COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — C.J. Brown earned the job as Maryland’s starting quarterback last season because of his ability to run with the football.
It is a trait that makes him susceptible to injury, and the last thing the Terrapins need is to lose the only quarterback on the roster with playing experience.
In their first meeting last week, the Maryland coaching staff discussed the possibility of reducing Brown’s sprints downfield — and decided against it.
“We’ve got to do whatever we have to do in order to win,” second-year coach Randy Edsall said Monday. “You know what? We can’t sit here and play cautiously or be afraid to do the things that C.J. can do to make us better.”
That means Brown will get the chance to build on a breakout season in which he scored five touchdowns and orchestrated three of the top eight rushing performances by a quarterback in school history, topped by a 162-yard effort against Clemson.
Danny O’Brien had a better arm, but he lost the job last year to Brown and ultimately left the school during the offseason.
That leaves Brown, a redshirt junior, as the unquestioned starter. Both backups are freshmen, so if Brown gets hurt, Maryland’s chances of bouncing back from last year’s 2-10 disappointment will be all but over.
Brown, one of four co-captains, knows this. And it doesn’t change a thing.
“Anytime you think about getting hurt or playing a different way than you’re used to, you’re going to be more prone to injury,” Brown said. “Maybe I’ll be smarter in not taking a big hit or getting down, but I’m not going to change my playing style. I can only do what I do. Injuries are meant to happen, and if it does, than maybe it was just meant to be.”
As a preventive measure, Brown spent hours in the weight room to beef up his 6-foot-3, 205-pound frame.
“I’ve worked extremely hard during the offseason to maintain my body, to put on mass and put on muscle,” he said.
His effort made an impression on his teammates and the coaching staff.
“C.J. has worked extremely hard. He knows that he’s the quarterback, he’s the leader,” Edsall said. “I think he’s done a tremendous job working to make himself better fundamentally as a quarterback, but he’s also taken the leadership role to another level. He commands respect from his teammates.”
During the season, Brown will be the focal point in the huddle. During the offseason, he led by example.
“The first thing I noticed when we came back from the winter session is that in every drill and every sprint, C.J. was coming in first,” senior wide receiver Kevin Dorsey said. “You can see that he put on a show to show this is his team, that he can step up to the plate and get the job done. It hasn’t stopped. He’s been consistent all summer. I know he’ll have a good year and show people that not only can he run, but he can pass, too.”
If there was one problem Brown had last year, it was inconsistency as a thrower. He completed only 49 percent of his passes and threw seven touchdowns compared to six interceptions.
New offensive coordinator Mike Locksley worked with Brown to improve his poise in the pocket and insists things will be different this year.
“Obviously one of his strengths is his feet, but he doesn’t get enough credit for his ability to throw the football,” Locksley said. “We’ve had to tweak some mechanical things with him, but I’ve been really impressed with C.J. as a whole, not just as a runner.”
And, of course, keep him upright. If Brown gets hurt, the Terrapins will have to turn to Perry Hills or Caleb Rowe.
“We’ve got to make sure we get Perry and Caleb ready to go,” Edsall said. “Hopefully, nothing would happen to C.J. But in the sport of football, in that position, those things can happen.”