Who will replace C.J. Brown as Maryland’s starting quarterback?

It’s never good news when a player tears his ACL. It’s even worse news when you’re Maryland, and the player in question is your starting quarterback, and the only players behind him on the depth chart are true freshmen.

C.J. Brown was gearing up for his first full season as a starter for the Terps, but he tore his ACL during non-contact drills and is out for the year. With former Maryland quarterback Danny O’Brien currently competing for the starting job at Wisconsin, Brown was the only experienced quarterback on the roster. After seizing the starting job from O’Brien midway through last year, Brown threw for 842 yards and rushed for 574.

Now, the Terps will turn to a true freshman to lead the team out of the darkness that was 2011′s miserable 2-10 season.

Head coach Randy Edsall has two options: Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe.

Right now, Hills has the edge for the starting job and will take first-team snaps in preseason practices. Rowe will work with the second-team and sophomore receiver Devin Burns, a high school quarterback, will be the Terps’ third-stringer.

Both Hills and Rowe were very successful high school quarterbacks, but neither was heavily recruited by FBS schools – and neither planned on starting for Maryland right out of the gate.

Hills, from Pittsburgh, was recruited to the Maryland wrestling team first before the football team took notice. An All-State wrestler, Hills was a three-star football prospect who had 2,000 passing yards, 13 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions in his senior year.

ESPN Recruiting called Hills a “very efficient and productive passer” who is most accurate on short and intermediate throws, and Hills’ high school coach, Terry Totten, says he could be a dual-threat quarterback.

Rowe, on the other hand, is more of a pro-style passer; a recruiting report from 247Sports compared him to former UNC quarterback T.J. Yates.

Rowe was initially recruited by Terps’ running backs coach Andre Powell, back when Powell was on staff at Clemson. Maryland was Rowe’s first Division I scholarship offer – and his only, because he committed to the Terps almost immediately.

In their recruiting report, ESPN noted his “scrappy competitiveness” and “more than adequate athleticism,” and with 2,722 yards, 33 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions, Rowe was certainly more than adequate in his senior year.

Even with Brown out for the year, Edsall doesn’t plan to adjust the playbook to accommodate the true freshmen.

“They’ve got to be ready to go in and play as good as or better than the guy they’re replacing,” Edsall said, referring to everyone on the roster, not just the quarterbacks.

We’ll find out very soon if they can do that: Maryland opens the season at home against William & Mary on Sept.1, in a game that should help ease the new guy – probably Hills – into the starting job.

On the bright side, even if the young quarterbacks struggle, Maryland’s season can’t be too much worse than it was last year – but technically, it could get worse. After all, the Terps won two games last year. According to The Washington Times‘ Patrick Stevens, Maryland is 0-6 all-time when starting true freshman at quarterback.

They’ll have lots of opportunities to break out of that pattern in 2012, and who knows? This could end up being a good thing for the Terps.

Expectations, especially outside the program, will be very, very low. Hills (or Rowe) will get a little more leeway than usual because he’s a true freshman who was thrown into the role on short notice. He’ll be expected to struggle a bit and hopefully will improve as the season progresses, which will put the program in a much stronger position heading into 2013.

If one of the rookies comes in and has a surprisingly successful season (like O’Brien as a redshirt freshman in 2010), the Terps might not have to worry about their starting quarterback for another few years.

Back in December, Totten, Hills’ high school coach, told The Baltimore Sun: “I think they got themselves a good quarterback who for four years will help the program.”

He may have been more right about that than he realized.

 

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