Four games into the Maryland football team’s ACC schedule, starting quarterback C.J. Brown still hasn’t played a full ACC game. A concussion knocked him from the conference opener against Florida State and sidelined him the following week against Virginia. Then several powerful hits at Wake Forest forced Coach Randy Edsall to sit him for the Terps’ game against Clemson, because of what the injury report called a “trunk injury.”
But on Tuesday afternoon, following a much-needed and optimally timed bye week, Brown declared himself ready to go for Saturday’s home game against Syracuse.
“Those two weeks off definitely helped. I feel a lot better, especially when I’m out in practice, just being out there, being able to go full speed,” Brown said. “The coaches saw I was kind of limited a bit, wasn’t myself. Being able to take that time to recover definitely helped.
“I feel confident going into this week. I’m really looking forward to get back out there and being with the guys and just coming out in Byrd [Stadium] and having some fun.”
When Brown’s mobility is limited, Maryland’s zone-read option attack fizzles, so his return will be reason for optimism in College Park.
“Barring any setback this week he’ll be good,” Coach Randy Edsall said of Brown, who was listed as the sole starter on Maryland’s latest two-deep depth chart. “Now that the doctors and the trainers and all them [were] watching him do the things, he was good. Now we feel that’s the way it’ll turn out this week, too.”
Brown returns with an entirely different receiving corps at his disposal, with backups elevated into starting roles after Deon Long and Stefon Diggs both broke their legs against the Demon Deacons. Former reserves like Amba Etta-Tawo and Levern Jacobs man the outside and slot, respectively, but Brown calls it “not unfamiliar territory at all,” given how Maryland often distributes repetitions during practice.
The bigger adjustment, Brown said, was ensuring his absence doesn’t affect his return.
“Anytime you get dinged up throughout the season, just making sure you’re out there, taking care of your body, going through the right precautions and things like that,” he said. “Everyone’s going out each week and getting better, and when you’re not out there you have to take those mental reps, make sure when you come out there you’re not missing a step.”
Several of Brown’s teammates face a similar challenge. Running back Brandon Ross (shoulder), tight end Dave Stinebaugh (knee), safety Anthony Nixon (toe) and linebacker L.A. Goree (back spasms) all missed the team’s 40-27 loss to Clemson on Oct. 26. All used the bye week, Maryland’s second of the season, to heal and were all listed as starters on Monday’s depth chart, though the team still awaits word on injured cornerback Jeremiah Johnson, whose fractured toe has sidelined him since the opener against Florida International.
“It came at a good time,” Edsall said. “You’re fortunate, usually you don’t get two byes in a season, but we did. We tried to use it to get as healthy as we could, then also take some time to practice, some things we need to get better at as we get into the final third, stretch run of the season.”