Danny O'Brien gets full release

In the face of heavy criticism from local and national media, Maryland coach Randy Edsall has changed his mind and decided to grant former quarterback Danny O'Brien a full release from the program with no transfer restrictions, according to a news statement the school issued Wednesday.

Edsall had come under fire recently for restricting O'Brien from transferring to Vanderbilt, where former Maryland offensive coordinator James Franklin is now head coach.

As a freshman in 2010, O'Brien flourished under Franklin, and was named the ACC's rookie of the year. But he struggled last season, Edsall's first as Terrapins coach, and eventually was benched in favor of backup C.J. Brown.

Former offensive lineman Max Garcia and linebacker Mario Rowson also were granted a full release.

It is not uncommon for coaches to restrict players from transferring to schools within the same conference or to opponents who will appear on the schedule in the near future. But that was not the case with Vanderbilt.

"While at first I thought it was important to limit the institutions to which they could transfer, I have since reconsidered my decision," Edsall said in a prepared statement. "At the end of the day, I want what's best for these guys and I wish them well in their futures."

The timing of Maryland's announcement is somewhat perplexing, as two sources close to the situation said that on Tuesday evening, Maryland filed a complaint against Vanderbilt alleging improper contact between the school and O'Brien before the player was officially released.

"We have been informed by the Southeastern Conference that the Atlantic Coast Conference has filed a formal complaint involving Vanderbilt University football on behalf of one of its members," Vanderbilt vice chancellor David Williams said in a news release. "We are complying with SEC and Vanderbilt procedures and are conducting an investigation on the matter."

However, on Wednesday morning, O'Brien was told he would be released with no restrictions.

"I am pleased to be able to move on and pursue a graduate degree and continue my athletic career at the school of my choosing," O'Brien said in the statement. "I would like to thank Coach Edsall for his support throughout this process."

Until the rules are clear, however, O'Brien's high school coach, Todd Willert, said neither of them will be talking to Vanderbilt.

"As of right now, we can't talk to Vanderbilt at all, or we're not going to because we don't really know what the whole process is," Willert said. "We won't contact Vanderbilt until we're sure about what's going on."

O'Brien will graduate this spring and has two years of eligibility remaining.

Heather Dinich covers the ACC for ESPN.com.