In the midst of a training camp filled with optimism and redemptive aspirations, the Maryland football team absorbed a severe setback when starting quarterback C.J. Brown was lost for the season following a tear to the ACL in his right knee.
The injury that dramatically changed the landscape of Maryland’s offense occurred on Tuesday night during the second of two practices at Byrd Stadium. Brown was performing a non-contact two-minute drill when, according to Coach Randy Edsall, the junior broke containment and was running downfield before planting to make a cut.
That’s when Brown’s knee buckled, and the school’s record holder for single-season rushing yards by a quarterback feared the worst.
An MRI exam on Wednesday revealed the injury.
“It’s a cut that he’s made a thousand times,” Edsall said via teleconference Wednesday. “It just so happens that this time his knee didn’t hold up, and he had the torn ACL. So again, injuries are a part of football. We feel very, very bad about this, but now we have to move forward.”
That journey forward includes acclimating a stable of quarterbacks with no in-game college experience at the position, beginning with Perry Hills.
The freshman had ascended to No. 2 quarterback ahead of classmate Caleb Rowe, but in light of Brown’s injury becomes the presumptive starter for the season opener on Sept. 1 against William & Mary.
Brown, meantime, is scheduled for surgery perhaps within several weeks once swelling diminishes.
It’s the second season-ending injury of his college football career. In 2010 as a redshirt freshman, Brown missed 11 games after fracturing his right shoulder in the season opener against Morgan State.
“Very, very devastated for C.J. because as I’ve watched him put in all this work to get this opportunity to be the starting quarterback at the University of Maryland, to see it go away with just one cut is just heartbreaking,” Edsall said.
Brown started five games last season and appeared in 10 as Edsall changed starters three times during his first season in College Park.
Danny O’Brien started the first five games before Brown started the next three. Edsall went back to O’Brien for back-to-back weeks before going to Brown for the last two games of the season after O’Brien suffered a broken bone in his arm against Notre Dame.
O’Brien, the 2010 ACC rookie of the year, transferred to Wisconsin with two seasons of eligibility remaining after Maryland completed the season 2-10, leaving no doubt who would be the starter heading into this season.
Brown finished with 842 passing yards and seven touchdowns with six interceptions. He also had 574 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns for an offense that ranked 67th out of 120 FBS teams.
This season, Brown, a team captain, was set to become the centerpiece of a reworked offense under first-year coordinator Mike Locksley, who’s installing a more traditional pro style formation.
The Terrapins used a spread as their base offense last year.
Locksley has tutored freshman quarterbacks with encouraging results, most notably Illinois’ Juice Williams in 2006. Locksley was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach with the Illini from 2006 through 2008.
“It’s disappointing for C.J., but the excitement we have and the kind of practices that we’ve been having the last few days, the things that are taking place, that hasn’t dampered anything,” Edsall said. “Like I said, we’re disappointed and upset that this injury has occurred to C.J., but none of the expectations or the enthusiasm for this season have been taken away from us.”