Not challenging O'Brien, but might a Wildcat-esque package be in the works? Image via Section 19
It's doubtful that C.J. Brown's drive in relief of Danny O'Brien in the third quarter of Maryland's win over Towson has any meaningful significance for the future of Maryland's quarterback situation. O'Brien, after all, has a stellar track record and is the team's de facto leader, while Brown's playing time consists of scrub time against Temple and Morgan State (last season) and the aforementioned drive against Towson. Besides, 2-2 is hardly the prototypical "Let's change quarterbacks" situation, no matter how middling the Terrapins may've looked over that timeframe.
Even as I know that to be the case, why can't I get it out my head that Brown might just have a future role in Maryland's offense?
Randy Edsall explained the situation by saying that Brown's drive was "planned" as a way to get Brown some experience, should O'Brien go down with injury. (Of course, a similar thing was said about Danny O'Brien's cameo against Navy last season, if my memory serves me correctly.) Like that situation, I buy it, but it also doesn't entirely diffuse it. I don't doubt that the coaching staff decided to get Brown some PT against Towson, especially after he looked good against Temple.
But I'm also a little bit confused as to why they especially wanted him to get PT in meaningful snaps. Inserting backup QBs in games like this is a common practice, but it traditionally happens when the game is out of hand. Why they wanted Brown to come in the middle of the game before Maryland had the win in hand leaves some uncomfortable questions ... unless the experience the staff wanted Brown to get - and for O'Brien to be comfortable with, as well - was to be inserted in the middle of a meaningful game before coming back out again. Think Josh Portis / Jamarr Robinson-esque Wildcat QB package, coming in for a drive or a couple of plays.
Brown does fit Gary Crowton's scheme much better, after all, and allows some playcalls that O'Brien doesn't pull off as well. CJB is probably Maryland's fastest quarterback ever, testing at the same 40 speed as now-wide receiver Devin Burns. Brown, with his wide receiver-level quicks, is more effective than O'Brien at Crowton's favored option plays, both the zone read and more garden-variety pitch. When these are tried with O'Brien, it's essentially a very long handoff, as he doesn't have the speed to pull it back more than every once in a blue moon. Brown gives those more of a bite, and makes them harder to defend. In fact, when Brown sees the field, the offense tends to revolve around these plays, as it did in the successful Temple touchdown drive.
Maryland fans have a bias against Wildcat quarterbacks, and with good reason after the failed Portis Package that James Franklin - now of Vanderbilt recruiting helicopter fame - loved so dear. But Brown is 6-7 for 56 yards in his limited playing time so far this year; even acknowledging the poor competition, that's an indication that his arm isn't a lost cause, and should be good enough for the extension-of-the-running-game passes that Crowton uses.
What's more, O'Brien did seem to calm down on the following drives, for whatever reason. Given that Brown would come in for a drive at most, O'Brien's apparent positive reaction is good as well. Maybe he needed a break; maybe a drive on the sideline let him read some things in the defense he didn't see earlier. Either way, the next time he stepped on the field, he led a 78-yard, 11-play touchdown drive, easily the best bit of offense Maryland had seen since the West Virginia game. And then he led another touchdown drive, this time a bit shorter.
And yes, I'll acknowledge that Brown found limited success in his drive on the field. I'll also acknowledge the very real possibility that the Brown insertion was exactly what Edsall said: a bit of playing time to make sure Brown was ready to go in a real-game situation. But even if that is the case, I'd be very surprised to learn that this hadn't even crossed the staff's mind, especially given the struggles of the offense and the timing of his drive. And the more Maryland struggles, the more realistic such an idea will become to jump-start Maryland's offense.
If they were to eventually institute an occasional Portis Package for Brown, I couldn't blame Maryland's staff for trying something. They kind of have to. Frankly, Maryland's offense has had a pretty rough time of it the past few weeks. Danny O, and by extension Maryland's entire offense, has been flat-out bad in 9 out of the last 12 quarters they've played, the only respites coming in the second half against WVU and the fourth quarter against Towson. When they start facing great defenses - like, say, Florida State's 6th-ranked, talent-stacked group - that will be near-crippling. If throwing Brown in for a drive or two every other game or so can help that, I can't blame them.
For now, it's just an idea, and I wouldn't expect it to develop immediately. But I'm not utterly against the idea. What say you: might a C.J. Brown Wild Turtle(?) be effective?