Spreading the Love

How the O'Brien's success invigorates the Terps offense.

The Terps managed a 1.3 average per rush Saturday against Boston College. And while a lot of credit must be attributed to the Eagles’ Atlantic Coast Conference-best rushing defense, the team has begun to lean heavily on their first-year quarterback.

Danny O’Brien has provided an answer to all of the questions constantly surrounding the Maryland offense. Will the running game improve on the road? Is there a solution to improving on third downs? Can the team sustain the big-play element?

With an average just north of 43 yards on the ground in their last two games, the Maryland offense has turned to the short-passing game as a stand-in. And while the quick slants and screen passes have been successful, it should also keep defenses honest, allowing for the running attack to resurface.

“We have the ability to used the controlled passing game to replace [the running game] if we have to,” offensive coordinator James Franklin said. “I’d like for it to be a complement to that, and then be able to get the play action to take the shots down the field.”

Leaning on a young quarterback does not seem to bother Franklin much, as O’Brien has demonstrated all of the qualities associated with being successful. Unlike most first- or second-year quarterbacks, O’Brien possesses a good feel of where all of his receivers are on the field.

“Danny’s the type of guy that’s going to take what the defense gives. You’re going to be able to get a lot of guys involved. When that happens, just like anything else, positive plays are infectious,” Franklin said.

O’Brien’s poise in the pocket allows him to navigate through his progressions, allowing him to get a multitude of receivers involved. Against Boston College, he completed 26 of his 39 passes to eight different receivers.

“[O’Brien] does a tremendous job with the receiving core because he goes through all of his reads and progressions, and he’s always poised. I never see him rattled in the huddle. He’s never out of his game; he’s always tuned in to the defensive schemes and what to expect,” wide receiver Kerry Boykins said. “He’s such a smart quarterback He just helps get the balls to receivers that are open; he spreads it around.”

Being able to get the balls in the hands of his playmakers allows for each receiver to make their mark in the offense. Boykins, who caught three passes for 32 yards and a touchdown, was one of the many role players who stepped up in the Terps’ win.

“Anytime we can get a one-on-one with any of our receivers I feel like it is a mismatch in our favor just because we have so much talent at receiver,” O’Brien said. “Torrey [Smith] obviously is one the best playmakers in the country, but we have a lot of guys stepping up in the slot and at the split [end], where if you just go through your progression they can just make plays for you.”

The short-passing game not only spelled the running game, but offered an unconventional look for the Terps on third down. After ranking worst in the ACC, being successful about one quarter of the time, Maryland converted 10 of their 19 third downs versus the Eagles. O’Brien completed nine of those attempts through the air, including two touchdowns.

“We wanted to get the ball out quick, solve some issues like that, and get it out on the perimeter,” O’Brien said.

Franklin believes O’Brien’s career day at Chestnut Hill was more frightening than anything. A relentless work ethic, incessant film study and steady development is a scary thing…for opposing defenses.

“There’s going to come a point, and I see it starting to happen, where you have a feeling, you have a sense that the defense can’t win. There is going to be a point where they take that knowledge and they feel so confident the defense doesn’t have a chance and you just keep getting the ball out to the right places on time.”

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