Maryland players watched starting quarterback C.J. Brown go down during a two-minute drill earlier this week and immediately started hoping for the best.
When they found out a short time later that he had torn his ACL and would be out for the season, the news was absolutely devastating.
"The team was hurt because all the hard work he had put in and the preparation -- he is a guy who did all the right things," running back Justus Pickett said in a phone interview Thursday. "But coach gave us a little speech and told us the backups -- we recruited those guys for a reason, because they can play the game just as good as the players we already have here. That picked all our hopes up, and they've done a good job."
Running back Brandon Ross called what happened to Brown "one of them freak kinda things. It's a cut he always makes and it just happens to be this cut where his knee bent the wrong way. I just talked to him to see how he's doing. He told me he's doing well, but you can tell he's not doing very well."
You understand why. Brown was the unquestioned leader of this offense, and this season was his time to really shine and prove to everybody how capable he is of running the offense. Maryland pinned all its quarterback hopes on Brown, the only experienced signal-caller on the roster.
Now the attention turns to true freshmen Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe, two players who were getting ready for their senior seasons in high school at this point last year. Between the quarterbacks and running backs, it is only the true sophomore Pickett who has game experience.
But Pickett and Ross expressed faith in the young quarterbacks.
"They've been doing very well," Pickett said. "They look poised in the pocket, and they've been able to make plays you wouldn't expect them to make as freshmen. They've been able to take control of the offense and just run it as if they were back in high school and look as comfortable and are doing just as good of a job as C.J."
Added Ross: "They both aren't afraid to take off with the ball. I'm seeing poise out of them, seeing confidence at the line. That's something you need to have. We're all going to rally around Perry and Caleb, whoever's back there for us."