Much has been made of the dual quarterback system employed by the Maryland Terrapins this season. But the man behind the offense, coordinator James Franklin, sees this approach as threatening to opposing defenses.
“We’re trying to allow both [Jamarr Robinson and Danny O’Brien] to be successful and keep the defense honest,” Franklin said. “We plan on playing both [quarterbacks], kind of stay with who’s got the hot hand. I would expect playing both of them.”
And to each his own – both Robinson and O’Brien bring their own range of skills to the field on Saturday, each as a threat either through the air or on the ground. For Robinson, it’s his ability to capture third downs and keep drives alive that’s most compelling.
“Jamarr, obviously, has a lot of athletic ability. He can make plays with his feet, has an extremely strong arm – got to be more consistent throwing the ball,” Franklin said of Robinson, who he said will continue to be the starter for the Terps. “Allowing him to break the pocket, make some plays with his feet. He’s also been real effective on designed quarterback runs and just scrambles. That’s where most of his good runs have come in the last year and a half. That’s going to continue to develop.”
O’Brien, on the other hand, is viewed as the change-of-pace back. Like the dynamic quarterback combination of Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick of the Philadelphia Eagles last season, O’Brien can come off the bench, provide a spark to the offense and lead the Terps’ passing attack.
“[O’Brien] does a really good job of stepping up in the pocket, finding the outlet and sometimes a little shuffle pass,” said Franklin, adding that he was really impressed with his performance against Morgan State, which was really his first playing experience.
But what’s most intriguing to Franklin – having two quarterbacks with both abilities with their arms and their legs. In time, their coach hopes they each take a lesson from their respective playbooks and make each other better.
“I think both of them have enough athleticism to allow us to do a lot of different things. Jamarr is probably more of a threat as a runner and Danny’s probably a little bit more of a threat as a passer,” Franklin said. “What I talk to them guys all about is Danny should be trying to steal stuff from Jamarr’s game and Jamarr should be trying to steal stuff from Danny’s game, and kind of make your weaknesses your strengths.”
How to choose which quarterback gets the nod during the game is the biggest challenge for Franklin. Determining who’s hot and who’s not seems easy, but as he joked, the decision looked awful versus Navy and brilliant against Morgan State.
“I think you come up with a plan – the third possession or the fourth possession or the second quarter – but then, that’s just your plan, and after that it’s just how the game is going. We have a plan going into it; then it’s just the feel of it and how the game is going.”
Come Saturday, against West Virginia, the Mountaineers will have to spend time studying film on both Robinson and O’Brien. Looking back, Robinson and O’Brien both looked spectacular last Saturday, throwing a combined 149 yards and five touchdowns against the Bears’ defense. They’ll also have to account for a rushing attack that collectively ran for over 220 yards, 36 coming from their starting quarterback.
Franklin said that like choosing when Robinson or O’Brien will be in the game, devising a game plan also depends upon who’s hot. It could be Da’Rel Scott, Davin Meggett or one of his quarterbacks. In either situation, the Terps are prepared.
“I’d like to throw more in general, but if we’re running the ball and that’s going to give us the best chance of winning, we’re going to do that. If we’re throwing the ball real well, we’re going to do that,” Franklin said, explaining that the score and feel of the game all play a major role.