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COLLEGE PARK, Md. The quarterback position was one the few sure things entering the 2011 season. But after inconsistency has plagued incumbent Danny O’Brien the past four games, the decision as to who will line up behind center is now a question mark.
Maryland head coach Randy Edsall said he will evaluate O’Brien and C.J. Brown throughout practice this week and will select a starter on Saturday prior to game-time.
“We’re just going to evaluate the quarterback position just like we do every other position,” Edsall said. “It’s not about the name on the back of the jersey that we don’t have, it’s about the name on the front of the jersey. It’s about Maryland—who gives us the best opportunity to win for that particular week.”
Since beginning the season with a 348-yard performance against Miami opening night, O’Brien has steadily regressed. The sophomore tossed more interceptions (5) than touchdowns (3) since then, including completing just a single pass against Georgia Tech.
As O’Brien struggled, the Maryland passing attack has surfaced as one of the worst in the conference. The passing offense (211.2 yards per game) is ranked 10th in the ACC; the passing efficiency (110.1) is ranked 11th.
When asked if his play was a confidence issue, nose tackle A.J. Francis steadfastly shook off that notion, saying O’Brien’s demeanor doesn’t change; he’s a fighter.
“Danny’s a hell of a quarterback,” Francis, another 2010 starter who lost his job after Edsall took over, said. “There’s plenty of times where people thought that Peyton Manning wouldn’t be the Colts’ quarterback of the future when he was a rookie. A lot of times guys go through struggles. He’ll be fine.”
In need of a spark, midway through the second quarter Edsall inserted Brown into lineup. Brown’s ability to create plays with his legs propelled the Terps offense to 13 second-half points. He finished the afternoon 4-17 for 36 yards and an interception, as well as 124 yards and a rushing touchdown. Brown’s 77-yard score in the fourth quarter was the team’s longest play from scrimmage this season.
“They both have unique skill-sets. Danny’s strength is probably throwing the football, but C.J. – he’s faster, he’s a little bit more athletic, he can probably do more with his feet but he’s still a good passer,” Edsall said. “They both have those skill-sets that will allow you to be successful.”
With O’Brien and Brown each possessing their own set of distinct strengths, Clemson will have to prepare for both Maryland quarterbacks. The uncertainty, Edsall believes, puts them at a disadvantage.
For the Terps, though, it does not appear to be a distraction. The players seem confident in whoever Edsall will elect to start against the No. 8 team in the nation. The decision is out of the players’ hands, Joe Vellano said.
“We always try to emphasize ‘do what you control,’” Vellano said. “Coach [Greg] Gattuso always talk about [it]. Don’t really get caught up in everything. Obviously, it’ll work out.”