COLLEGE PARK—The quarterback debate that went on for much of Maryland's dismal 2011 season ended last Saturday night, when Danny O'Brien was thrown to the turf at FedEx Field in a 45-21 loss to Notre Dame and broke a bone in his left arm.
But that doesn't mean the questioning that has swirled around O'Brien and C.J. Brown — as well as first-year Terps coach Randy Edsall — is over when it comes to next season and beyond.
Florida State with a concussion, will start Saturday when Maryland (2-8, 1-6 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) plays at Wake Forest (5-5, 4-3).
Edsall said during his Tuesday news conference at the Gossett Team House that he has been told it will take O'Brien 12 weeks to heal and doctors are, for now, forgoing surgery. Since the broken bone is in his non-throwing arm, there are no major questions about O'Brien's readiness for next season.
Yet there has been speculation that O'Brien, a redshirt sophomore reported to be in line to graduate in the spring, could transfer to another Football Bowl Subdivision school and be immediately eligible to play as a graduate student next fall. O'Brien would have to enroll in a graduate program not available at Maryland.
Asked if he has any concern that O'Brien will leave Maryland should he graduate, Edsall said, "Personally I don't know if he can graduate based on the records that I have. But he's happy here and I have no knowledge or anything."
O'Brien, who came into the season as the ACC's reigning rookie of the year but had trouble with consistency in offensive coordinator Gary Crowton's spread offense, was not available for comment Tuesday.
The injury to O'Brien gives Brown another chance to start. After coming in for O'Brien against Temple, Towson and Georgia Tech — the 28-3 win over the Tigers on Sept. 24 was Maryland's last win — Brown played well going the distance in a 56-45 loss to then No. 8 Clemson. He was injured the following week against the Seminoles.
Edsall had rotated the quarterbacks since.
"It's kind of nice knowing you're the guy after not kind of knowing what the situation is," Brown said Tuesday. "It'll be just like any other week in terms of preparation, being out there with the guys."
Said Edsall, "I feel good about C.J. leading our football team these last two weeks. I hope that nothing happens to him. C.J. is eager, he's ready, he's excited to be the quarterback and hopefully lead the team to victory."
Brown said that he can relate to what O'Brien is going through, having missed most of last season after breaking his collarbone against Morgan State. Brown said that he would be there to provide "emotional support" for O'Brien, who is not being allowed to travel to Winston-Salem, N.C. — very close to his family's home in Kernersville, N.C. — because of the injury.
Edsall said that wide receiver Tony Logan, who played quarterback in high school, and scout team quarterback Troy Jones would compete for the backup job this week at practice. Edsall said that he wouldn't change his game plan in order to keep Brown, known for his fearless running style, from getting injured.
Not that it hasn't crossed the minds of Brown's teammates.
"Guys are always making jokes now like, 'You'd better slide, you'd better get out of bounds, don't be taking any hits,' " said Brown, who had a 24-yard touchdown run against Notre Dame and led the Terps on another scoring drive. "When you're out there you try not to think about those things. I'm going to be more cautious, but I'm not going to change my game."
If anything, Brown looks at Saturday's game against the Demon Deacons and the season finale at North Carolina State on Nov. 26 as a way to get more of a grip on the starting job heading into spring practice.
"Absolutely. Any time you're on the field you can show what you can do," he said. "Regardless of the situations, whether it's later in the game or you're coming in for an injury, you want to show your talents in order to help the team out. The biggest goal right now is to win."
For his part, Edsall is not looking that far into the future.
"What'll end up happening is what I've always done: when the season is over, I'll sit down and we as coaches will sit down and dissect the season and look at everything, and we'll make decisions and go from there," Edsall said. "I think it's a little premature to answer at this time."
By then, the answer might be clear with O'Brien.
Or the debate about next year's Maryland quarterback will be revived.
An earlier version of this article misidentified the injury C.J. Brown suffered last season. The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.