COLLEGE PARK—There had long been a stealth factor associated with C.J. Brown.
Most of the Maryland quarterback's work had been displayed only to teammates and coaches behind the high fence surrounding the practice fields near Byrd Stadium. They privately marveled at his athleticism.
Clemson appeared to have difficulty last Saturday gauging Brown's speed, which seemed to sneak up on defenders. Before the game — won 56-45 by Clemson despite Brown's 162 rushing yards — the Tigers hadn't known for sure if Brown would start, and there was little video available to scout him because he had played so sparingly.
"I think he shocks people with his size (6 feet 3, and) that he is so quick out of the gate. He's got great feet," said Brown's father, Clark, a former Michigan State quarterback who endured watching his son's 2010 season end with a broken collarbone against Morgan State on his first college play.
Now — after setting a Maryland quarterback rushing record in his first career start — the once-secret weapon is secret no more.
"Now everybody in the country is aware of his speed," Clark Brown said.
Based on the quarterback's performances against Clemson and as a backup against Georgia Tech the previous week, it seemed to surprise nobody that Maryland coach Randy Edsall on Tuesday declared Brown his starter for Saturday's game between the Terps (2-4, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) and Florida State (3-3, 1-2).
Asked why he made the announcement early in the week, Edsall smiled and said: "I didn't want to have to answer all those questions."
Danny O'Brien, a redshirt sophomore like Brown, had started 15 games in a row at quarterback until the Clemson game. O'Brien was the 2010 ACC Rookie of the Year.
Brown may now be a known entity, but Maryland seems to feel that he's still the harder of the two quarterbacks for defenders to catch up to.
"Any time when things break down, it's going to be instinctive," Brown said. "You can't really predict it. Their pursuit angles might be bad because they don't know if you're that fast or not."
Brown rushed 22 times last week, but most of the plays weren't designed solely as runs.
"A bunch of the up-the-middle runs were the zone read," Brown said. "There was only actually one designed actual quarterback run that I remember. Everything else was either kind of breakdown or just improvise."
He threw three touchdown passes but missed on some throws — perhaps a function of timing with his receivers. Among his best passes was a bomb that a wide-open Ronnie Tyler dropped with the Terps ahead 28-17 in the second quarter. Brown said he was on the ground and never saw the end of the play.
Tyler has been demoted and is no longer on the two-deep depth chart. Also off the depth chart is leading receiver Kevin Dorsey, who left the Clemson game with an apparent injury. The top two receivers on the depth chart are now senior Quintin McCree and true freshman Marcus Leak.
Brown's high school team — western Pennsylvania's Seneca Valley — spread the field as Maryland does, so that helped him feel prepared this season for Maryland offensive coordinator's Gary Crowton approach.
The quarterback also seemed prepared for the media. Brown, who has boyish features, sat in a chair in the Gossett Football Team House auditorium Tuesday — the same chair O'Brien used to sit in — and was surrounded by nearly a dozen reporters.
In response to questions, he joked about his golf game, saying he was certainly the team's best golfer. He told of running a 4.42-second time in the 40-yard dash. He said little had changed in his relationship with O'Brien. "We're great friends," he said.
Brown's younger brother, Jordan, is being recruited by the Terps, Duke and other schools, the elder Brown said. Jordan Brown is the quarterback at Seneca Valley.
C.J. and Jordan also have a sister, Kaitlyn, a Seneca Valley sophomore who plays basketball and volleyball.
"She can run like a deer," her father said.