Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen stopped just short of committing to again starting redshirt freshman Danny O'Brien at quarterback when the Terrapins (3-1, 0-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) open their ACC schedule Saturday against Duke.
Friedgen, who had never started a freshman quarterback until last Saturday's 42-28 victory over Florida International, was asked during his media conference call Sunday whether O'Brien would begin the Duke game over redshirt junior Jamarr Robinson. Robinson has been battling a sore throwing shoulder that kept him sidelined against FIU, and O'Brien played Saturday while recovering from a high ankle sprain.
"I would say if it's status quo, it would probably be Danny," Friedgen said.
O'Brien had played sporadically until Saturday -- including just one play each against Navy and West Virginia. He threw three touchdown passes in the 62-3 rout of Morgan State on Sept. 11.
O'Brien said after Saturday's game that he is confident starting or coming off the bench. But, in answer to a media question, he conceded that it's easier to prepare for a game as the top guy.
"There's a certainty factor, I think, that helps -- knowing the exact time you're going in," said O'Brien, who celebrated his 20th birthday Sunday.
O'Brien has completed 23 of 37 passes (62.2 percent) this season for 329 yards and five touchdowns without an interception.
Robinson is 21-for-43 (48.8 percent) for 308 yards and four touchdowns. He has thrown two interceptions.
Friedgen said in the week before the FIU game that both quarterbacks "are anticipated to play." But the coach disclosed after Saturday's game that Robinson had not practiced all week and that his throwing shoulder was so sore that he could not raise his arm above his head.
There has been an air of inevitability about O'Brien's rise. Since last season, coaches have touted his poise, intelligence and work ethic.
After studying the video of the FIU game -- in which O'Brien passed for 250 yards -- Friedgen was effusive Sunday in his praise.
"I saw a very poised guy [Saturday] who did not get rattled even when he made a mistake," Friedgen said. "I think he's going to continue to get better and better myself just because he has a tremendous work ethic. I think he's a bright young man."
In evaluating the two quarterbacks, Friedgen said, "what separated Danny from Jamarr is experience." Robinson started two games last season and played in seven.
But now, the coach said, O'Brien has gained the experience he lacked.
As O'Brien has matured, Friedgen and offensive coordinator James Franklin have tried to dispel any notion of a quarterback "controversy."
"We get both of them healthy, it's going to make us a better football team," Friedgen said Sunday.
Notes: Friedgen said guard Andrew Gonnella is expected to play Saturday against Duke (1-3, 0-1 ACC) despite a high ankle sprain that is "pretty sore." ÃÆÃâÃâÃâ¦ Linebacker Darin Drakeford (shoulder) is expected to return.