Tuesday, April 12, 2011, 12:11 p.m.
By Matt Zenitz
COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- As Maryland's spring football practice opened last week, Terrapins head coach Randy Edsall could see quarterback Danny O'Brien noticeably pressing.
"I thought the first day, he really tried to press too hard and was trying to be too perfect," Edsall said during a teleconference on Monday. "So before we went out there the next day, I told him to just go out there and have fun and don't press so much. And he did."
From there, O'Brien has settled down, eased in and started to flash the skills that enabled him to win ACC Rookie of the Year and Freshman All-America honors last year.
The 6-foot-3, 215 pound O'Brien, now entering his redshirt sophomore season, threw for 2,438 yards, 22 touchdowns and just eight interceptions last season after taking over as the starter, in place of Jamarr Robinson, four games into the year. He threw for 269 yards or more during each of Maryland's final three regular-season games, including a season-high 417, along with four touchdown passes, during the Terrapins' regular season finale, a 38-31 win, against North Carolina State.
But while O'Brien spent each of his first two years at Maryland operating within James Franklin's West Coast offense, Edsall believes his young signal caller has a chance to excel even more in new offensive coordinator Gary Crowton's spread-style system.
"He's got all the tools that we're looking for to be a quarterback in this offense," Edsall said. "He has the ability to help us win an ACC championship."
O'Brien, meanwhile, is equally excited about his, and the rest of the offense's, potential under Crowton and is looking forward to seeing consistent progression throughout the spring as he and his teammates learn and become more comfortable within Crowton's system.
"Right now, the focus is just to get the new offense down and get comfortable with it," O'Brien said last week. "But the overall feeling, to sum it up in one word, is excited. We're going to be a little faster tempo. We're going to get the ball to our athletes, which I think any good coach does, get the ball to them in space and let them make plays."
Despite his excitement, O'Brien enters 2011 with relatively modest expectations and said he hadn't changed his approach or preparation even despite last year's success.
"I've kind of approached things the same way I always have," O'Brien said. "I'm the kind of guy that just wants to be prepared everyday, in practice and games, and will do whatever I can to get there. The expectations and all that stuff will take care of itself. But I'm not approaching the game any differently."