We continue our overview of Maryland's spring practice storylines with probably the biggest of them all: the Terps' ever-unsettled quarterback spot.
Let's start things off with stating the (very) obvious: Maryland's not going to solve their quarterback dilemma this spring.
After all, C.J. Brown is still sidelined from serious action, limited to individual drills and the odd 7-on-7. Ditto Caleb Rowe and Perry Hills, who are both recovering from season-ending injuries of their own and will have even less involvement. Oh, quarterback is a position battle for sure; it just so happens that 75% of the participants are already wounded.
Due to that, no matter what happens over the next month, the battle will continue long into autumn. But it also means that the only healthy contender for the starting quarterback spot - long-time Mike Locksley acolyte Ricardo Young - has been handed a massive opportunity. Not to win the spot, as said above, which is a decision that won't be made until at least Brown (and possible Hills or Rowe) can be seen in action. But he's been given the chance to keep his name firmly in the hat, and potentially even bring it to the fore.
After all, Young is the only of the four legitimate contenders who has the chance to show anything to the coaching staff in spring practice, which gives him a leg up on the competition. Perhaps more importantly, though, he's the only one who'll have the ability to build a legitimate rapport with the extraordinary wealth of skill position players littered throughout College Park, using spring ball to get on the same page as the likes of Stefon Diggs, Deon Long, Brandon Ross, and Nigel King. Given Young's familiarity with the D.C.-based talent already on the roster, and the time he's already spent in Mike Locksley's offense, you could actually make an argument that he, and not C.J. Brown, will be the contender most well-accustomed to Maryland's staff, scheme, and roster. Given that the idea for Maryland's quarterback this year isn't to win games by himself but instead to let his playmakers make plays, that familiarity could prove crucial.
It also gives him extra exposure to the coaches, who'll get plenty of time to go one-on-one with Young and work on his shortcomings. An athletic runner who can be dangerous on the zone-read option and as a prospect was a good technician with good timing on underneath routes, looking built for the Terps' scheme. But the staff will have plenty of looks at things like his decision-making and vertical arm strength, and few distractions from trying to improve them. The problems that Brown, Hills, and Rowe have showcased won't have the same luxury, as the concern is more about getting them healthy than improving them.
Put it this way: at the start of spring practice, C.J. Brown is the de facto starter. His spot is under pressure, but he's the starter until someone takes it away from him. Young has about a month to do just that, and force the spot from Brown's back into a full-on battle, one in which he could hold the upper hand. And I'll repeat the sentiment I had in the MM earlier today: I've been driving the CJB Bandwagon from the Danny O'Brien days, but if Young can prove good enough to keep him off the field, that's not a bad thing.
Young, though, isn't the only QB to watch out for during the spring. Brown, too, will be entering a critical stretch of his recovery. He's spent the past several months deeply limited, but exposure to individual drills and perhaps a few game-situation 7-on-7s will get him back in action and likely push him. In truth, that Brown's spent the majority of the past year, and will spend the majority of the next month, doing little other than working on passing drills, and that isn't necessarily the worst thing in the world. He's always had the legs to be a dangerous playmaker with the zone-read, but the question is, as ever, about his arm. Spending time without his legs, doing nothing but being able to throw, could well help, if he puts that time to good use with dozens and dozens and dozens of reps.
Don't expect Randy Edsall to be posting daily updates on how his QBs are coming along; he may be opening up, but he's still cloak-and-dagger at heart. Still, fans and media will be dying for any info they can get from the Terps' head man on his signal-callers, and you can't really blame them.
Maryland has the peripherals of a bowl team this year - actually, they have the peripherals of a very good team. Or at the very least a very good offense. Their line should be greatly improved, they have a running back corps stacked with talent, and their receivers - well, nothing needs to be said about their receivers that hasn't been done already. But the most important position on the field is still unsettled. And if it's not resolved, one way or another, it's tough to see this team being a lot better than they were last year, given the hit the defense has taken thanks to graduation.
That's why, without question, if there's anything of interest to keep an eye on during spring practice, it's how Ricardo Young fairs and how C.J. Brown recovers. Because if any single development could prove to define Maryland's season, finding (or not finding) a quarterback is it.