COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — When C.J. Brown arrived at Maryland, he was one of six quarterbacks vying for a job.
Now, after a season-ending injury to Danny O’Brien, Brown is the last man standing.
“It’s definitely slim pickings out there now,” Brown, a sophomore, said Tuesday.
Brown shared time with O’Brien for much of the season, but coach Randy Edsall’s rotating quarterback system ended Saturday night when O’Brien broke a bone in left arm during a 45-21 loss to Notre Dame.
Brown will start the final two games, beginning Saturday when Maryland (2-8, 1-6 ACC) brings a six-game losing streak to Wake Forest (5-5, 4-3).
Someone asked Edsall whether he intended to maintain his ploy of shifting quarterbacks.
“Do you have any suggestions about the other quarterbacks we would rotate in there? ” Edsall said.
The backups are untested freshman Troy Jones and wide receiver Tony Logan, who played quarterback in high school.
“Right now, I don’t who the backup would be,” Edsall said. “We’re just trying to cover all the bases and all the scenarios.”
For the first time in his brief college career, Brown enters a game without fear of being pulled. He’s started and finished only one game but has seen action in every contest this season except for the opener.
Brown is the second-leading rusher on the roster with 387 yards, has completed 50 of 101 passes and has thrown five touchdowns compared to four interceptions.
“I feel confident,” he said. “It’s nice knowing you’re the guy after all these weeks of not knowing what the situation is. But it will be just like any other week in terms of preparation and being out there with the guys.”
Edsall is certain Brown is up to the task.
“I feel good about C.J. leading us these last weeks,” the coach said. Then, knocking on the wooden podium, he added, “I hope nothing happens to him. But C.J. is eager, he’s ready, he’s excited about being the quarterback and hopefully leading the team to victory.”
Wake Forest has seen Brown on film, and they know the problems he poses to a defense because of his ability to run and pass.
“He’s a real fast quarterback, but he can also get it done with his arm,” Demon Deacons linebacker Kyle Wilber said. “This guy is a dual threat quarterback, so we’re going to have to keep him contained when he’s running, and keep good pressure on him when he’s passing.”
Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said, “There’s two ways to look at it. On one hand, we know what we’re going to get now. We’re not going to get that two quarterback deal. Danny is more of a thrower, more of a pocket kid; the other quarterback is a jet, can really fly. They like to run the option with him. Sometimes your biggest problem is if you cover too well and make him pull it and run with it. He’s very dangerous then.”
Brown didn’t want the job by default, but he is well aware of the risk of playing quarterback. He missed Maryland’s final 11 games last season after fracturing his right shoulder against Morgan State.
“Danny is in a tough situation right now,” Brown said. “I was there last year when I got hurt. I know what he’s going through.”
Brown intends to use this opportunity to hone his skills and perhaps get a jump on the competition next season.
“Anytime you’re on the field you want to show what you can do, regardless of the situation,” he said. “You want to show your talent. But the biggest thing now is to win.”
It is uncertain whether Brown and O’Brien will be competing again next season. O’Brien has been rumored to be considering a transfer, given that he has been reduced to a part-time player after throwing 22 touchdowns last season and being voted ACC rookie of the year.
But Edsall said he’s gotten no indication that O’Brien is done at Maryland.
“We had a conversation,” Edsall said. “He’s very happy here, so I have no knowledge of that happening.”
Edsall said O’Brien’s arm will remain in a cast for up to 12 weeks, and it is possible the sophomore can avoid surgery. Brown expects the right-hander to return.
“Come spring time, or whenever he comes back healthy,” Brown said, “I’m sure there’s going to be another competition.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)