By Stan "The Fan" Charles
That silence you hear is the end of the Danny O'Brien era at the University of Maryland. Despite the hope that it wasn't so, O'Brien ended the suspense on Monday and announced he was, like so many of his former teammates, leaving Randy Edsall's program.
The difference is, O'Brien was the quarterback. He was supposed to be a team leader. In the end, he turned out to be a follower, not a leader. It should have been different for him at College Park. He should have been the Terps' biggest QB name since Boomer Esiason took snaps under Bobby Ross, during the early- to mid-'80s.
While it might have seemed that Vanderbilt, whose head coach, James Franklin, coached O'Brien at Maryland, would have been a perfect fit, Vanderbilt won't end up being O'Brien's landing spot. The release Maryland granted him stipulates that Vanderbilt can not sign him. Rumors swirled that Franklin had contacted O'Brien illegally while he was making his decision to leave Maryland. The other schools rumored are Stanford, Michigan State and Wisconsin.
O'Brien, who is on schedule to graduate from Maryland this spring, would enter a school where he can matriculate in a graduate program, allowing him two more years of eligibility.
We're left to only wonder what O'Brien could have been if Friedgen hadn't overplayed a weak hand with incoming athletic director Kevin Anderson a little more than a year ago. And we're left to wonder where O'Brien will end up. What we do know is the combination of Edsall and his poorly thought-out choice of Gary Crowton as new offensive coordinator for the 2011 season did nothing to help O'Brien grow as an NFL prospect.
Youth sometimes obfuscates the ability to see how to grow as a person in the midst of tough times. Anybody can feel as if he or she is growing in the good times. The good times never challenge someone to be better, to rise above problems. In the business of trying to stake out a scent that one can play QB at the NFL level, there doesn't seem to be enough time to erase a season such as 2011 for O'Brien.
It's ironic that I write this on the four-year anniversary of my mother's death, but, during a miserable time in my late teens, I told her I was moving to San Francisco. She simply said, "OK, but you know wherever you go, you take yourself with you."
Those were some wise words at the time. It wasn't that my mom said I should never leave; rather, she was imparting to me that if I left, it should be for the right reasons. I didn't leave that time, and I can't say that those words didn't put a rather large speed bump on my decision-making process.
The trickle of exodus that started during Edsall's first season at College Park turned into a full-force torrent that now has seen more than 20 players decide to leave. Clearly, that is unusual and speaks to a major problem for a program that can hardly afford to lose a good part of its core.
It is such a striking number of defections that it has to be a cause for concern by Anderson going forward. Time will tell whether it speaks to something inherently wrong with how Edsall treats his players, or just that Friedgen had such a low bar on the behavioral aspects of being a student-athlete that this level of blowback was expected.
Edsall has had a good, but not spectacular, recruiting class this offseason. The two most notable star caliber guys are tailback Wes Brown, the No. 11 running back in the country coming out of high school, and Stefon Diggs, the All-Metro Defensive Player of the Year from Good Counsel, who is expected to play wide receiver at College Park.
Diggs just came on board, it seems, as a last-ditch effort to convince O'Brien that the Terps would go back to an NFL-style offense. But on Feb. 2, a day after his initial recruiting class of 22 players was announced, Edsall said: "It shows that it's about relationships and people believing in what we're doing here. We told these kids: 'Here's the plan. Here's the vision. Here's what we're going to accomplish.' I wish some of the fans and media had as much faith as these young players."
The last time I looked, 25 former Terps, the ones that were never recruited by Edsall, turned their back on that same plan.
Edsall will really need this new group -- the ones he talked about at the beginning of the month -- to be all in, or the Terps football program will have taken a quantum leap backward.
The fact that O'Brien was one of those 25 does not bode well for Edsall. Nor does it say a lot about O'Brien, who looks as if he is jumping ship.
Posted Feb. 16, 2012