NOTE: This is the 12th installment of a 15-part series on 2013′s most pivotal QBs in college football.
Ask any coach about the importance of the quarterback position and he is quick to throw out a tired cliché about quarterbacks getting too much credit and blame.
They will tell you there are 11 guys on the field at all times and each one of them must work together for the team to win.
Coaches know a lot about football. They also know about deflecting pressure from the most important pressure on the field.
How important is the quarterback position? Ask Texas A&M what Johnny Manziel meant to the team in 2012. Ask Auburn about Cam Newton’s worth in 2010. Ask Ohio State after Urban Meyer got a chance to turn around QB Braxton Miller in 2012.
A quarterback might not be everything, but a good one can mask a number of different deficiencies – be it a porous defense, a non-existent run game or erratic special teams.
Teams without a solid quarterback need virtually every other facet of the game to click in order to overcome poor play from the most important position.
This list is designed to spotlight 15 quarterbacks whose play will dictate their teams’ fates. With two exceptions, this list is made up exclusively of established QBs who have been starters for at least half a season.
The carefully chosen term “pivotal” is key here. This is to spotlight teams that could have significant swings based on the position. Players like Manziel and Miller are proven commodities at this point. Florida State has enough surrounding its yet-to-be-named starter – presumably Jameis Winston – to repeat as ACC champ even without great play from the position. Those appearing on this list are opined to have a wider swing.
4. C.J. Brown, Maryland
Unbeknownst to Maryland and coach Randy Edsall, the Terrapins went all-in on Brown late in the 2011 season.
Edsall’s decision to move away from QB1 Danny O’Brien to the more athletic Brown set in motion a sequence of events that, through no fault of Edsall’s, set the program back a season.
Just a year earlier, O’Brien emerged as an offensive presence. As 2010 ACC Freshman of the Year, O’Brien helped previous coach Ralph Friedgen lead the Terps to a 9-4 record before Friedgen was fired.
O’Brien did not take the benching well though his struggles aligned with those of Maryland in Year 1 under Edsall, who saw his team go 2-10 in 2011.
Brown took the reins in the final two games after playing sparingly throughout the regular season. Accuracy was never a forte of Brown’s. He completed just 49.4 percent of his passes as a sophomore and threw nearly as many INTs (six) as TDs (seven).
What Brown lacked as a passer he made up for as a rusher. He finished with 574 rushing yards – and an amazing-for-a-quarterback 7.3 yards per carry average – and five TDs. Brown topped the 100-yard rushing mark three times, including twice in his three total starts.
Though Brown played respectably in Maryland’s final two losses, the expectation was that he and O’Brien would have competed for the starting quarterback position during the spring.
Instead, O’Brien decided to transfer away from the program. (O’Brien eventually chose to play for Wisconsin, where he started three games before getting benched there as well. Now a senior, O’Brien is not considered a serious candidate for the QB1 spot, running behind Joel Stave and Curt Phillips.)
Suddenly Brown found himself to be the only experienced quarterback on the Maryland roster.
Between the strong hires made in the offseason by Edsall and some of the high-caliber recruits the coach signed, the Terps expected significant improvements in 2012. Brown’s strong arm and ability to make plays with his legs only increased enthusiasm.
In August, however, that excitement disappeared when Brown tore his ACL during a non-contract drill.
Not only did the injury come as devastating news to Brown, it also began a quarterback injury trend that sabotaged Maryland’s season.
Four Terrapins QBs suffered season-ending injuries, leaving converted LB Shawn Petty as the starter by the time the team limped to the finish line.
Brown is back this season and Edsall listed him at the top of the depth chart at the conclusion of spring practice.
The 2013 season could be of huge importance for Edsall, who has gone 6-18 in his first two years after taking over for a coach who was fired for going 9-4 in his final season. Maryland showed signs, especially on defense, of becoming competitive in the ACC again last year.
Inexperienced quarterbacks proved to be the Terps’ undoing. Brown likely wouldn’t have contended for the Heisman Trophy last season, but he would have provided an offensive presence – as well as excitement.
Maryland will need more out of the quarterback position in what could be a make-or-break season for Edsall specifically because the Terps lose so much on defense.