With C.J. Brown back in a limited role after missing last season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament, and Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe continuing to rehab their own knee injuries, Maryland coach Randy Edsall said Monday that his two healthy quarterbacks will be off-limits to contact when spring practice starts Saturday.
Edsall might not be able to see how junior transfer Ricardo Young can take a hit, but he will surely make some determinations as to whether the former Gatorade Player of the Year at H.D Woodson High in Washington can challenge Brown for the starting job going into the 2013 season. Young, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound junior, will take a majority of the reps during the 12 spring practice sessions and spring game.
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Asked if it gives Young an advantage over Brown going into fall practice should he perform well in the spring, Edsall said, "I think that it does. The one thing is that the learning process for him wouldn't be like a true freshman. The thing that he has to do and has to understand is that he has to maintain focus and not think, 'I know this stuff…' He's got to think, 'I've got to work each and every day and go out and get better.' He has to use that knowledge and skill set every day to challenge himself."
Though Edsall said Brown is "pretty much ahead of schedule" with his recovery, the 6-3, 210-pound redshirt senior will be limited to individual work and possibly some 7-on-7 passing drills if his knee holds up. But Edsall quickly added that he and offensive coordinator Mike Locksley will be cautious with the way Brown is used before fall camp.
It's not a surprise, particularly in light of what transpired last year when the Terps ended the season playing converted freshman linebacker Shawn Petty at quarterback the last three games.
"I would say that he is [ahead of schedule] from the standpoint that he has worked extremely hard, but the one thing we're not going to do is that we're not going to rush him," Edsall said of Brown. "We're going to do the things that the doctor tells us that he can do. But he has worked his tail off in terms of the rehab."
Young sat out last season after transferring from New Mexico, where he redshirted one season after starting his college career at Virginia Tech. Being comfortable with the read option offense that Locksley brought with him to Maryland after being fired in Albuquerque could also be a benefit to Young. But he knows that it will ultimately be as much Brown's job to lose as his to win.
"I feel like he's actually the incumbent. He was the starter before he went down," Young said of Brown. "The only thing I can do is really come in and really fill his void and try to play [to] the best of my ability to step up and be that guy. Coach Locksley has instilled in us a next man up motto, and that's what I try to do."
Asked about his relationship with Brown, Young said, "Me and C.J. [are] really close, really cool. We have a great understanding with each other. If one of us doesn't understand something, we lean on each other as friends and as teammates as well. The only thing I can say is that we're really good friends. We're both really good players. … We both have the same kind of game almost."
Brown said he will take it "day by day" in the spring, but understands that Young could solidify his own starting role because of the experience he will gain running the offense.
"There's going to be competition everywhere. No one's going to be handed over the job," said Brown, who started five games as a sophomore and became the apparent starter when Danny O'Brien transferred to Wisconsin after the 2011 season. "I'm going to do as much as I can to win that job and he's going to do as much as he can to win the job. I know the coaches will give everyone a fair [chance], but anytime you're out there and able to take all the reps, it's going to help."
Young and redshirt sophomore Dustin Dailey will also take reps this spring. Petty, a former high school quarterback who played admirably there for the Terps after injuries claimed Brown, Hills, Rowe and Devin Burns (who has since transferred), will move back to defense this spring. Edsall said it was "only fair" to allow Petty to compete for time at linebacker.
"With having two quarterbacks this spring, to say you wanted to keep Shawn at quarterback, but after the spring he was going to have to play another position, that wasn't fair to him," Edsall said. "I wouldn't do that to him. He wants to be a linebacker. We feel that's his best position. He's going to be able to earn a spot there and get a lot of reps. He's going to have the opportunity to win a position there and do some things from a special teams standpoint."
Notes: No decisions have been made on either Hills or Rowe, but Edsall indicated that one or the other sophomore quarterback will likely be redshirted, something he had planned to do with them last season before the injuries. … Edsall said redshirt junior Matt Robinson (Atholton), who has been plagued by injuries the past two seasons, has been moved from strong safety to outside linebacker.