It's spring football! Or, rather, in Maryland fans' case, "It's spring football. Meh."
But with spring football comes position battles, easily my favorite part of the sport, particularly when the team is as...average as this one seems to be. But one position, given the right guy, can take an average team and turn it into something...I don't know, above-average. That one position, of course, is quarterback.
And lucky for us fans, Maryland currently doesn't have one. At all. But with the news that there'll be a legitimate position battle, spring will bring hope, as well as something to talk about other than Torrey Smith. Now, we're not betting people, but if were (and if you want to, I got no problem running this thing), I might arrange the odds thusly:
The "Experienced" Frontrunner: Jamarr Robinson
J-Robb is the only one of the competing QBs that saw any playing time last year, though not exactly through his own merit (Chris Turner was injured). His play in the period can be described as solid, but certainly not spectacular. He was good enough to be the frontrunner for the race, but not good enough to have it locked up.
Once he got in the games last year, he was very up-and-down. He alternated between outstanding (see: Florida State, where at one point he was 19-23 and about two inches away from two big Torrey Smith TDs) and average (see: Virginia Tech, which was just an abomination all around). His feet are clearly his greatest tool - he's the QB most like Scott McBrien Maryland has had since McBrien himself. Given Maryland's offensive line, his ability to make plays on his feet is a pretty big asset, and might be the reason he ends up starting, if that does happen.
As for his arm, it was solid, but it didn't light the world on fire. He can unleash a cannon, but he also tended to overthrow short passes and miss various other throws. Part of that was surely jitters, but the question we really need to ask is, "How much?" If he figures it out, he has the arm to succeed.
There have been concerns regarding his knowledge of the playbook, which is absolutely vital at QB under Ralph Friedgen. That manifested itself in the occasional broken play and mistimed throw last year, but it wasn't grievous enough to sour me too much on him.
Odds: The job is Robinson's right now, but it's not really even his to lose. If one of the players below improves enough, they'll overtake J-Robb, even if there's no regression on his part. He needs to step up his own game to really secure a spot, but at least he leads right now. 5-2
The Coach's Favorite: Danny O'Brien
DOB is Ralph Friedgen's type of QB: smart, heady, accurate. Not the greatest in the way of physical tools, but solid enough. Think Sam Hollenbach with better legs.
Late last year, Ralph Friedgen never gave up on his dream of burning O'Brien's redshirt. He came out in the media more than once late in the year and implied that playing DOB, regardless of injury status of Turner or Robinson, was still a possibility. That should tell you what Friedgen thinks of Danny.
Reports I've heard from last year indicated that he grasped the system extraordinarily well. Because Friedgen is Gibbsian in his admiration of "super smartness", that's a big plus for O'Brien.
Odds: Danny's physical tools aren't the greatest, but neither were Hollenbach's, and he turned out okay. Ralph is a big fan, so I wouldn't be surprised to see him gain an edge coming out of spring ball. That said, if the offensive line is just as bad as it was last year, C.J. Brown or Robinson might take the lead by default. 7-1
The Natural: C.J. Brown
Brown might be the most naturally gifted QB in College Park this spring. He has a strong, accurate arm to pair with quick feet and a solid build. He's a lot of fans' favorite of the bunch because his ceiling is so high, due to his great athletic ability.
But that doesn't mean Brown's a shoe-in. He still needs to prove that he can transfer that talent to the field. I have neither heard nor seen no reason he couldn't, so he just needs to prove it. But when Ralph mentioned a guy in practice, it was more often O'Brien than Brown. He did play HS ball in a very HS type of offense - an exaggerated spread - so the transition might be more difficult than it is for a guy like O'Brien, who is heady and played in a pro-style offense more similar to what Maryland is expected to employ.
Brown certainly has the highest ceiling, but he also has the lowest floor, if only because we really don't know what it'll be until he hits the gridiron. Will he be a confident, tough, Chris Turner-esque leader? Or Joel Statham? That's the question.
Odds: He needs to convince Ralph that he understands the playbook and can translate that to success on the field. He might have more natural talent, or at least be a more natural QB, than Jamarr, so there's no reason he can't find the starting place, as long as it comes together mentally. Luckily, Ralph said that for both Brown and O'Brien, it clicked earlier than expected. 8-1
The Transfer: Clay Belton
Belton is the most intriguing of the group, because he was a late, non-scholarship addition to the team last year. He transferred from Miami (OH), one of the few teams worse than Maryland last season, to the Terps in the early part of the year, and I've been interested ever since. Being extremely impressive on the scout team - he was named scout team MVP - has done nothing to quench my thirst to see him in action.
Belton is a huge guy, with ideal QB size (6-5, 220) - tall enough to see over the line, strong enough to take a hit, and not so huge as to be lumbering. His arm is as big as his size would indicate - it's a cannon. Maryland's really upgraded the team speed recently, so I have dreams of deep balls floating from Belton's hands into Torrey Smith's outstretched arms. Most scouting reports indicate solid field vision, meaning that the dream could be a reality.
Not all peaches and cream, though, because his wind-up is Tebow-esque. It's ugly and long, but if it's effective, it's good enough to work in college. Also, let's just say that Redhawk fans weren't too upset to see him go. They complained about his lack of "it", that certain moxie that made fans love McBrien and Turner.
It is important to note, though, that's he's seen playing time before, something that only one other competitor can claim. And it wasn't all just crappy MAC competition, though some of it was - he played in Ann Arbor. Safe to say he's not going to be intimidated by Chestnut Hill.
Odds: Big ol' question mark. His potential is huge, and I like that he's played in games before. But with so many guys in the battle, not having "it" would make him a long shot (assuming those fans were right). If they were wrong, he'll definitely challenge. 14-1
The Freshman Darkhorse: Devin Burns
Let me get this out there: I'm a Devin Burns fan. I think he's great. He's quick on his feet, he's accurate, his release and delivery are smooth, and he sees the field well. I like Devin Burns.
However, I'm not sure if I like Devin Burns so much to start him. He's a true freshman, and early enrollee or not, he'll have to be pretty outstanding to see the field, especially given his standing out of HS. He might not even be the best QB in this class (that would probably go to Tyler Smith).
Because he's only been in College Park for a week, I don't really know how good/bad he is, so I won't even try to describe his game further. I do like what I've heard, though.
Odds: Just a victim of youth. Not enough experience. He needs to learn the offense, adjust to college ball, adjust to college life, and develop his talents. Being an early enrollee helps, but only so much. 30-1
NB: No, Tyler Smith isn't on the list. He's not in College Park yet, but Burns is. I decided to limit it only to those participating in spring practice.