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Reversal of Fortune

By Matt Osborne
SouthernPigskin.com
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The Maryland Terrapins currently lead the ACC in total offense, averaging just over 580 yards per game.

The Maryland Terrapins couldn’t have suffered through much worse luck than they did during the 2012 season.

Entering last season hoping to bounce back from a disappointing two-win campaign in Randy Edsall’s first year as coach, the Terrapins received their first bit of bad news when they learned that former starting quarterback Danny O’Brien was taking advantage of an NCAA policy which would allow him to be immediately eligible upon transferring to Wisconsin.

Less than two months later, incumbent quarterback C.J. Brown tore his ACL during fall camp, rendering him out for the season.

With no game experience at quarterback with its projected top two quarterbacks out of the fray, Maryland was forced to turn to true freshman Perry Hills to start the season.

After looking very shaky in his first career start, a 7-6 victory over William & Mary, Hills bounced back with a string of productive performances, tossing eight touchdowns and just four interceptions over his next six starts.

Unfortunately, Hills was doomed to suffer the same season-ending fate as Brown, as he tore his ACL during an October contest against NC State.

The next quarterback in line, fellow true freshman Caleb Rowe, wouldn’t even make it through one full game as a starter before tearing his ACL and going down for the season.

Completely exhausted of his options at quarterback, Edsall was forced to turn to freshman linebacker Shawn Petty to start the remainder of the year under center. Though recruited as a defensive player for the Terrapins, Petty had run an option offense in high school, and, at the very least, had prior experience at the position.

With a total of five players lost at quarterback, the Maryland offense was one of the worst units in the country last fall. Due to the exorbitant amount of injuries under center, the Terrapins finished last in the ACC in total offense and second-to-last in the league in passing offense, ahead only of Georgia Tech’s option attack.

Looking ahead to 2013, Maryland fans weren’t nearly as concerned about what caliber of play they might get out of the quarterback position this fall as much as they were worried about simply trying to keep C.J. Brown healthy.

And with Brown still at 100% health after two games, he has turned out to be one of the most pleasant surprises in the country.

Starting contests against Florida International and Old Dominion, Brown has been nearly flawless for his team, completing 34-of-45 passes (75.6%) for 556 yards, five scores and no interceptions. His passer rating of 216.02 is the fourth-highest mark in the FBS behind only Florida State’s Jameis Winston, Baylor’s Bryce Petty and Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater.

A noted dual-threat quarterback, Brown has also rushed for an additional 135 yards and four touchdowns.

Brown’s exceptional early season performances have, naturally, translated into greatly increased production from the offense as a whole.

Although it is an admittedly small sample size, the Terrapins currently lead the ACC in total offense, averaging just over 580 yards per game. That figure also ranks them tenth in the FBS in the category.

Running backs Brandon Ross and Albert Reid have stepped up to combine for 271 yards on the ground with the absence of Wes Brown. The two players ran for fewer than 500 yards combined during all of last season.

As expected, sophomore wide receiver Stefon Diggs has been the Terrapin’s top playmaker on the perimeter, hauling in 11 receptions for and astonishing 277 yards and a pair of scores.

Transfer Deon Long has also emerged as a viable target for Brown, leading the team with 12 receptions through the first two contests.

From an outside perspective, the amount of improvement shown by the Maryland offense early in the season has been nothing short of miraculous.

While Florida International and Old Dominion are certainly not to be mistaken for the cream of the FBS crop, we are talking about a Maryland offense which scored fewer than 20 points in seven of its 12 contests last fall.

In an ACC Atlantic which is expected to wide open past Clemson and Florida State, the Terrapins very well may have already distanced themselves from the bottom half of the division.

Matt Osborne - Matt Osborne currently serves as the director of recruiting and lead editor for Southern Pigskin. His work has been published in a number of national publications, including USA Today. Although he loves all levels of football, Matt's number one joy in his life is his relationship with Jesus Christ. Follow Matt on Twitter: @MattOsborne200. For media requests, please email Matt at matt@southernpigskin.com.