O'Brien could be Maryland's future — and present — at QB

Redshirt freshman from North Carolina is Robinson's backup for now

September 18, 2010|By Jeff Barker, The Baltimore Sun

Will Danny O'Brien eventually be getting most of the minutes as Maryland's quarterback? It's certainly possible.

Coaches have lavished praise on the redshirt freshman.

They talk about his athletic ability. He was an excellent basketball player in high school in North Carolina.

They talk about his demeanor. "That is extraordinary for him to have the poise," coach Ralph Friedgen says.

They talk about his intelligence. "A high football IQ," they say.

They talk about his toughness. After a botched handoff led to a fumble on his first play against Navy, O'Brien was not deterred. He pleaded with coaches to put him back in the game. "He said, 'I'm good, put me back in.' I think he was trying to get me fired," Friedgen said with a smile.

They talk about his dedication, calling him a "gym rat" and a student of the game.

When O'Brien was still a senior in high school, he would routinely drive the family's Suburban five or six hours to Maryland so he could sit in on quarterback meetings during Maryland's spring practice.

His knowledge of the game was such that offensive coordinator James Franklin — in conversation and text messages with O'Brien — said he could tell that the player "was two steps ahead" when it came to anticipating coverages and play calls.

O'Brien faces his toughest test at West Virginia on Saturday. It's his first true road game, and it comes against a nationally ranked opponent.

As usual, O'Brien will begin the game on the sideline waiting to be summoned in relief of starter Jamarr Robinson.

Franklin says coaches will begin the day with an approximate sense of when they would like to put O'Brien in. But their plan may shift on the fly. "It's just how the game is going," Franklin said.

After that, Franklin says, Maryland will stay "with who has got the hot hand."

One day, O'Brien may enter a game and not come back out. Maybe not for a long time.

For now, coaches seem anxious not to rattle the confidence of Robinson, who is more of a running threat than O'Brien and is very popular with his teammates.

"It's nothing against Jamarr" is the way Maryland coaches habitually begin sentences these days when discussing O'Brien's potential.

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

twitter.com/sunjeffbarker

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