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As head coach Randy Edsall attempts to put his touch on the Maryland football team, perhaps the one position assumed to be untouchable was quarterback. Wrong.
Reigning Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Year Danny O'Brien is getting stiff competition from fellow redshirt sophomore C.J. Brown for the starting nod, something Edsall is openly embracing.
"C.J. Brown is putting pressure on Danny. C.J. Brown is playing really well. Everybody always needs someone pushing them and somebody behind them," Edsall said in a teleconference Monday. "CJ is a guy that does a good job in the huddle and can make plays. We got competition."
After taking over for Jamarr Robinson three games into the season, O'Brien threw for over 2,400 yards and 22 touchdowns, helping the Terrapins to the second-best scoring offense in the ACC (32 points per game).
Unfamiliarity with the new offensive scheme, however, is what Edsall attributes to O'Brien's struggles. Last week, he said O'Brien was pressing and trying too hard to be perfect during practice.
At Connecticut, Edsall witnessed a similar competition at running back. Andre Dixon beat out Donald Brown following a 2006 campaign when he rushed for nearly 900 yards and compiled 9 total touchdowns. After growing complacent with his role, though, Dixon seized the job only to endure a similar fate.
"Competition is great for everybody. Every day you got to go out there and do the things you need to do in order to be successful. You can never d rink the Kool-Aid," Edsall said. "Every day you got to go out there and prove yourself and be the best you can be."
A competition at quarterback brewing is not the only thing drawing Edsall's attention this spring. The lack of mental toughness has also caught his eye.
"We're not as mentally tough for my liking," Edsall stated. "That's something we'll get straightened out."
Edsall made his goals clear – learning how to play every play likes it's the last; giving 100 percent effort each play then carry that intensity over to the next play; playing as hard at the end of a game as you would in the beginning of a game.
"Those are all part of the teaching that goes on during spring practice."
Injuries and the installation of the new schemes have hindered the team's progress, but Edsall acknowledged that such obstacles are common in April.
Demetrius Hartsfield is one of those players transitioning into a new role in 2011, moving inside to the MIKE linebacker position. While commending him for his size-speed combination, athleticism and physical play, Edsall suggested Hartsfield is one of the players struggling with the mental aspect of the game.
"I'd like him to play a little bit more physical than what he is right now. I think some of that has to do with the fact that he is learning a new scheme and maybe he's not playing as fast as he will be playing," Edsall said. "But he's got the skill set and the size you look for in a middle linebacker."
Wide receiver Quinton McCree is a player suffering from injuries this spring, which according to Edsall is hurting his ability to make a name for himself and learn the system.
"You can't be a good player if you practice only one out of three times. It's hard to get any kind of consistency or timing down."
Anderson returns to DE
Justin Anderson switched from defensive end in defensive tackle, but Edsall has changed his mind. As the Terrapins strong-side end in 2010, Anderson registered 22 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and a forced fumble in starting all 13 games.
Anderson's movement along the defensive line is one of several possible alterations Edsall may be making this spring, as he tries to put forth the best 11 players on the defensive side of the ball.
We're going to do a little bit more tinkering this week, just trying to make sure the guys that we did move we feel good about," Edsall said. And those players getting accustomed to their new role are getting more comfortable.
"They're getting better. The defense made quite a bit of progress from the first week to the second – still nowhere near where we need to be. There are starting to be some guys that are really showing themselves in terms of their abilities."
News and Notes:
- Left tackle Justin Gilbert will "probably be out until October" after injuring his knee in a non-contact drill at practice. Gilbert had ACL surgery last Thursday on that knee after suffering a season-ending injury on his knee against West Virginia.
- Max Garcia will replace Gilbert at left tackle.
- Wide receiver Ronnie Tyler is dealing with a sprained ankle.