Terps Trio: Danny O'Brien, signees at Big 33, hoops recruit rankings

June 14, 2013

Baltimore Sun reporter Jeff Barker and editor Matt Bracken weigh in on the three biggest topics of the past week in Maryland sports.

What do you make of former Terps quarterback Danny O’Brien leaving Wisconsin and looking for a new school?

Jeff Barker: First, a global comment. The NCAA rule allowing many graduate students to play immediately after transferring has had a noteworthy effect on the game. It has generated a class of college “free agents,” of which former Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson is perhaps the best known.

The graduate student needs to pursue a degree program not offered at the original school. Then they are generally free to play ball.

Providing college athletes additional motivation to graduate is a positive. Schools need to be monitored to ensure the graduate programs are legitimate.

Having the freedom to play immediately is essential to O’Brien, who graduated from Maryland. He had the misfortune to transfer to a school (Wisconsin) that – like the one he just left – found itself transitioning from one head coach to another. Those changes can be wrenching. O’Brien told me he spoke with incoming Badgers coach Gary Andersen and was left with the impression that he wouldn’t be in the mix for playing time.

Even under the previous coach (Bret Bielema), O'Brien had become a backup.

Now the onus is on O’Brien to prove himself at the next stop. He wants to show that his solid redshirt freshman season at Maryland was as much about him as it was about his situation. You’ll recall that his leading receiver that season was current Ravens star Torrey Smith, who caught 12 touchdown passes for the Terps that year.

O’Brien’s best statistics that season were 22 touchdown passes and only eight picks. He was proudest of not throwing a single interception in the team's five conference wins.

But that seems a long time ago. Since he retains NFL ambitions, O’Brien was correct to transfer. Towson is a possibility. More than anything, he needs to be on the field, even if it’s in the FCS. 

How are Maryland's football signees faring this week leading up to the Big 33 Classic on Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium?

Matt Bracken: Thirteen years ago, Derry Area (Pa.) offensive lineman Kyle Schmitt suited up for Pennsylvania in the Big 33 Football Classic. On Saturday, Schmitt will be on the opposing sideline as an assistant coach for the Maryland squad. The former Terps offensive lineman and first-year Archbishop Spalding coach has five College Park-bound players on his squad.

Under center for Maryland will be Gilman quarterback Shane Cockerille, who Schmitt said has "natural leadership ability" despite not being "overly vocal."

"As a quarterback, he can make all the throws," said Schmitt, who led Atholton to four playoff appearances before taking the Spalding job in February. "He has a strong arm, and then I think the element that Shane is going to bring is his running ability, No. 1 on designed quarterback runs, but also the ability to create out of broken plays. I think he's going to be able to do that very well. It's something you don't see as much in practice as [you will] Saturday night, and hopefully we will see at Maryland. I'm real excited for him at Maryland. He's a good kid and he's fun to work with."

The other offensive Terps commitment set to play Saturday is former Catonsville star DeAndre Lane, who is transitioning from running back to slot receiver.

"I think he's a guy that obviously has the raw materials, the speed," Schmitt said. "He's got a little bit of wiggle to him. He gets you real excited in the open space. But again, the move from tailback [is tough]. A lot of great slot receivers played tailback in high school. It's challenging for them to catch the ball and understand the passing game, things like stemming and stacking defensive backs and moving in and out of space, beating man coverage, all of those things. He needs to learn those things, especially in college. It's going to be a challenge, but again, he has the raw materials to be a very good football player. I think he'll be great in the slot. He can do a lot of different things."

Maryland's defense features three Terps signees: safety Elvis Dennah (Annapolis Area Christian School), cornerback Jacquille Veii (The Avalon School) and safety Milan Collins (Bishop McNamara). Schmitt likes the potential of all three future Terps.

"We have [Dennah] working at safety, but I see him as an outside 'backer, a WILL linebacker type of guy," Schmitt said. "He's a kid who has the ability to be physical and also play in space. He runs pretty well. He's got to put on weight, that's for sure. But I can definitely see him becoming a linebacker type rather than a safety.

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