On Thursday, it will be a full year since it was announced that Maryland starting quarterback C.J. Brown tore his ACL in a non-contact drill. Brown missed all of last season, and the Terps ended up 4-8, missing a bowl game for the second straight year.
Brown played briefly as a freshman in 2010, throwing an incomplete pass and running once for 12 yards before breaking his collarbone. Brown would not play again until 2011, when he split time with Danny O'Brien and did well, completing around half of his passes, running for 574 yards, and scoring 12 total touchdowns.
As a mobile quarterback who suffered a leg injury, a lot of the focus in camp this year with Brown has been on the health of his leg. Head coach Randy Edsall said he has seen no "ill effects from him" with regards to his running and cutting, and Brown himself said the leg "feels good" - even if the rest of his body is sore from camp.
His ability to run was never in question - the Maryland faithful instead questioned his ability to throw consistently. Brown's ball has considerable more zip on it than it did just a year ago, and the quarterback says that's been one of his main focuses this offseason.
"That's kind of what I practice on," he said. "Just getting back with my footwork, timing with the receivers, and in the offseason I really worked hard on my strength, mechanics, and driving off my back leg. That was the biggest thing this spring, getting comfortable because this is my plant leg that I injured. So just re-focusing that, re-learning how to push off, and the ball's coming out the way it needs to right now and I feel really good."
Out a year since his injury, this Terrapin team looks completely different than the one he last called signals for. Gone are Kevin Dorsey, Quintin McCree, Kerry Boykins and the rest of that crew, and in are Stefon Diggs, Deon Long, Nigel King, and a whole assortment of exciting new names. Brown said he is "excited" with the new group of skill players, but Edsall noted the group has work to do on their timing.
"Just like with any quarterbacks or receivers, they need some time to develop some togetherness, some timing, and that's starting to come along with each practice," the coach said. "[Brown]'s moving really well. He could always be better and he will be better, but again it's just that process we have to go through with him getting that timing back with the receivers."
In fact, only three current Terrapin skill players were on the team Brown last played on, and none of them caught a pass in-game from Brown - Tyler Cierski (who caught one pass, from Danny O'Brien), Nigel King (ruled ineligible by the NCAA) and Dave Stinebaugh (injured). Marcus Leak, who Brown did complete an in-game pass to, is expected to return to the program next season.
Brown has practiced with all of Maryland's receivers extensively, and said he's not worried at all about the connection between him and the skill players.
"From the spring and over the summer - I've been throwing all summer with them - I feel like the chemistry's been fine so far," he said. "I'm getting a good read on how they run their routes, how they stick it at the top of their routes. The timing's coming, and I'm just excited. We're progressing, getting better each day, and we're going to take it one day at a time. I feel very comfortable with them."
Brown feels comfortable with his receivers, but he certainly feels comfortable with himself, as well. The redshirt senior, who will have an extra year of eligibility thanks to a hardship waiver, feels confident in his abilities and is looking forward to the season.
"I'm going to be an explosive playmaker and I'm going to get the ball to the playmakers outside," he said. "I'm just gonna execute, lead this offense down the field and hopefully get a lot of wins."