National eyes descended on College Park last season, not for anything the Maryland football team accomplished on the field, but rather because of the quarterback injuries that doomed its season. How could one position suffer such grave misfortune? Quarterbacks fell like dominoes in 2012. Three ACL tears and a Lisfranc injury sidelined four signal-callers. Three of them suffered season-ending injuries in one week. A linebacker started the final four games.
On the eve of spring practice, Maryland’s quarterback situation hasn’t drastically improved. Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe will miss spring practice while rehabbing from ACL tears. Devin Burns transferred, looking elsewhere for opportunities at quarterback. And incumbent starter C.J. Brown, the first egg to crack in August, hasn’t yet reached 100 percent.
So that leaves Ricardo Young.
Coach Randy Edsall isn’t quite ready to declare an open competition, because right now it wouldn’t be a fair fight. Brown’s ACL tear will limit him to individual workouts and possibly non-contact seven-on-seven drills during spring practice. Young will get the majority of first-team repetitions in Brown’s stead. Dustin Dailey, another transfer who sat out 2012 per NCAA rules, will be the backup.
“There’s going to be competition everywhere,” Brown said Monday. “No one’s going to be handed over the job. You have to earn it. I’ll do as much as I can to win the job and he’ll do as much as he can. Every time you’re out there, being able to take all the reps, it’s going to help.”
Lesser positional battles will occur at safety (Sean Davis vs. A..J. Hendy) and center (Evan Mulrooney vs. Sal Conaboy). But all attention will be at quarterback, where Young can establish himself as a bona fide contender with a strong spring, while Brown can only bide his time, work hard and wait for summer.
Brown spent last season wearing a headset, mentoring the line of inexperienced quarterbacks who each wound up in the infirmary. Recovering from surgery, Brown attended all meetings and worked the sideline, communicating with offensive coordinator Mike Locksley and earning what he called a “coach’s perspective.”
One of four team captains last season, Brown played in 10 games in 2011 and led the Terps with five rushing touchdowns, including 100-yard rushing games against Clemson, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest.
“The one thing that we aren’t going to do is rush him,” Edsall said. “We are going to do the things that we feel or the doctors tell us that he can do. I think he is. He has worked his tail off in terms of the rehab. Whatever we can get with him this spring in terms of the throwing, and different things will be a bonus. He is pretty much ahead of schedule.”
Young’s journey has been even longer. After being named the 2010 Washington D.C. Gatorade Player of the Year, the Woodson High School graduate redshirted at Virginia Tech. Injuries sidelined him for spring practice in 2011, and when Logan Thomas won the Hokies’ starting quarterback job, Young transferred to New Mexico to play under Locksley. After Locksley was fired, Young moved to Iowa Western Community College for spring practice before bolting for College Park.
Familiarity with Locksley’s pro-style offense should help Young, who like Brown is a dual-threat quarterback capable of fleeing the pocket with speed.
“I think it does,” Edsall said. “The learning process for him wouldn’t be like a true freshman, but the thing that he has to do, and that he has to understand, he has to maintain focus and continue to work and not just think, ‘Hey, I know this stuff or I’ve worked with [wide receiver Deon Long].’ He still has to go out each and every day and get better. That’s the thing that’s he’s got to keep in his mind and stay focused.
“He should be very comfortable, because he doesn’t have to learn terminology. He understands what the offense is all about and he’s familiar with Deon. Now he has to use that knowledge that he has, and the skill set that he has, to go out there and develop it each and every day. No, he’s got to challenge himself to be best he can be. If he does that, I think it’ll work to his advantage. If he doesn’t, it wouldn’t be as advantageous with all the things that he knows.”
Young says he and Brown have already become close, leaning on each other for advice as friends and teammates. Even with a prime spring opportunity staring back at Young, the junior still feels he has something to prove. After all, Brown is the presumed starter and returning captain.
“C.J. was the guy there,” Young said. “I came in, with the attitude that I was going to work every day, be diligent in my work, add some weight and maintain my speed, if not get faster and stronger. All of us can actually play on this level. The thing that’s going to set one of us apart is not turning the ball over, leading the team, moving the ball, managing the game and really diligent at our work.”