and try not to read too far into what happened in practices this spring. This will be revised monthly throughout the offseason.

1. Florida State Seminoles (LW: 1): The O-line may seem shaky, and the jury’s still out on whether quarterback E.J. Manuel can truly carry this offense, but that hasn’t stopped the hype in Tallahassee. Predicated on defense last year, the Seminoles won’t be above leaning on what should be one of the best units in the country again, if need be. But if forced to go that route, their ceiling may be winning an ACC title — rather than the national championship.

2. Clemson Tigers (LW: 2): A lot’s changing for the Tigers, who are raising the bar for the program after a 10-4 campaign in 2011. New defensive coordinator Brent Venables has hit the ground running since his arrival, and by all accounts his more aggressive style is already rubbing off on a group that desperately needs to improve upon last season’s performance. On the offensive end, fans will be curious to see how much they incorporate the pistol offense, and how well Tajh Boyd adapts to both the new scheme, and new pressures of being the league’s most highly-touted signal-caller.

3. Virginia Tech Hokies (LW: 3): Dissatisfied with offensive production, Virginia Tech has also given the pistol a shot this spring, with varying results. While the team has incorporated the spread with Logan Thomas‘s mobility as the focal point, it appears they’re mixing things up to see what works best with the inexperienced offensive line. Both attacks have their own respective challenges, and it’ll likely come down to which projects best over the course of the year.

4. NC State Woflpack (LW: 4): Off-the-field issues have played a much larger part in NC State’s spring than the program would’ve liked, and the question marks are starting to pop up about how successfully they can really be in 2012. More and more, it’s appearing as if Mike Glennon will have to shoulder much of the load — something that may improve his draft stock, but could also force them to be far too one-dimensional in a year they were originally projected to break through in the ACC. Continue reading

Where’s Danny O’Brien Transferring Next Season?

Former Maryland QB Danny O'Brien Will Be Making His Decision on Where He'll Transfer Soon

After the messy divorce with Randy Edsall and the Maryland Terrapins football team, former Terps QB Danny O’Brien still needs a new team. Unfortunately for the North Carolina kid, who can suit up immediately, all the homestate ACC squads are pretty set at QB already. So that leaves about five schools based on where he’s visited and the early rumors regarding his transfer. We rate them below based on the odds he signs there, along with some pluses and minuses of each situation (from longest shot to most likely):

Mississippi (Odds: 20/1): As appealing as a wide-open offense would appear to O’Brien, he’d likely find life in the bottom of the SEC West among the most difficult things he’s ever endured. Of course he’s a quality quarterback, but we can’t kid ourselves and pretend he’s the next Eli Manning down in Oxford, Miss. Too much pressure and a similar situation to what he had last year (new coach trying to prove his system works) spells disaster and no for Danny.

Connecticut (Odds: 17/1): Hard to peg this move as anything but spite toward former coach Edsall (who used to coach there). Also hard to see him making this choice when he may not be even be the second-best quarterback on the roster. Both Johnny McEntee and Scott McCummings showed effectiveness in 2011, making this a poor and unlikely move for everyone involved.

Penn State (Odds: 10/1): There’s no way O’Brien hasn’t heard about what’s going on there, right? With too many institutional issues and legal storms brewing, this seems like the only situation worse for him than Maryland right now. And yet, with a new regime and quarterback questions, it could also be a nice fit. Expectations would be modest, and he could grow with a new coach. That second part could also backfire (see Mississippi above). Continue reading

Far-Too-Early 2012 ACC Power Rankings (March 19)

Mike Glennon and NC State May Have the Right Pieces for a Surprise ACC Title Run

Spring practices are under way, and with that comes another installment of our early power rankings for the entirety of the ACC. Taken into account are the known variables — which will inherently change several times between now and kickoff weekend. This will be revised monthly throughout the offseason.

1. Florida State Seminoles (LW: 1): Running game be damned, FSU will still sport an explosive attack in 2012 behind quarterback E.J. Manuel. To boot, they’ve got nine starters returning from a defense that allowed just 15 points per game last season. With a manageable schedule, it’s tough to bet against the Seminoles as (at least) BCS contenders.

2. Clemson Tigers (LW: 2): If any team could get in Florida State’s way, however, it would be Atlantic Division foe the Clemson Tigers. Already explosive on offense, the Tigers brought in former Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables to fix the unit’s terrible fundamentals. Should he succeed, this team becomes one of the nation’s most frightening.

3. Virginia Tech Hokies (LW: 3): The 2012 edition of the Hokies may lean on their defense even more so than normal. With standout rusher David Wilson declaring for the draft, the offense becomes a one-man show guided by versatile quarterback Logan Thomas. He’ll need the defensive assist as they develop the weapons around him early in the year.

4. NC State Wolfpack (LW: 4): Hype is growing for Mike Glennon and the ‘Pack, and rightfully so. The team is up against a very manageable slate in 2012, and a slew of returning starters on both ends. If any receiver effectively replaces T.J. Graham, opposing defenses will be in for a rude awakening come fall. Continue reading